Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Passionate Misery

Sometimes I run down my news feed on Facebook and am touched when I read a post that screams with passion...especially passion for the things of God.

But something troubles me about these posts, too. It seems often when God does not work in/through someone's life like they expect or desire...someone who earnestly desires and tries their very best to please Him...their thoughts always fall back to some form of, "What is wrong with me/in my life that God isn't moving?" or "Something about me must just not be good enough. God doesn't seem to want to use me."

Our faulty, legalistic theology has taught us to think in this way.

I have been in Pentecostal circles all my life, so I know a few names of people through whom God did miraculous things - healing the sick and diseased, casting out demons, and even raising the dead. Smith Wigglesworth is the one that always comes to mind first. From all accounts, he spent so much time in prayer and study of the Word of God...and God used him mightily in ways that shook the world.

But the thing about old Smith.... He wasn't perfect! I'm sure he spewed out a few cross words at people, even after he became a Christian. He was sometimes judgmental of others, and he was reputably very stubborn. I am quite certain no one's theology has ever been 100% perfect (in fact, I'm pretty sure most of the time none of us is anywhere close), including Mr. Wigglesworth's. And finally, in addition to all the wonderful things he did, I can almost guarantee he could have done more.

Smith Wigglesworth was not good enough for God to manifest miracles through him.

Come to think of it, the apostle Paul wasn't good enough, either. He argued with Barnabas to the point that they had to part ways in the middle of their missionary work. In his impatience, he sent a young man (Mark) away from helping in the ministry. He was sarcastic.

The great apostle who wrote a major portion of the New Testament was not perfect.

The thing that rubs me wrong about conservative Christianity is that it portrays God as a begrudging Savior. He sent His Son to die for you, but if you accept His sacrifice, you had better toe the line or He will strike you down. Even His willing and most eager-to-please servants walk around heartbroken that they are not perfectly acceptable to Him and...not good enough.

Something is wrong with this picture.

I by no means have God figured out; but I think He means it when He says He loves us. And I think He smiles on a willing heart and does not withhold blessings in order to goad us on to (impossible) perfection.

What is perfection?

It hurts my heart when someone I know loves God passionately yet feels like a wounded failure because they don't understand why God doesn't do miraculous (by their judgment) wonders through them.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday - 5 W's, How, and a Bloghop Announcement

Aloha Friday Blog Hop

Who. Okay, I got tired of being the last person on earth to have not seen Doctor Who, so I commenced watching on Netflix this week. It took me at least two-thirds of the way through the first episode to decide the "fascinating" factor overpowers the "creepy/corny" factor just by a smidgeon. Wow! I think I'm hooked! The first episode even had zombies without having disgusting, dead...zombies. Impressive. (We'll ignore the fact that episode 3 may or may not have real zombies.) I think this is what the nerd in me has been looking for in a TV show.

What. Would anyone be interested in a new linkup I am thinking about starting, called the Weekend Nostalgia Bloghop? I think it would either be on Saturdays or Sundays (maybe Sunday so as to separate it from 7QT on Friday), and in it you could feature a memory, a childhood toy, an heirloom, a song, something you miss, a place you used to visit, a favorite Doctor Who episode (haha)...something nostalgic to you personally. In fact, if we do it more than once, it could have a different theme each time (movie, toy, song, etc.). This would be the button:
What do you think? We could even make it a one-time thing (you choose whatever subject you want to write about), or monthly...? If monthly, I could prepare a 12-month plan with a prompt for each month. Anybody interested in participating? Would anyone be interested in co-hosting?

Where. Right here, right now. I had a freak-out day this week, as I sometimes do when I start feeling like I'm getting "stuck" or the future looks like it is not approaching quickly or clearly enough. I eventually have to 1) sleep (that is usually the problem), 2) divert my attention somehow, and 3) remind myself to focus on the present day, the present moment. When I realize that at this minute I am just fine, I usually get past the angst a little more easily.

Today (Thursday) was a rough day for me, too, but I won't go into detail about that. (I know, sorry for whining....) But I am going to keep my head up! Tomorrow is a new day, right? And really, in the larger scheme of things, I'm doing pretty well. 
When. I will be finishing my thesis this month and officially earning my master's degree September 1st. 
Why. I just sat there and looked at my new tv without even turning it on. For a while. Why? Because, besides lacking a necessary cord to hook everything up, this is the first tv I have had in three years. Fancy that - I've got my very own movin' picture box! 'S wonderful. 'S marvelous. I still can't figure out how all those people fit in there.... A friend at work gave it to me. Evidently, she gives away a lot of tv's. I'm grateful to have benefited! And just in time for football season, too! This will be the first Fall I haven't been a full-time student in like a decade, so I might even actually have time to watch some football!! (GO BUCKS!)
How. To peel a banana. I always used to peel them by yanking on the stem until, hopefully, it split down one of the sides. Occassionally, after toiling endlessly and working up a sweat, I would succeed. But a few years ago a friend let me in on a little secret someone learned from a monkey. If you split a banana peel from the bottom (not the stem), it is so much easier. Yeah, I was skeptical, too. Try it. You'll see. Just know, your life is about to change. You're probably going to start eating bananas with (or for?) every meal now just for the primitive joy of peeling them. (But that's okay, cuz they're really healthy.)

You're welcome.
This. And if that wasn't enough. Here is something else banana-related that will even further change your life. *Make sure to read the reviews* for countless testimonies of this product's life-changing powers. It might even save your marriage someday. Truth. Reviewers don't lie.
 To read more amazing Quick Takes (or to join in!), go to Conversion Diary!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Ponderings on Moral Law and Justice

I have been watching Doctor Who. In Season 1 Episode 11, the time lords take the last remaining member of the Slitheen family aboard the TARDIS to return her to her home planet and save the earth from her scheme to destroy it. The prisoner tells her captors they are taking her to her execution. The character Mickey tells her she deserves it. She responds that he is very quick to assume so. She says, "You're awfully quick to soak your hands in my blood, which makes you better than me how, exactly?"

On one hand, an answer might be that the Slitheen's fate has been decided by the authority of Law - who are the time lords to interfere with what has been deemed just? In a subsequent scene, when the Slitheen describes the tortuous way in which she will be executed, the doctor stoically tells her, "I don't make the law." She responds, "But you deliver it. Will you stay to watch?"

On the other hand, most people who take up a cause of "justice" work endlessly to improve laws that do not adequately carry it out. Even as the Slitheen attempts to talk the doctor into delivering her somewhere other than her home planet, is she not appealing to his own sense of personal capacity to judge accurately, unhindered by precedent of law?

People disagree on matters of morality, and therefore, justice. So then, how is law decided?

Majority vote.

Does this make it right?

In the same episode, the relational dynamics between Mickey and Rose delineate another factor in human influence. Rose has not even comprehended the effects her actions have had on him, or how they have affected his ability to relate to others. They each come at the relationship from an independent perspective. Thus it is with all human interaction and relational response: relationship is dynamic and fluid...alive, almost...ever evolving and adjusting to whatever circumstances come along. One size does not fit all; every relationship works differently than all others.

Likewise, how does one objective, stationary law govern all people and all situations? Juries are fluid, perhaps, to a degree; this is at least one sort of minor safeguard in the process. And certainly without law chaos would run amok (as evidenced in the biblical record of Judges).

I have Sandra Day O'Conner's book The Majesty of the Law, and I'm sure it should spark some more thoughts to share here on the subject. What do you think?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday - bloghops, butter, and books!

Aloha Friday Blog Hop

Another bloghop I participate in is the Friend Connect Bloghop on Tuesdays. Through it this week, I stumbled onto another bloghop and visited some of the posts and found a recipe for some amazing almond butter that I then successfully made! I got to use my little tiny food processor for the first time (my mom got me several small appliances for Christmas last year)! It took some doing, but it came out great.
Since I can't remember where I found the recipe, I will just share the recipe with you.
1 cup almonds (unsalted)
1 cup cashews (unsalted)
1/2 cup shredded coconut
3 tsp guava or sugar
dash of salt
Preheat oven to 300 F.
Spread almonds, cashews, and coconut over nonstick baking sheet.
Roast for 15 minutes.
Add ingredients to food processor and pulse.
This part will take a good 20 minutes, and you will have to break up the mixture frequently with a spoon or something.
(At first it will just look like a dry, clumpy mixture, but soon it will grow more creamy.)
Then you will have...Da Da Da DAA...almond butter!
Please forgive the uncropped pictures. :)

Another accomplishment this week was that of going through my books and picking out a small box full to sell to a used book store! Those who know me will be proud that I parted with some of my preciouses :). I just got to thinking I could not possibly use ALL of those books productively in the future, so there really was no sense in keeping them. I couldn't find many that would be of no future use ;) but I found some, bless my heart.
(Not all of the above were payable, but the store offered me my choice of
$38 trade-in credit, or $19 cash. I'll let you guess which I chose.)
Speaking of books, several of the bloggers I follow shared pictures of their bookshelves or descriptions of books they are currently reading this week. I love knowing what others read and thought it would be fun to share a few of mine, too. You would think this would have encouraged me to do a little cleaning and organizing of my bookcases...but it didn't, so joke's on you. (But I did clean my kitchen! O.o) 
As far as the books in my office, I have three large bookshelves in there. Two of them are usually pretty well organized...
(This week's photos are again uncropped.)
 But the third I haven't had too long, so I just sort-of took the rest of my books and threw them on (and around...and apparently behind) it.
(You can see where I left off painting the room in that corner;
the wall behind the bookcases is the only unfinished one in the room.)
There is also a small shelf in the living room, which holds fiction:
(Top shelf = fantasy, with more on my Kindle; Middle = classical literature - Shakespeare, Austen, Homer, Hemingway, etc.; Bottom = random fiction - Madeleine L'Engle, the Princess Bride...and Anne Frank...yes, I know that's not fiction.)
And there is also a shelf in my bedroom, but I will spare you a picture of that disorganized chaos. There are many other things jumbled on the shelves with the books, and a large stack of books on top. That case contains my biography/memoir collection, most of my Church history and Missions books, as well as the ones I most want to read. Here is half of one of the shelves (some of the most-want-to-reads). A couple of them I have already started:
(I just noticed none of these are fiction. Interesting!)
 Back to the office.... I like to see what's on people's individual shelves, so I will give you the same privilege :).
Here is a really blurry shot of the top shelf, which consists of various subjects in general theology.
Below that we have Old Testament.

Then New (you can see I straightened it a bit after the last shot lol. And below that you get a
glimpse of a few Missions books and my Pentecostal history collection. The shelf below that contains
books on China and the Chinese language, as well as English grammars and Spanish books.)
My counseling and psychology collection.

These books normally fill out that second shelf in the photo above - they are out
because I am currently using them for my thesis, on pastoral care for families of
individuals who complete suicide.

Leadership and pastoral ministry.
 The cool black bookcase just holds basic Christian living and spiritual growth books.
The 4th of July was a good day. I cleaned my kitchen and took pictures of my books :). Watched some Netflix. Had some cheese dogs...which seems to be becoming my 4th of July tradition. Gave my dog a bath and trimmed his hair (thankfully, I'm getting a little bit better at that!). The day was tinged with sadness, too, though, when my mom and grandma both called to tell me a cousin's 14-month-old died unexpectedly with a high fever. I can't even begin to imagine the grief of my cousin and her husband. Please say a prayer for them if it crosses your mind.  
 Don't you love this?! It is parked not far down the street from where I live. I love it. It is almost patriotic in color, so that is my excuse for including it here. :) Have a great weekend, everyone!!
 For more great Quick Takes, check out the post at Conversion Diary!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Passion Rekindled

Early today I came across a blog post from a former hospital chaplain about one of her experiences in the NICU, helping young parents say goodbye to their newborn. Not only did it bring tears to my eyes, but also peace to my heart. It reminded me what one of my true passions is: helping people through grief.

A while back I thought very seriously about doing some Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at a local hospital here and becoming a hospice chaplain. I am now thinking about it again, but not hospice. I think hospital chaplaincy might be more what I am looking for. My plans aren't sure yet, and I know I will pursue my doctorate before too much longer; but I just might go ahead and get certified for chaplaincy between now and then. It is something I want to do, and I think it would only enrich my experience for a future career in teaching.

This evening before work I was talking with a coworker who shares some of my interests, and we noticed also how when people are dying, as most people know, they see people in the room with them who have previously died. I realized for the first time how it is interesting that they don't see imaginary people who are still alive...they see people who have already gone on. It makes me think maybe they really are present, helping us transition from this life into the next, being with us so we are not alone. But I digress....

Lately I have found myself wanting to take a little time - like a day or two - and retreat away from my many distractions, and try to hear the voice of God. My faith and understanding of God and spirituality have undergone a tremendous transformation, and sometimes while you are getting used to such a change it leaves you unsure of how to translate it into your life in a practical way. I haven't been sure what "ministry" should look like within my new paradigm, or even if I wanted to continue down my current professional trajectory.

So I am grateful for this reminder. I think the best kind of "work" in life involves the things about which one is passionate.