Theology

Today

Posted by on Jul 25, 2012 in Health, Mothering, Theology, Video, Wifery | 1 comment

It’s just before one o’clock and there is a sixteen pound baby nursing in my one arm. The other arm has, until this very moment, been helping me hold up a book that I’ve been reading swiftly. It’s good and it’s non-fiction but not in a self-help kind of way.

There are two children in the blue room (which is what we call it now instead of Gideon’s room because Piper sleeps there too and she takes offense) who are playing nicely with the door closed. Their muffled voices sweep through every level of the house, save the basement, where the air conditioner is working it’s magical self ragged. It’s new, in terms of air conditioners, so it doesn’t sound alarmingly loud, but still, it drowns out all else in the basement when it’s working. I am sure that the relative niceness in which the children are currently playing can end at any moment, perhaps this one, so I will tip toe about hoping to prolong their pleasantries.

I’ve just ended a phone call with my husband who usually calls at least once a day to check in and see how his people are getting on. We are getting on well. He has news of a client and we talk the details to death. Then he needs to go and we remind each other of our love and hang up.

Prior to these moments, the children and I had been watching Charity: Water videos. I’ll never get over the Time Bomb Luxury Lab one. It’s how I first learned that the solvable issue in Africa isn’t civil war and isn’t how to help age long rivalries find civility – it is water. Water changes everything and you will never convince me otherwise. Water and Living Water are the two key issues everywhere, it’s just that most of the rest of us don’t have to give one thought to either of those issues in order to wake up tomorrow. You’ll just do normal things and get normal results. It’s luxury at it’s finest to be able to loose sight of the basics.

But here is the video that drew us in today. If you are on twitter, no doubt you’ve seen it already. If not, I think you should watch it. It made me cry, but not the kids. They’re far too practical for that. “Where is she buried?” asked one of them. “Why are they so happy?” asked another. “How many cars were involved? How long will the people have the clean water? How many people don’t have to drink dirty stuff now?” Good, practical, smart questions that I bet another little girl would’ve asked too.

Rachel Beckwith’s Mom Visits Ethiopia. from charity: water on Vimeo.

I’m off to hug my babies and get a drink of water and thank the Lord for all these things.

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On Death

Posted by on Jul 23, 2012 in Health, Product Reviews, Theology | 0 comments

I’ve been reading the collected works of Nora Ephron lately. She died last month and I have been (morbidly, sadly, nostalgically) drawn to her. I want to watch When Harry Met Sally all the time and am tempted to try to watch Silkwood. Thankfully, my local library has quite a few things to grab and devour at home. Heartburn has been opened, thoroughly enjoyed and returned. I Feel Bad About My Neck and other thoughts on being a woman is still in my hands, but the end discovered.

Given all the craziness of this past weekend and the fact that I am reading all of this after the author has, herself, died, I quite appreciated her thoughts about it all. Here’s a taste for you:

“Before you get sick, you have absolutely no idea of how you’re going to feel once you do. You can imagine you’ll be brave, but it’s just as possible you’ll be terrified. You can hope that you’ll find a way to accept death, but you could just as easily end up raging against it. You have no idea what your particular prognosis is going to be, or how you’ll react to it, or what options you’ll have. You have no clue whether you will ever even know the truth about your prognosis, because the real question is, What is the truth, and who is going to tell us, and are we even going to want to hear it?”

I loved this. I could probably quote anything from her book and follow it with a proclamation of love, but this seemed so fitting for the things that have been rolling around in my mind.

Given the national and international response to the stories that are floating around the internet and pouring out of people’s fingers onto blogs and comment sections everywhere about the reaction to what happened in a darkened screening room, you would think that no one agrees with Nora. You would surmise that everyone is saying that they know exactly how they will respond to staring down death and, in this particular case, a mad man. There is, of course, always the hope for bravery and the general idea of heroism as well.

Most nights, while trying to fall asleep, I hear faint sounds that always, without fail, make me believe that someone is breaking in to our house. I lay there, suddenly wide awake, attempting to decipher if the dull thud I just heard was the neighbor’s car door shutting, or someone knocking into something in the basement. The number of times I’ve woken Jud up and asked him to check the house for intruders is too many because of just how deeply I’ve started to believe the nonsense my brain has concocted. He is then so worked up by the adrenaline rush his body creates to fight off the invisible intruders he sometimes can’t go back to sleep. It is these false alarms, these times I’ve cried wolf, that especially makes me wonder if someone ever did come into our home uninvited if I would shrug it off as just another crazy thing my brain has made up or the real deal.

In the meantime, most nights, I am strategizing about how to get the children out (Whom will I leave behind? Should I just get the baby and run to the neighbor’s as quickly as possible for them to help save the others? What if stopping to get her means that neither of us get out at all? Will the older ones scream or cry or just be sleepily too limp to move if I am prodding them to get up at 2am? I play out the different scenarios over and over until I give up and pray that my reactions will be the right ones) and have everyone survive. I am trying to be prepared for something that I hope never ever happens.

There wasn’t any way for the people to be prepared for what happened this weekend. They couldn’t have known how the details would play out. Even the first responders, who have been trained, who are supposed to have all of the answers in times of crisis, were overwhelmed at times by the magnitude, the horror, the amount of information flying into their hands that needed to be processed and upon which they must immediately act. I have heard that one of the dispatchers did a truly phenomenal job mutual-aiding EMS workers and even providing direction for the incident commander. She should be highly praised. You can’t teach someone how to remain that calm under that much pressure. It’s super-natural. It’s heroic. But not everyone has that kind of clarity of mind, especially when you are knee deep in the mire of the situation. Especially when the bullets are flying at you.

Heroism then is rare. We aren’t all heroes, but no one will get to escape death forever. No one will get to look death in the face every time and walk away unscathed. It is coming, even for the heroes.

Then what? That depends on what you believe. Not that what you believe will magically come true for you and we can each have our own version of the afterlife. Not at all. There are only two outcomes, but what you believe determines the outcome because that which you believe about Jesus Christ has efficacy for your soul. Jesus Christ died and rose again for our sins. Trusting in this truth grants eternal life. Unbelief keeps one from life. Basic. Every other belief system in the world says that you have to do better, be better, work harder, make yourself into something and hope that you’ve done enough by the time you die. This offer, of eternal life on no merit of your own, without any work on your part, is unique. The uniqueness is part of why I believe it to be true. I hope you will believe too.

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Familiarity Breeds in Families

Posted by on Jul 3, 2012 in Theology | 0 comments

There is something about proximity to others that makes you more aware of yourself, except when it is your very own family members. Then, in the comfort of your living room or the discomfort of your dining room chair, you can just let it all hang out. I recently ran into this over on somebody’s pin board:

Suck in Your Stomach

Did your mom ever tell you to suck it in? I remember my mom informing me of the capability to actually engage my core and put my shoulder muscles to good use too. She didn’t use those words, but I certainly appreciated her help, even if she didn’t take me to the mall to purchase clothing from the Gap until I found out about it all on my own.

When you first go off to college and jump into dorm life, there is this crazy feeling of wanting to fit in with all of the other people and at the same time wanting to hide all of the ugly stuff you do/have/participate-in-while-sleep-walking. It is an odd mix of letting your abs relax and hoping that people will still want to eat in the cafeteria with you once they notice your paunch, which is kind of the same way church life can be.

If you aren’t a part of a local church, then this may sound odd, but if you are in a community of people that are as healthy as the collective mental/emotional/physical/spiritual health of the lot of you, then you will understand, perhaps all too well. Around our house we talk about being a part of a church family and the word ‘family’ is carefully chosen, for mostly obvious reasons, not the least of which being that we’ve let our stomachs out when we’re around each other. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve still got our pants on (something we don’t necessarily do for EVERYBODY in the family, if you’re still following me with this whole analogy), but we’re not trying to look our best anymore. Being a part of a church family means we’ve all relaxed a bit. And that is a good thing.

It is a strange world though, and the problem with this level of familiarity is that it can sometimes mean that we don’t treat those closest to us with the level of respect and care that they not only deserve, but have often earned, like the way you can be dismissive of your sister and just leave the room when she is talking because she always talks like that. And sometimes you stop asking how your father’s day went because you figure if it was really bad or tremendously good, he would just offer that up while he munched his salad. The difficulty is that in the church family the only thing holding us together is our concern and care for one another. Once we start taking each other for granted, we start to think that there just isn’t any reason left to come to the table. Not true, of course, unless you’ve been living as the teenage slacker who only participated in the life of the family by consuming resources and never so much as tossing a thanks out of your mouth or taking the trash out.

So what does one do when all of the familiarity begins to make you invisible to the ones you hoped would notice? I don’t think there is always a right answer. I’m just wondering what you would do/have done/will do when your church family feels less and less like something you want to be a part of and more and more like something you have to endure?

Tell me, maybe.

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Lessons and Learning

Posted by on Jun 16, 2012 in Thank You Thursday, Theology, Wifery | 1 comment

This past week was odd, probably for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being the tree that was ripped apart in our front yard. The story of that tree falling down didn’t actually begin on that day, though. It started on Wednesday when I heard the Lord speaking to me.

Don’t go nuts or think that I am. Sometimes this just happens to me, when I’m moving slowly, taking my time, talking to Him and actually pausing to listen to see if He responds. Most of the time, He speaks to me through His Word, bringing pieces of it back into my mind, reminding me of what I already know is true. Sometimes He keeps bringing the same thing into my view time after time and in different ways and then I know that this thing I have been ignoring shouldn’t be overlooked. And then there are the two times He has specifically shown me His movement in my life with cold hard cash.

Those scenarios went something like this:

1. Use money for something good, but unexpected.
2. Have another expense arise close enough to the previous event that my palms get a little sweaty about “all this money we’re spending”.
3. Freak the snot out about all of it in a horrific spiral of selfishness, greed and fear that ends in me questioning God’s goodness in general, but certainly His goodness to me in the specific.
4. God replaces the original amount of money TO THE PENNY to shut me up and remind me that it all belongs to Him, the Good One, the One I can trust.
5. Repentance from me and lots of praise to Him (but let’s be honest, most of the praise is over the wonderment part – that He stepped in and DID something – because more times than not, I am walking around thinking that He is not doing much of anything with regard to me. It’s not right, of course, but it is honestly what I am thinking when I focus on His boot-to-the-head style of intervening).

This week on Wednesday, I heard Him ask for me to do something with money and although I was fairly certain that it was Him speaking and not me, I waited to act. You might think this very unwise (if you are as sure as I was that the God of the Universe was asking me to do something, then I ought to get to it, don’t you think) or perhaps very wise (a prudent person would not rush to do something rash and how could you know if it was really God or just the fact that I hadn’t eaten breakfast that morning). Either way, I waited and actually, kind of pushed it out my mind as something to talk with Jud about later that night.

During the girls’ nap time, I picked up a book I’ve been reading and the Lord slapped me on the back of the head with what He’d told me do earlier. I’d reached a part in that tome that was about the very thing He’d been instructing me to do. And now I needed to act on it. Two sleeping girls and a husband not at home meant I couldn’t physically accomplish it. I was going to need to do something else to obey in the moment and so I wrote out a note and did it in faith that my husband would confirm the Lord’s direction [would I have gone ahead with it if he’d said ‘no’? No. I wouldn’t. That’s the thing about letting someone lead you. I’m not the one who would deal with it then at the Bema seat. I would’ve done my part and the Lord would deal with him as He wants. It really is a fantastic thing about being a woman with a man who leads. He is thoughtful and prayerful and sensitive to the Spirit.].

Then I waited for him to come home and for the proper time to talk about it. He read the note. We talked. He trimmed the tree in the front yard. I put the baby to bed. He came inside and said that I should obey. The matter settled, I was excited to obey but again had to wait.

Sleep came fitfully. I dreamed of not obeying. I dreamed of difficulty in obeying. I dreamed I had a giant, Tom Selleck sized, mustache that kept coming back right away no matter what I did. Finally morning dawned and I drank coffee, waited for my time to be able to go to the gym and used part of it to do what I needed to do.

1. It was Thursday morning and I’d just used money for something good, but unexpected.
2. It was Thursday night when our tree came crashing down.
3. We were driving home, unsure of what we’d find, when the energy started to bubble up in my chest. It’s the energy that comes before the freak out – the energy that turns it all into a nasty thing and I named it. I told Jud, who was driving through the pouring rain, that I wasn’t going to do it this time. I wasn’t going to doubt God, no matter what we found at home, no matter what the cost to remove the tree, no matter what shade is gone from our evening, no matter what the future holds. The future is His, not mine. I have been sustained by Him and He will continue to sustain.
I doubt 4. will come now. I don’t need it to and although I love those moments of unbelievable shock when He catches me in such bold ways, I am sure of His heart now. He doesn’t have to set off a firework to get me to look. I’m looking now. I’m ready now.
5. All Praise to the One who loves me. All Praise to the One who cares. Oh, how He cares.

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You and Me and All of Us

Posted by on Jun 13, 2011 in Theology | 0 comments

Sunday morning Jud and I woke up early to put the finishing touches begin a lesson we were teaching to the high schoolers that morning. We’d been talking about the lesson for a few days but nothing was on paper yet. I’m very much into having it down on paper, especially when team teaching. There is something about standing in front of a room of people that almost automatically makes every amount of effort I’ve invested slip away into two bullet points. We cracked open our minds and a couple of books and wrote down notes on ‘An Overview of Theology.’

Our target audience was a room of overly tired teenagers who were most likely more concerned with lunch, their own appearance and video games than anything we could ever do in a classroom, including pyrotechnics. But we gave it our best shot. Of course, their responses to our instruction were muted and, I agree that we needed more talking animals and celebrity cameos.

Regardless of their reactions, I appreciated the part where we talked about folk theology the best. What is folk theology you might ask? Oh, let me tell you (and get ready for the fireworks).

Do you know what the word theology means? In it’s most basic form, theology is simply the rational expression of thoughts about God. Except for a very small number of people, frequently featured over on TMZ, pretty much everyone has thoughts about God, even if the sum of those thoughts is to say that the belief in the existence of God is irrational and to land in atheism. The atheist still ‘does theology’ to reach his/her conclusion and as such, everybody is then a theologian. The real question is about to what degree one will do theology. And that is where folk theology comes in.

Folk theology is bumper sticker theology. It is believing in what has always been handed down to you for no other reason than that it was repeated by a person you trusted. It is a theology based in emotion and in general is dismissive of any kind of formal, rational thought. Somehow folk theologians are the ones who seem to garner the greatest amount of attention when they apply the label ‘Christian’ to their terrible belief system. They say things like “God helps those who help themselves” and “God won’t give you anything you can’t handle” and all sorts of things that aren’t actually in the Bible. They talk about Jesus being their ‘co-pilot’ and how their dead loved ones are now ‘angels’. They tend to find these kinds of beliefs incredibly comforting and often cannot be swayed from the beliefs to which they cling.

Folk theology is the very thing I’ve been running from since I learned of it’s existence. It’s what makes Christians seem so patently uncool and so intellectually disingenuous. I can’t pinpoint a time when I have ever been ashamed of Jesus or of the Good News about Him, but I can’t say the same about people who are using His name. There are plenty that cause me to cringe and wish they would be quiet. I always sort of attributed that to being an unkind person, but from now on, I’m going to start laying my finger on what the issue really is; lazy theology.

Bust out the concordances, baby. We’re gonna kill off those bumper stickers one by one.

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Can’t Stop Thinking About This

Posted by on Jun 3, 2011 in Theology | 2 comments

The other day Jud and I ran across this video. Neither of us have stopped thinking about it.

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/9776406 w=400&h=300]

Balance Beam from Discussion CHS on Vimeo.

Right now our church family has embarked on something terribly difficult. Our current vision is to plant another church in our metro area with about 200. We have over 700 people who would call our church theirs, but due to illness, travel and probably laziness too, we have about 450 people that attend each Sunday morning. If you do the math (and even I can do this one, so I am sure you did too), the plant will take almost half of the people who attend. That sounds kind of crazy, right? It sounds like it puts the existing church into peril. It sounds dangerous, even.

And I have never been so certain that this is the right thing, not just a good thing even, but the best thing. It is going to stretch everyone, from the people who are going to the ones who are staying, everybody will have to change. And the biggest area of growth when you do something hard is almost always in trust. It is growing my faith even now. When questions come up in my mind I have thoughts like “Am I going to like the people who go? Would I rather stay right where I am? Will I have a lot more to do after the plant? Will it change how our family is operating?” And the like.

The answers to those questions can all be boiled down into Francis Chan’s idea. Do I want to live a life of challenge and risk falling off but gain Kingdom rewards? It sounds like a pretty good trade – my life for His.

[And you know I couldn’t put up that link without a caveat. I am the queen of caveats! While I really, really appreciate Francis Chan and most of what he has to say, I am not where he is on salvation. He maintains that believers cannot continue in egregious sin because they have the Holy Spirit. I am positive that you can because 1) if we believers couldn’t sin egregiously, then there would be no need for the epistles because we would just be able to know the right thing to do from the Spirit 2) my own personal anecdotal evidence proves otherwise 3) remember all those Old Testament saints who didn’t persevere to the end? Yeah. Those guys. You can disagree and we can still be friends and all. I might even post a video of you up on my blog.]

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