30 August 2011

kicking and screaming or quietly and broken; just fall on your knees

"We look for visions of heaven and we never dream that all the time God is in the commonplace things and people around us." - Oswald Chambers

"We think we dare not be satisfied with the small measure of spiritual knowledge, experience, and love that has been given to us, and that we must constantly be looking forward eagerly for the highest good. Then we deplore the fact that we lack the deep certainty, the strong faith, and the rich experience that God has given to others, and we consider this lament to be pious...
Only he who gives thanks for little things receives the big things." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I am blessed to know that I did not need a 'big miracle' to come back to my faith in Christ. Do not misunderstand me, it is a miracle that I stopped living my sinful lifestyle and came back to faith at all but I did not have a flashy, saved-from-death-in-a-car-wreck kind of miracle. I am so happy to have faith in the midst of 'small miracles' but I pray daily for my faith to be strengthened and daily God delivers.

I know that some people need that 'big miracle' to validate their faith or to believe at all. Gideon needed that miracle, even after the angel of God came to him, he still asked for proof! *Judges 6.11-40* Thomas, a disciple who saw Jesus perform miracles, needed proof that He had risen even after hearing it from his closest friends. *John 20.24-29* One of my dearest brothers in faith is a skeptic who came to faith in Christ after a lot of doubt and testing and I am sure he is not the only one.

It is not wrong to need that in our faith. We can come to Christ kicking and screaming in our pride or beaten and bruised in humility. The important thing is that we come to Him at all and when we fall on our knees before Him that we repent of the ugly sin that holds us captive. And then we can rise in the victory that He has provided over that ugliness and walk through life with God, our Maker and Christ, our Redeemer by our side until we meet Him face to face in heaven!

Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name. -John 20.29-31

Aslan, the lion, strikes my heart every time he appears in the Narnia books. He is such a beautiful picture of God and Christ. I am brought to tears because I think of what has been done for all of humanity in the name of love. I look at my child and rejoice in this truth, knowing that as much as I love him, he is loved that much more by his Creator.

He brings us out of the darkness to the brightest light we can never imagine until it is seen by our eyes at the end of our journey here on earth. If you are reading this and really do not understand or know what this real, true love is, my heart breaks for you. I hope to the core of my soul, that we will all spend our time in eternity together in paradise. It will make any beauty we experience in this world pale a thousand-fold.

An important thing to note is this, so many people I have known and spoken to throughout my life have said things to the effect of, "so and so (evangelist/pastor/priest, christian friend, christian parent, {insert yours here}) did this, has done that to (me, my friend, my family, {insert yours here}) and yet claims to be a christian, I do not want to be part of that hypocrisy". My response to you is this, DO NOT LOOK TO PEOPLE FOR WHAT ONLY CHRIST CAN SHOW US, PLEASE! We will always fail you, we are not perfect like He is. It is not meant as an excuse, we are told to be examples, to live like Christ but please do not let this be a stumbling block to faith that will bring you to the beauty I have described! No one is perfect, we all sin and will continue to do so until we are brought to paradise. We strive not to do so but again, this world is not our place of perfection. It grieves me to know that I have possibly influenced anyone in my life in this way. I pray often for anyone who crossed my path when I was not living for Christ (or even when I have, but made mistakes) to be shielded from that wrong influence.

I want to end with this verse and also these words from c.s. lewis:

Romans 1:7b
May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.

These words come from Surprised by Joy, lewis' autobiographical account of his 'early life' remember, if you know, he was an outspoken atheist attempting to disprove God's existence:

"In the Trinity Term in 1929 I gave in, and admitted God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. I did not see then what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The prodigal son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape? The words compelle intrare, compel them to come in, have been so abused by wicked men that we shudder at them; but properly understood, they plumb the depth of the Divine mercy. The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation."

19 August 2011

Book List #7

So, this only includes books that were banned in the United States at some point. I am sure I have read a hundred books banned in other countries. Freedom makes our country great!

Top ten banned books I have read

1. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
2. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
3. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
4. Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes
5. Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
6. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
7. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
8. One Day in The Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
9. The Witches by Roald Dahl
10. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

disclaimer: You may be surprised by what I agree with when it comes to banned books. I do not believe in banned books overall but I believe there are certain exceptions. Hear me out for a minute, if something is against the law for moral reasons ( I am pretty much thinking pedophilia here and not much else ) then by all means ban the book that condones or even praises it. As for subjects like witchcraft, sex, adultery, homosexuality, murder, etc. do you know they all exist in the Bible?! We all know that there have been many instances of Christian books being persecuted against because they "offended somebody". One thing I find funny are the fantasy books by Christian authors ie. Narnia, LOTR, etc. that go both ways, so to speak! I know people exist who will NOT let their children read these books because they have witches/ warlocks in them! I do not necessarily think that parents do not talk to their children about these books, I think it is more a lack of understanding on their part and so they are afraid to do anything but shelter the kids. I have already read all the Narnia books to my 4 year old and he loves them. I will always censor what my own child reads to make sure it is age appropriate and that includes the Bible. I already have removed some of his books for when he is older after they gave him nightmares or I looked at them again and realized he just wasn't old enough to process some of the things in them. It is not always a morality issue either, it all depends on your child. A child who has a fear of bugs would either want to learn more about them to help get rid of the fear or if he is just too afraid you take those books away and work on it later. My point is, it is up to us as parents to censor what our children read. It is not up to the government or whomever.
Happy reading!

17 August 2011

Mister Rogers

I read a wonderful book about 'Mister Rogers' which caused me to look back and reflect on his influence in my life.
I am working it out in my head and am not sure if he had as much influence when I was a child or if he actually has shaped my adult life more. Sadly, I did make fun of other kids at times which he would have been sad about. I was not always a good neighbor. I am not the best neighbor these days either, literally. I do not know even one of my neighbors. It is so sad and I hope to remedy it though I still have done nothing to remedy it so far.

Mister Rogers on prayer:

A young girl asked Mister Rogers about prayer and his answer was thus. . .
' . . .prayer is asking for something, and sometimes you get a yes answer. . . sometimes no. . .you might get angry when you get a no answer. But God respects your feelings. . .God can take your anger [and] your happiness. So whatever you have to offer God through prayer. . .is a great gift. Because the thing God wants most of all is a relationship with you. . .even as a child-especially as a child. Look how Jesus loved the children who came around Him.'

He prayed every morning at 5 am for his family and friends by name and he would begin his days singing 'Jubilate Deo'. Rejoice in the Lord, rejoice in the Lord, alleluia.

I will keep reflecting. Maybe he will influence me more in time. I miss the 'neighborhood'. God blessed the work you did, Mister Rogers. We will get 'there' one day.

09 August 2011

Life and religion. . .

'Life and religion are one, or neither is anything. The same God who is in us. . .also is all about us-inside, the Spirit; outside the [Bible] and the two are ever trying to meet in us.'

'One of my greatest difficulties in considering to think of religion was that I thought I should have to give up my beautiful thoughts and my love for the things God had made. I find that. . .God is the God of the beautiful, [Christianity] the love of the Beautiful, and Heaven the House of the Beautiful-nature is tenfold brighter in the sun of righteousness, and my love of nature is more intense since I became a Christian.'

He wrote this poem after four of his eleven children went Home to Heaven:

But thou art making me, I thank thee, sire.
What thou hast done and doest thou know'st well,
And I will help thee; gently in thy fire
I will lie burning; on thy potter's wheel
I will whirl patient, though my brain should reel.
Thy grace shall be enough the grief to quell,
And growing strength perfect through weakness dire.

~George MacDonald

Recommended reading:
At the Back of the North Wind
I think it is best to read them in that order as well. They become more complex and I think it eases you in this way.

Some random thoughts on life

There are so many subjects that have been taboo for churches or Christians to discuss in the past and I believe the result of that has been confusion and apathy instead of further study. I am so glad that is changing.

Guess what, God created sex! He knows we FAIL CONSTANTLY! He does not care if we have TATTOOS on our body (although if one is a christian and gets one that could allow someone to question their faith they may at least want to think long and hard. . .but I digress) or make-up on our face! It is okay to wear shorts, sleeveless shirts and bathing suits! First and foremost, HE ALLOWS US TO MAKE OUR OWN CHOICES SO WHEN WE SCREW UP WE RUN BACK TO HIM! I truly believe that a lot of other things could be included in this particular rant, I am sure you can think some up yourself. It is an absolute truth that 'we are not to conform to this world, we are to transform by the renewing of our minds' but does that include alienating people of the world so that they see christianity as a set of rules and hypocrisy that they have no interest in? I say NO!

One of my favorite U2 songs, Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own, brought me to tears the first time I heard it and it still does now. It seriously affects me every time. I hope my son realizes he always has me to lean on.

Of course, there is a bigger picture. We can not ever make it on our own. We can attempt to rely on ourselves and we will fail, in some way. Maybe financially we will fail, maybe not. Maybe emotionally we will fail; somehow, somewhere, we all fail at something. It is a great comfort to know that Christ will pick us up from wherever we fail and blow a breath of fresh air softly over us and prod us to keep going. The creator of the universe is our great Encourager.

Chew on that for a bit and thank Him for His blessings. You can't ever make it on your own. No 'sometimes' about it!

My church in AZ read the Bible together cover to cover over 2 years. It changed my life as well as the life of other folks in all stages of their lives. God gave us His word to gain knowledge of Him. He speaks to us in this way and we need to listen to Him. So often we take an idea from a sermon or Sunday school and decide it is truth without bothering to gain this knowledge. When I taught Sunday school I always stressed my fallibility. I wanted those high school kids to challenge what I was saying by reading and studying His word! I believe with my whole heart that Christ reveals more of His truth to us the more we engage with Him. That is the only way to begin to understand these conversations and help others to also gain the knowledge of Christ. His words are infallible and they are the only words that exist that are. We must talk with His words on our lips and in our hearts and to do so we must know Him!

This is the true "love" chapter in my own humble opinion.

Deliverance from Bondage
1Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
3For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh,
4so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
5For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.
6For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace,
7because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so,
8and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.
10If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.
11But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
12So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh--
13for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
14For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
15For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!"
16The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,
17and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.
18For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
19For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.
20For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope
21that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
22For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.
23And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.
24For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees?
25But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.
Our Victory in Christ
26In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words;
27and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
28And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
29For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;
30and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
31What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?
32He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?
33Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies;
34who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.
35Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36Just as it is written,
"For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered."
37But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.
38For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,
39nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8 (NASB)