- Jesus comes with his disciples to Gethsemani: "Stay here, while I go yonder and pray."
- Entering the garden with Peter, James, and John, Jesus prays, "My soul is sorrowful unto death."
- Jesus sees the sins of all mankind, whose guilt He has taken upon Himself.
- He sees the wrath of the Father which His sufferings must appease.
- So great is his anguish that His sweat becomes as drops of blood falling to the ground.
- An angel appears to Him from heaven to strengthen Him.
- "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet, not My will but Yours be done."
- Finding the disciples asleep: "Could you not watch one hour with me?"
- Jesus is betrayed by Judas, cruelly bound and led away.
- Father, by the merits of the agony of Jesus in the Garden, have mercy on us and on the whole world.
Saturday, March 8, 2014
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
And this week, Lent starts. I just realized it a little while ago. So I looked up some mass times at a local Catholic church on Wednesday (might as well kick it off right) and put some thought into how I might observe it this year. I'm not Catholic, so I've never observed it very strictly. But I learn a little more about it and what it means each year, and each year I try to do something for it. This year I'm going to try a little harder.
I'm going to take something up. Besides looking at the daily Lectio Divina readings on my Android app, I am also going to make it a point to intentionally clean something every day. I'm kind-of a slob. And I have the sort of personality that allows me to "overlook" untidiness that isn't directly affecting me at that moment. So I'm going to work on that.
I'm going to lay something down. And by that, I mean I'm going to get up. I'm a third-shifter, and sometimes I get into an almost-"normal" groove of "regular" sleeping and waking times. But here lately it feels like I'm sleeping more than I'm waking, and not getting much of anything done. So I'm going to make it a point to be up by a certain time each day. (Unless I get in bed unusually late or something - I'm not going to be legalistic about it. Just more disciplined.) It will give me more time to focus on practical things (like cleaning something and playing with my puppy and paying bills and stuff like that) as well as spiritual things. (I woke up this afternoon with an intense desire to find some solitude and just pray. I need more Jesus in my life right now. I think managing my time better will allow me to get back on track with that.
And here's a biggie: I'm going to observe the practice of not eating meat on Fridays. I think that is integral to the "preparation" part of Lent, looking in anticipation to the Friday of the Cross. I want to make it a point to study the Cross this season, and what it means to me in my life right now.
Here's my prayer for the moment and the upcoming liturgical season:
You know this has been a week of revealing to others where my heart is, and it has upset many people who care about me, who think I am wrong. You know what? Maybe I am. I don't think so, but I also want to remain open to Your Spirit to lead me in the way of Truth. You know my heart, even if others doubt it. I want to please You. I love you, and I desire to love You and my neighbors more. Please, whether I am right or wrong, please lead me. Don't ever leave me. Help me to do and be better. I love You. I trust You and Your grace. Thank You for peace.
Saturday, March 1, 2014
I "came out" on Facebook this week. Having been a preacher, and having come from a fundamentalist Christian background, I pretty much got the scripture-laden response I expected. While I in no way asked for people to inform me of the Bible's stance on homosexuality, many of course took it upon themselves to do so anyway (including a few who, I would bet, have never actually opened a Bible themselves). Let me state this clearly: I am very aware of what the Bible says about homosexuality. My understanding of God and the literal/nonliteral nature of biblical texts has undergone a drastic change in the last couple of years, including my views on homosexuality and whether or not it is a sin. (Here is a post I wrote a while back about literal interpretation and biblical inspiration/inerrancy.)
Though most of the people I know will accuse me (and have accused me) of trying to "twist the Scriptures in order to justify my sinful lifestyle," I have never intentionally tried to do that. I don't want to believe a lie and be damned. I don't want to twist anything in order to justify selfishness or sin.I always want to know the truth. However, I have come to believe that the truth about God is that God loves us and wants us to love God and each other. Most of everything else is open to interpretation.
I do not feel like I have to justify myself to anyone on whether my "lifestyle" is "wrong" or "right," but just in case anyone does care to know what I believe about it, I would like to just briefly address the biblical references to homosexuality and how I have come to "twist them"...er...I mean...believe that all Scripture was written by imperfect humans who did their best to write about the God they loved, but Whom they understood through their own human culture, bound by sometimes erroneous understandings of the world around them. Where I do not provide a link to an external article or source, it is because I had the Bible and a concordance open before me and was typing as I read it for myself, not taking someone else's word for it.
1) The simplest reference (and favorite go-to Scripture in my family) is Leviticus 18:22, which says (in the King James Version, because we all know that is the truly inspired translation), "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination." A couple chapters later, in Lev. 20:13, it says that those who do so are to be put to death.
Two things can be pointed out here. First of all, the term "abomination" never refers to anything inherently sinful, but to things that were ritually sinful (not part of a certain code - like the one God made for Israel after the Exodus...the law that served as a schoolmaster to teach us why we needed Christ, because we were unable to keep even those few written rules contained in the Pentateuch ((see Galatians 3:24-26))). Other things the Bible calls abominations include eating seafood (Lev. 11:10); eating certain kinds of birds (Lev. 11:13); sacrificing one's children to God (Deut. 12:31, which demonstrates that even God realized how much the people were influenced by surrounding cultures); remarriage after divorce (Deut. 24:4); "haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers" (Prov. 6:17-19, NIV); a faulty balance/scale (Prov. 11:1, which basically means ripping people off in business transactions); someone who mocks (Prov. 24:9); and a number of other things.
Leviticus 18-19 not only outlaws homosexuality, but having sex while a woman is menstruating, harvesting a field without leaving back some of the crop for the poor, social injustice, gossip, planting a field with two different crops, wearing clothing made of two different materials, taking "a little off the sides" of your hair, eating a steak rare, and not standing up in the presence of the elderly. I am unclear why homosexuality is so often plucked out of this context and delineated as the worst sin in the list.
2) Sodom and Gomorrah. I will try to state this succinctly and not write a book about it. Basically, you can read the account yourself in Genesis 19, but the people of Sodom wanted Lot to send his angelic visitors out into the street so they could rape and humiliate them. They were inhospitable, comparable to the people in Judges 19 who demanded the visiting man be turned over to them for the same fate. The sin was violent rape and inhospitality to strangers. Interestingly enough, Judges does not say God destroyed this other city even though it was guilty of the same sin. Ezekiel 16:49, however, lists the sins for which Sodom was destroyed as pride, gluttony, sloth, greed, and failure to help the poor. Inhospitality also fits with Jesus telling His disciples that houses and towns that did not welcome them would receive a fate worse than that of Sodom and Gomorrah (Mathew 10:14, 15). Further, Amos 4:1, 11 warns that Israel might be destroyed like Sodom and Gomorrah for "oppressing the poor and crushing the needy."
3) Romans 1:26-27. Honestly, there are other interpretations for this one too, including the idea that it speaks to heterosexuals who experiment with homosexuality, thus denying their own God-given sexual orientation, but even I think that is stretching it. If you want me to "justify" this one, the only thing I can say is that I believe it was a cultural pronouncement. As far as what Paul considers "against nature," he includes short hair as being natural for a man (1 Corinthians 11:14). This view is culturally relative; just ask a Native American. There is also the consideration that the sexual acts described by Paul consist of lust and not committed, loving relationship. (Here is a link to an article that outlines it a little bit more in-depth.)
4) 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. This article from Human Rights Campaign addresses this text briefly. Also, I read another one recently that discussed the word meanings. The actual word(s) translated "homosexuals" in some versions have a more difficult-to-discern meaning, and meant something closer to pedophilia. If I find that article I will come back and edit it into this.
Of course, there is also another side to the "Homosexuality in the Bible" ticket, including a lot of questions regarding the relationships between Jonathan and David and Ruth and Naomi. If you go back and re-read some of the texts describing Jonathan and David's love, you actually might find it hard to argue against that idea. I don't know whether they were gay or not, but there is good reason to question it.
In Mathew 19:12, when Jesus spoke of "some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb" (KJV), some people believe He refers to men who were not sexually attracted to women. In fact, the Early Church Father Clement of Alexandria wrote that "some men, from birth, have a natural aversion to a woman; and indeed those who are naturally so constituted do well not to marry" (Miscellanies 3.1). Granted, this does not expressly encourage homosexual relationships, but it does give biblical merit to the possibility that homosexuals are "born that way."
Okay...it is not my intention to write a thesis here. But Bible was thrown at me (though the throwers already know well that I know what the Bible says about it), so here is just a very small example of the possibility of various interpretations of Scripture. Other writers have written more and better on the subject; you can look them up if you so desire. So when I say I love Jesus AND am in a same-sex relationship, don't breathe fire at me and say it is impossible. Don't tell me God said, "If you love Me, keep My commandments." In fact, if you are not clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, and visiting the sick, widows, orphans, and imprisoned, don't talk to me about "what the Bible says" at all, because apparently you don't know as well as you think you do.
Oh yeah, and beyond the biblical, there's a little thing called science to consider, too. But of course, that's another post for another day. ;)
Thursday, January 30, 2014
Two college students who had just arrived from China sat by me at one point during the slam. One leaned over and asked, "This is a Christian church, yes?" I said, "No, this is not a church, it is a library." So he asked me if I could recommend a good Christian church to him and his friend. I recommended two - one I have attended several times, and one that is within walking distance of campus. The two young guys then got up and left, and it dawned on me that they might have been looking for churches that were having events/services that night. Oops!
|Stefanie and Glenda and..."that's me in the corner" (que song to play over and over in my head).|
So often people complain that poor or homeless people just need to get a job and fix their situation. For some this might be true. For others, it might be nearly impossible. For others...they simply don't know how. Thus, any way you look at it, they need help.
Saturday, January 25, 2014
The one-hundred-twenty-dollar jeans and the
Name-brand, form-fitting shirt and the
Sparkly, hangy-down things from the cute little crocheted hat...
All that stuff
draws attention to itself.
The Birkin bag and shiny, high-heeled crocs
Serve as tempting
Drawing the eyes and the
Mind away from what the bling disguises,
What the make-up hides,
What the glitter and highlights transform into an
The image we all strive to attain.
But try to see past all that.
Because underneath the grimy
Filter of fashion and
Caked-on cosmetics lies a
Person, just like you and me, with
Feelings, and family, and
Beauty is only skin-deep. It
But once the pesky prettiness is
Washed away, what
Saturday, December 28, 2013
I've been reading the book Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber. My phone says I'm on 144 of 206, so I plan to finish it tonight, but I had to stop a few pages back and write out some thoughts. On page 139 Nadia is talking about Matthew 3:17 - 4:1, where God names Jesus "Son" and "Beloved" and then immediately Jesus is tempted by the devil in the wilderness, and she says,
"Maybe demons are defined as anything other than God that tries to tell us who we are. And maybe, just moments after Jesus' baptism, when the devil says to him, 'If you are the Son of God...' he does so because he knows that Jesus is vulnerable to temptation precisely to the degree that he is insecure about his identity and mistrusts his relationship with God.
"So if God's first move is to give us our identity, then the devil's first move is to throw that identity into question. Identity is like the tip of a spool of thread, which when pulled, can unwind the whole thing."The way Nadia puts Scripture together through this book and applies them to life reminds me very much of someone I used to work for named Billie. (Billie happens to be a pastor now, too.) I absolutely love when I get to meet Billie for lunch, which is rare these days since I moved to another town, but used to happen every day. She is very much a "normal," very relatable person and talks about a lot of normal things, but she also usually shares with me what she is thinking about preaching, or what she recently preached. And she loves the Bible. We often joke about how God "changes the words" and "puts Scriptures in there" just for her at just the right moment, because she notices things that go together that I've never heard anyone notice before. And when I was reading Pastrix earlier today, I felt the same way about what Nadia was saying.
Not too long ago Billie was telling me some of her sermon ideas, and she had commented about how Christians often make "salvation" this mysterious thing that is scary and difficult to attain. But the way she reads it in the Bible, all it takes is belief.
In Genesis 3, when the snake tempted Eve, his method was to throw into question the truth of what God had told her. "Did God really say...?" He proceded to tell Eve that God had lied, and threw into question God's motives. Human brokenness (sin) came about because of a failure to believe God.
John 3:16, everyone's favorite verse, says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
Hebrews 11:6 says, "For without faith it is impossible to please to God. Everyone that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."
In short, salvation comes through believing God. Sin comes through not believing God.
What Nadia says in the pages following the quote at the top of this post basically echoes what I am about to say, but I did not read it until after I had written these words. This is the truth as revealed in my own heart as I read. God says God loves me. I am God's. No matter how convincing any demon (read that in Nadia's definition) is at trying to persuade me otherwise, my salvation (from self-destruction and from being crushed by a cruel world...or contributing to its cruelty) will come from believing, no matter what, that I am God's and God loves me. I dare say, a person is bound to behave like what they believe themselves to be.
Around 2006 or 2007 I had been dealing for years with waking up in the night and feeling like there were spiritual demons in my room. I was raised Pentecostal, so though this sounds absurd to many people, I believed it anyway. Every. Single. Night. I would wake up and spend the night frozen, terrified to move, knowing that the next breath was probably going to be my last and the darkness was going to "get me." I got very little sleep. What sleep I did get happened with the light on, because it was easier for me to calm down and get back to sleep if the room wasn't pitch black when I awoke.
I shared my struggle with a friend...an older, Pentecostal friend, whom I still regard as one of the wisest people I've ever known, even though we believe things a little differently now. Her name is Becky. She told me, "When you wake up, you say out loud, 'I am a child of God, and you have to go in the name of Jesus!" She would always tell me to say things out loud because, "If you're going to believe anyone, you're going to believe yourself." So, I put what she told me into practice. At first, I could not find the strength to speak out of my terror. But slowly, I began to stutter out the words. "I am a child of God," I would whisper, tears drenching my face, body shaking. Before long I could say it with a little more confidence. "I am a child of God, and nothing can hurt me!" After a while, as soon as I would wake up, I would immediately proclaim my identity to whomever or whatever might be plaguing me, and turn over and go back to sleep. Then at last, I wouldn't even wake up afraid anymore.
Eventually I believed I was a child of God and nothing could hurt me. Knowing who I was in God gave me the confidence to overcome the very real fear I had struggled with since I was a little girl. And I think the principle applies to all the self-defeating demons people deal with. To know that I belong to God and God loves me...this is truly Good News. It means I am not subject to anything that can hurt or hate me. It is a Good News I think is worth sharing with others!
Every chapter of this book so far has hit me almost as powerfully. If you cannot abide bad language, don't read it. If you don't think everyone is welcome in the kingdom of God, you might be offended if you read it. But if you think it's possible God is a little bigger and untameable than you or other Christians you've known have ever imagined, you might give this book a shot. It is the best thing I've read in years.
Thursday, December 26, 2013
Earlier that same day, I had been playing with my puppy, and while I was pondering his sweet and playful personality, I thought of cows and other animals that are raised primarily for food, and wondered how their personalities might "magically" develop if someone were paying attention.
A year or so ago I debated with a friend who argued that animals are just as sentient and "soulful" as humans (I argued that humans have souls/are capable of relationship with God and animals do/are not). Since then I have come to have a little different view of nonhuman life. I still believe humans were created in the image of God, and as such, their lives take precedence over the lives of animals. But I think I consider animal life more precious than I used to. We share a world with them; our bodies operate the same way theirs do; and really, they do a lot for us. I'm not to the point of joining PETA yet, but maybe we should show more respect to our fellow earth-dwellers. Maybe even the vegetarians are onto something....
But you know, it's not the paper or trophy or statue itself that is special. It is the honor it represents. It is the fact that a person is being celebrated for some service or achievement...some contribution to life as someone else knows it here on this planet.
I saw several pictures or announcements for baby showers on Facebook this week. That, too, reminded me how people were getting together to celebrate a life - a life, moreover, that hasn't even arrived yet. The celebration represents the expectation of the joy that life will bring to his or her family and friends in the future, and the potential for, well, anything!
I'll go a little further with this thought.... There are times when I deal with feelings of inadequacy or unworthiness. (I do a lot better with that now; it used to be a huge issue for me.) Celebrations of me used to cause me great embarrassment. I hated being singled out for recognition, whether it be for academic awards ceremonies or birthday parties. I felt like I didn't deserve to be celebrated - it wasn't possible there was anything about me that would give anyone a reason to take a break out of their important, busy day and look my way.
Last week I talked a little bit about each life being equal in value to every other life. But I wonder how many people go through life without ever being recognized for anything good - no birthday celebrations, no awards, no cheap certificates of appreciation, no applause...nothing. Makes me wonder what I can do to bring a little celebration to the uncelebrated.
I'm going to give that some thought.
|My brother and me.|