The Ugly Spring

Minnesota, March, and 70 degree weather are not usually found in the same sentence.  Tomorrow the forecast is predicted at 78.  Today the ugly spring crushed me with it’s full power.  It felt great.

I lost spring last year to grief.  I don’t recall one memory of the overwhelming joy or hope that spring usually holds.  I think this lack of last year’s season is what made today so intense.  It was this intensity which brought to my attention the ugliness in spring.  Spring, in the very beginning moments, isn’t beautiful through sight.  Dog messes hidden by snow are now beginning to beg attention.  Trees still completely bare, without the frost of winter to give them sparkle.  Lawns are brown and matted down.  Yards are littered.  Roads are covered with sand and salt.  Today didn’t look beautiful … today felt beautiful.

The beauty of Spring is the power it holds in our experience of it, and it is not all found through the lens of our vision.  I praise a God who can make ugly and create one of the most treasured experiences of living on Earth.  The cycle of new life.  Now that is a reason to be thankful.

The beauty is in the smell of spring.  It’s in the hope it congers up inside us.  It’s the sounds of kids playing in their driveways.  The chatter of the neighbors who haven’t seen one another in months.  The birds returning to their nests.  It is the wind and the sun beckoning us with their warmth and playfulness.  It’s all of these things that call to us; they tell us that we have survived.  Survived another cycle of death and rebirth.  We have done it and summer is going to return.

Beauty isn’t just about what we see, it is about what we experience.  God doesn’t only give us hope in the expected, but in the unexpected.  Spring is proof that childlike joy still exists in every heart.  Beauty, hope, and joy … all found at the beginning of the ugly spring.

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Finding Something In Nothing

This is the second part of a blog series on the promised new Earth to come.  Read the intro to the series here.

To begin my adventure on discovering what is worthy of the label ‘eternal’, in this promised new Earth Jesus speaks of, I think the best place to start is to hallow out some space.  In order to know what fits, and what doesn’t belong, we must give ourselves the time to decide such things.

As long as I can remember I have desired to honor a Sabbath day.  If there are working parents out there who are able to do this, I applaud you, but for me taking a continuous 24 hour period to do nothing other than “be” simply doesn’t work.  So each time I would dream about the possibility I would end it with a defeated feeling, a shrug of my shoulders, and the thought ‘Someday, maybe’.  When I started to dig into what aspects of our Earth fit into this coming ‘Earth 2.0’ I came to the realization that, in regards to setting reflection time aside, something is better than nothing.  So my plan is to dedicate just one full hour each day to free my soul.

For each person this hour, or Sabbath, will look different, but I believe some of the substance can be universal.  I envision Sabbath as a time where we allow God to pour into us the validity of who we are in Him, by completely ridding ourselves of the notion that we are capable of anything apart from Him.  It is a time to spend with your family, with yourself, and with God.  It is a time you don’t clean, don’t fold laundry, don’t cook, and don’t look (or even think) about your to-do list.  It is a time to reflect on His grace and take time to enjoy His love.  An hour a day with your phone off, without emails, or texts.  An hour that you don’t write, create, or produce anything.  An hour that you don’t waste with convenient fillers, but rather with the TV off, the radio down, and your book closed.  An hour that is truly just about you being alive in this moment.

This time we give over to our Creator, as fully immersed in life and still completely emptied of ourselves, could be the key to seeing what we need to on our journey.  This will not be easy for me, I imagine it won’t be easy for you either.  To spend a full hour without any of my day-to-day, minute-to-minute picking up, getting done, and ‘wishing to do more’ will be a challenge.  I hope it will be worth it.

I would love to hear if you already spend time in self-reflection each day, or for a longer period on a weekly basis.  If creating this space/time was difficult, and if it continues to push you outside your comfort zone?  Does it gives you direction, a renewed sense of being, or peace?  What has worked, and what hasn’t?

The More We Love, The More God Exists

“The more we love, the more God exists” Peter Rollins

For those who may be uncomfortable with the above quote, I apologize.  Not because it makes you uncomfortable, but rather that it does so at all.  Understanding the depths of what it means to love each other here on this Earth, and how much that love will impact the will of God, takes courage.  Over the last year of my life I have had a chance to experience what Pete meant by this quote and I’m overjoyed to share this with all of you.

Last Saturday my boyfriend, Brad, proposed to me.  I said yes.  I am so very blessed.  God is so very good.

And so, it is worth looking at why I attribute goodness to God.  It is not because over the last year He has appeared to me – cash in hand – when financial relief was needed, or because He sent an angel to hold me close when I was certain death was my only option in the face of Matt’s own.  Rather, God aroused the Spirit within each of you.    In the people at my church, at my work … my family and friends … and, at times, even in strangers.  He even aroused the Spirit within those in my life who wouldn’t attribute their acts of love to Christ.

God aroused the Spirit in Brad.  Brad has listened, been patient, been faithful, and been a true Christ follower in his venture to follow his heart and capture mine.  There were moments when we first started dating, and my own wounds were still so fresh, that just his presence brought me the kind of comfort I’ve only ever felt in the presence of Jesus.  He was walking as Christ was calling him to.

There have been moments in my life where God has physically shown up, relieved me, held me, and comforted me.  If the people given to me in my life over the last year, including Brad, had been absent I don’t doubt the power of God to provide the same blessings we have received.  I am, however, fully convinced that the Spirit that dwells within each of us is a vital lifeline to those around us.  Do not shy away from the prompting to love one another, even in the most difficult of circumstances, because we simply cannot know our part in God’s will for others.

I am so excited to marry Brad.  I am so excited to continue to heal and grow as a family, with him by our side.  And I am continually and forever grateful for those of you who have reached out, in love, to my family and me.  We love you.

Discipline … Driscoll Style

There isn’t much left to say that hasn’t been said about the recent Mars Hill church discipline story that surfaced this last week.  I do feel the need to address it for a couple of reasons; 1) I know that some of my readers are not blog readers and so this could be the only place they hear of the story – and the story must be heard, 2) I feel for Andrew.  I want him to know that he is loved not only by Christ, but by the church.  I want him to know he is surrounded in grace and peace, and is being prayed for daily.

If you are unaware of the story please take time to read it, it is worth it to know the happenings at one of the largest churches in the country.  Matthew Paul Turner wrote about the story in two parts on his blog; you can read those here – Part One and Part Two.

I was grateful for the blog posts that followed in regards to Turner’s posts.  The two that I thought were the most thoughtful were Kurt Willems post from The Pangea Blog entitled Treat Them Like a Tax Collector; Reflections on Matthew 18, Church Discipline, and Andrew and Roger Wolsey’s post from Sojourners Why Mark Driscoll Needs An Elephant.

I can only imagine the internal struggle Andrew must have went through in order to decide to speak out.  I commend him for his courage.  As Christ’s church, we have chosen to divide among ourselves for menial doctrinal issues, and this divide has broken the body of Christ into a scattered people in small groups among the world.  We define ourselves not as Christians, but as Evangelicals, Baptist, Lutherans, or Catholics.  Although I believe these divisions do more harm then good – I can understand them, I can respect them.  However, a time must come where we recognize that the only label we are under is ‘Christ follower’.  I believe this is one of those times.

Spiritual abuse is unacceptable.  This ‘church discipline’ reeks of control, shame, and misuse of power.  More stories are coming out about this same type of abuse from Mars Hill Seattle, and I imagine there is still more to come.  I must admit my view of Mars Hill Seattle has changed tremendously over the last three years.  I paid good money to see Mark’s conference on Song of Solomon.  I have listened to the majority of his podcasts, read his books, and recommended his teachings to others.  I can observe two things about Mark since following his teaching over the last few years … 1) He knows the Spirit of God, and  2) He has lost touch with that Spirit.

We must pray.  We must pray for the elders and leaders of this church to repent (and when they do – as difficult as it might be – we won’t ask that they succumb to our demands until we decide enough is enough, and repentance has been achieved.)   We must pray for others in this church, and churches like it, who are experiencing spiritual abuse of this nature or another.  We have far too much evil in this world to worry about those who claim to know Christ as followers.  We must pray for Andrew, as he has been removed from his community, and suffering for speaking out against what he knows is wrong.

If you are suffering spiritual abuse please know that you have been given the gift of the Spirit by Christ himself, and you do have the ability to discern right from wrong (1 John 2:20).  The overwhelming desires to please the leaders of church, or to assume that what they say/demand is right is understandable – but you have Christ, and He should ultimately be the person leading you.  Stand up and speak out if you are enduring this.

Living in a community of Christ should not bring you shame, but freedom.  Being part of a church body should not hold you back from repentance, but instead gently guide you to where it is needed.  Elders are to be respected; if their hearts are pure, your soul is their main concern (Hebrews 13:17).  But do not be subjected to a life that is unworthy of Christ’s teachings.

As I said when I started, I am praying for Andrew.  I am praying for the members of Mars Hill.  I am praying for their leaders; including Mark.  This is such a sad story.  This church has the size, numbers, and resources to make a huge difference for Christ; they have the ability to bring peace and teach grace.  Instead they are being blinded of their true calling by the need to control and desire to be in power … not to mention their inaccuracy of woman’s roles in the church, male aggression, and sexual obsession … but those are for another time.

Grace and Peace to Andrew – I believe God has wonderful things planned in your journey apart from Mars Hill.

                                

Only Question Your Assumptions

There is such wealth in the narrative of this video.  I encourage you … allow it to penetrate your heart.  If even for just one moment you can permit it’s words room to breathe in your soul, that moment could be all they need.

“The significant conflict is between those who do not know but have the courage to face up to that unknowing, to embrace it; those who have beliefs but who also doubt them and question them.  And those who do not know but who refuse to accept it; those who turn away from that and pretend they have the answer, because they are too frightened to look at the unknowing and mystery we are immersed in.”

We live in a world full of people who know.  But everyone believes in something, everyone has faith in something greater than themselves, and everyone believes they are right.  Athiests, Muslims, Buddists, Christians, Jews.  We all know the Truth.  We know it in our souls.  We have been instilled with the greater knowledge, and prompted by the spirit that leads us.  So … are we all right?  Are none of us right?  Are all of us partially right?  Does it matter?

We do not need to doubt our own beliefs in order to set aside the prideful claim that we are somehow the privileged few who happen to have been born into the “right” family, religion, race, or country that has the secret no one else was entitled to.  As a Christian, it does not lessen the weight of Christ’s incarnation, life, ministry, crucifixion, or resurrection to admit that the only thing I know … is that I simply don’t.

And still, isn’t God’s mystery beautiful?  I think so.  I think the way He moves through each person, place, and thing on this Earth is to be feared.  I think that above all other believed understanding of the scripture we ought to remember that our ways are not His ways, and our thoughts are not His thoughts.  We cannot know, because we are not God.

I believe this idea is important for a multitude of reasons …  The pain of separation in believers and the church as it is today.  Those in the church who want to feel freedom to discuss thoughts and ideas without being told they are wrong.  The ultimate goal of serving those in need and loving our neighbor being put second to the unattainable demands of righteousness.  The walls we have built, and are continuing to build, between those around us in our own communities.

This does not have to be a dramatic shift.  A person only needs to think of the idea.  Let the anxieties of what this might mean overtake you for a moment.  It does not mean you change your beliefs, but rather it means you change your attitude about them.

“I never question God, I can only question my assumptions of God.”  Peter Rollins