Hearing God

How do we hear God’s voice? How can we be sure that what we think we hear is not our own subconscious? What role does the Bible play? What if what God says to us is not clear?

Reflections on God and Gays, and Much More

reflections on god and gays

123rf.com

As expected, my recent post about the Duck Dynasty issue has had tons of readers, a lot of Facebook shares, and sparked incredible debate/dialogue, especially where it appeared on Facebook. If you do not follow my writer page there, I hope you will sign on and join in the conversation! The post below is an edited version of something I just posted on Facebook that I think stands alone as a unique statement on my views not only of homosexuality, but -- more important -- of the relationship between God and all of us.

Note: All scripture links were added after I finished the post, not as I wrote it. My worldview is deeply rooted in the Bible's ancient wisdom, and I wanted to provide these links for all who are interested.

I have gone from thinking about this issue of God and gays theologically to thinking about it relationally (though I think the best theological thinking IS relational thinking). If one of my daughters announced she was gay, it would change NOTHING. NOTHING AT ALL. I certainly would not hope for her salvation, at least not any more than anyone else’s, because I believe that if I love my daughters so deeply, God must love them infinitely more, and since my daughters are safe in my care, they must be infinitely safer in God’s. I think the reason Jesus commanded love is precisely because of the way loves biases us so strongly in favor of people, puts us so firmly in their corner and on their side, no matter what.

When I do think of this issue theologically, I see it as something that is evolving culturally, and that that is by no means a bad thing. The Bible pretty much endorses slavery, and for years many used scripture to resist racial equality, but at some point the church began to understand that there simply is no good argument in favor of this terrible thing, regardless of what the Bible seemed to be saying. Yes, even in the face of the Bible’s seeming endorsement of slavery, we can confidently pronounce it a great evil — indeed one of the greatest, because it so fundamentally stands against the spirit of what it means to be human. In the same way, the church will view homosexuality differently in the years to come, and that has already begun. I realize this statement will inflame some people, but anyone who cannot see this is simply not fairly considering past history, current events, and how we know things like this march forward, with the conservative faction dragging their feet but eventually coming along nonetheless.

This simply is the road the church is on and there is no stemming that tide. I say this despite the fact that in some ways my own faith tradition is trying to do exactly that.

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Is it time to break up with your church?, prt. 2

time to break up -- scissors cutting heart

image from 123rf.com

…continued from a previous post

5. It may be time to leave now

If you feel that because of all the money you have given, or all the time you have spent at the church, you deserve more power and recognition, and you are resentful that you are not getting your due, it is time to break up. In this state you are toxic, and the sooner you leave your church, the better off your church will be. No church has any use for people who feel entitled. Churches for too long have been way too accommodating of selfishness and immaturity among their people and this has often made church an uncomfortable place for everyone else. Pastors, be more gracious with addicts and those who commit the “hot sins” like adultery, and much less tolerant of gossips and people hungry for power — even, and especially, when those people are your closest friends.

6. Every spiritual journey is a journey to find truth, face truth, and follow truth. Your pastor has a responsibility to model this for the congregation.

If he does not, it is time to break up. You deserve the chance to learn from your pastor’s mistakes. If your pastor acts superior, never talks about times when she falls short, or struggles chronically with certain issues and refuses to admit it and move through the truth journey, it is time to break up. If your pastor is constantly critical of you or others, chronically insensitive or harsh, frequently manipulative, speaks unkindly to you about others in the church, is chronically angry, or is lacking in grace, it is probably time to break up. A pastor like this may have a basically good heart, may even be moving the right direction, but is simply lacking in maturity. Though being immature is not a sin, immature people should not be leading others.

Our congregations often accept immaturity in their leaders because immature leaders are unable to produce maturity in their followers, therefore followers simply do not know what to expect. As a result, they end up expecting perfection where no one can be perfect, and not expecting things that are actually doable, like basic integrity, honesty, grace, kindness, humility, and love. If your pastor seems to be drastically lacking in those qualities (and I mean drastically — we all deserve some slack!), it is time to break up. If you cannot respect your pastor as a human being, then you certainly have no basis on which to respect her as a Christ-follower. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT continue going to a church led by a pastor who consistently acts immaturely or reprehensibly and tries to cover it by insisting that they are under God’s authority. That is spiritual abuse and no one who abuses others is under God’s authority, and this is true regardless of what board, or committee, or conference/district team of people put him in charge.

7. Finally, there will be times when you feel very strongly that the church you are in just is not right for you

Someone in my church once approached me and told me that though he loved Wildwind, he felt someone else in his family really needed a particular type of ministry Wildwind didn’t (and doesn’t) offer. He took the time to explain this to me, with love, and though I will always miss that family, I respect what he did and I believe he probably did the right thing. I will always consider him part of Wildwind’s extended family.

If you ended up reading this series before my other one called How to break up with your church, I strongly encourage you to read that series if you come to the conclusion that indeed it is time to break up.

Question: What did I miss? Any caveats you would add?

The Universe Arcs Towards Grace

Through my recent posts on this blog, others who are suffering, some more deeply than I, have connected and sent me questions, looking for encouragement in their own struggles. The post below is a response I gave today to a woman with stage four cancer who wrote to ask, “how do you NOT give up?”  I hope you, like her, can find something here to encourage you on your unique journey through suffering.

I am humbled that you would ask me your questions. I’ll take a crack at an answer but of course I can’t promise anything. I have observed that the universe arcs towards grace. There is a kind of redemption built into everything, it seems. This doesn’t mean that all wounds and diseases are healed individually, but rather that you are living in a universe that washes, starts again, heals and renews. This is plainly observable by watching seasons come and go,  and many other cycles of nature.

With that in mind, ask yourself this question. In general, have you grown in wisdom, insight, grace, and love as you have gotten older? Most people do. This opening up to love and presence and grace is also, I believe, just built in to who we are as people. So the universe is a redemptive place, and you are created to grow more and more at home in it as you increasingly find that you yourself are becoming more loving, gracious, etc.

Often we think we grow because of huge efforts we are making, but I don’t think that’s true at all. In fact, when we get really honest we see how often good things end up happening accidentally after we have made really crappy choices! Though we certainly suffer consequences of our actions regularly, we also find ourselves carried along on this arc of grace, so that we often learn and grow in love even as a result of very foolish things we do.

This is where my hope springs from — the realization that I have been placed in a universe that arcs toward love and redemption, and I see that very same arc in myself. Just as I have grown towards greater love and joy almost in spite of myself, I trust that will continue to happen because that’s the kind of world God made. My hope springs not from the certainty that I will get better, or that the end of my suffering is necessarily near, but from my sense that the place where God put me to live is a deeply good place, despite many very bad things that happen in it. It seems often even most of those things end up becoming opportunities for redemption, where people get second and third chances to start again. Indeed I have many times been the grateful recipient of one of these chances to start again.

If I really believe that the universe is a benevolent place to be, I then easily believe it is because of the benevolence of the one who created it (however he/she/it did so). I believe this being – God – loves us intently, at the core of his person, and that you are already so deeply one with him that there are already ways in which you and God are indistinguishable, just like you share indistinguishable features with your own children. This is to say, your life ALREADY bears evidence of who, and whose, you really are.

I have found that the more I suffer in life, the more it peels away pretense. I become more real, more vulnerable, and I better project to others this immense love I came from and where I will one day head back to! People see it and are drawn to it because it is the source of their lives also.

This is love God showed in Jesus – love that suffers but doesn’t make victims out of others, that is able to rejoice and hold up under suffering not because every individual wound is healed, but because one knows that no matter what happens in this life, we are actually perfectly safe. As my hero, Dallas Willard, writes: you are a divinely created spiritual being with an eternal destiny in God’s great universe!” You are immortal! I have told my girls all their lives, “you are never going to die. One day you will close your eyes, and you will awake the very next moment in the Kingdom of your Father. On that day, your story BEGINS.”

I hope this doesn’t just seem like gobbledygook. God, to me, must either be believed in this deeply,  or not at all.
I encourage you to spend some time reading my blog posts over the last few weeks. I write about when giving up is okay and not okay, about holding on through the really tough stuff, about dips into depression, and why ultimately despair just never makes any sense.

I encourage you to read Psalm 139 as well. This is where you came from. You were created in that love and intention, and not the slightest bit of your suffering is wasted. It is all being worked into this grand scheme of redemption, the broken pieces of our lives and of the world that God is making whole (one) again. Every person faces trials and tests in life, and those moments of our greatest tests become the moments of our greatest triumphs as, in the end, whenever it comes, we stand fast, bravely, even with joy, believing so deeply that the greatest things lie not behind but ahead of us.

So do not judge yourself as you suffer. Love yourself, for you are so deeply loved. Grant yourself the compassion you would grant your best girlfriend if she were in your shoes. As you struggle through your days, continue to see small graces. You’ll see they never disappear. Allow yourself to be afraid, to grieve, to be angry. But also get quiet sometimes and allow deep peace to come. You don’t need to fix or control this. So far, every single day you have been able to do what was needed for that day. There is no reason to suspect any day will come, ever, when you cannot do that, no matter what the day’s agenda brings.

With those thoughts, I am spent. I hope somewhere in there is something useful for you. Of course I am not in your position and can’t pretend to understand all you are going through. My goal has simply been to give you my reason for hope, and the reason I do not plan to give up.

Oh, last thing. Let people love you.

Always.

Words Give You Away

Words give you away. A week or so ago I posted something on Facebook to encourage people who fear that God has been removed from our schools. That post got more likes and shares and “thank you’s” than anything else I’ve ever put on Facebook. When one of my friends shared it to his Facebook wall, he got a reaction I could never have anticipated.

A guy started quibbling with the theology, “Is David saying that all of these people worried about God not being in schools do not believe in God’s omnipresence?” Stupidly, I took the bait, and quite the lively and completely pointless back-and-forth ensued, though we both remained very courteous. His point was that I’m missing what people truly intend when they complain that God has been taken out of schools. What people actually mean, he said, is not that God has been removed, but that God is no longer openly acknowledged. My friendly opponent argued that I was quibbling over a “Freudian slip,” that people don’t actually mean it like it sounds. But it’s not a Freudian slip. Freudian slips are accidental. They do not keep “slipping” out of people’s mouths the same way over and over and over again.

My response was, and is, that people nearly always say pretty much what they believe. In fact, your words actually belie what you really believe. Words give you away. If you say, “God is no longer in our schools,” you don’t mean only that “while God is certainly present in a theological sense, he is no longer openly acknowledged.” You in fact mean that the lack of acknowledgement of God’s presence in schools makes you feel that God is no longer there at all.

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