Posts from the ‘Church & Spiritual Matters’ Category

Many Random Thoughts

I’ve mulled over a LOT of things over the past couple months. Having a kid gives me more time to reflect then I thought it would. Nursing lets me have time to simply read, and jogging (get rid of that baby fat) gives me time to do nothing but wear my mind and body out for a half hour or so.

So first a couple of more general philosophical thoughts:

–from Perelandra. At the end of the book, CS Lewis had the angels telling Ransom that everything is the Center. And while I was running, I realized how that applied to me. God made ME the center. Just like He made my DH the center, and my new son the center… but, that also means that I am the center. I am the most beautiful of His creations. I am the reason that the bike path was there to run on. I am the reason that the clouds looked the way they did to me as I ran. I am the reason there were flowers and a breeze there. I am the reason He died. I am the Center. It sounds pretty blasphemous… and I almost am afraid to write those things because I feel like God is going to strike me with lightening… but… at the same time, I think it might actually be true. God made me perfectly and without flaw (sin changed some of that, but it didn’t change the original intent), and He knows what I need and where I’ll be and He set everything in order for each moment of my life, down to the very smallest details… and He did the same for you. It makes me realize both how I am significant and insignificant at the same time… Significant because–wow God really does care about me! He knows me intimately and cares about each tiny little detail in my life, and I want to notice all of the little things that he planned for me, the beauty of the day, the way the flowers dance in the breeze, the way He “drops” little opportunities in my path to praise His glorious works, and to honor Him before others. Insignificant because, He knows EVERYTHING! He planned EVERYTHING. There’s just no getting around that. God is HUGE, and I am nothing… but I am… and that just kinda blows my mind. This whole Center thing also makes me realize something important about other people too… to God, each of us is the center. (don’t ask me how this all works, I’m just dancing on the tip of the iceberg Lewis uncovered for me…) That means that my friend who’s practically bankrupt is the center–God is working everything in his life for the glory of God, and God’s got it all under control. It means that my brother who’s making some choices that are a little scary to me is the Center, and God’s intimately involved in every little detail of his life, even if my brother isn’t listening to God, God is there…and He’s working everything out for the glory of God. It means that God knows what’s going on in their lives just as deeply and intimately as He does mine, and since my friend is the center and my brother is the center and I am the center, I am not responsible for what ultimately happens to them. Since I am the center–I am responsible for my actions towards them. But I am not responsible for what happens to them in the end. God is. And again… my mind is blown, and I’m afraid if you haven’t read Perelandra, this was a lot of nonsensical ramblings, and I’m sorry. If you have read Perelandra and it’s still a lot of nonsensical ramblings, I’m sorry to you too, haahaa.

–They say faith and salvation is more or less all about trusting God with your life, and letting Him lead you and following and all that. Well… Trust… is kind of a big thing. When I delivered SJ, it took a whopping 3 hours and we barely made it to the hospital in time. A lot of other things happened too, but, that’s one of the big things… and they say that next time, it’ll most likely be faster. I don’t really want to have a baby in the car, thank you! But that makes me terrified–I mean, what did I do this time that sped the delivery, should I do things differently. Next time, do I race to the hospital and maybe end up stuck there for 24 hours while I have a LOONNG labor… or do I take my time and give birth in the car and risk who-knows-what happening to the baby in there?! Should we even bother having another kid? … All these things have been terrorizing my mind and making it hard to do anything… But, then God whispers to me, hey, Trust ME… and I remember that, against all odds, I had one practically perfect pregnancy, and a wonderfully fast delivery that was basically everything I wanted, and a child who eats well, sleeps even better, and is healthy and happy… I really can’t ask or imagine anything more then that. He did it once, He can do it again…and even if He decides to do something differently…something that makes it harder, everything is in His control anyway. Even whether or not we’ll even HAVE any more kids–that’s completely under His control too, whether we try all the time or don’t try at all… He is in complete control, and I need to accept that. I’m pretty much just along for the ride. He might tell me to turn the radio up, or the A/C down, but, God’s the one with the steering wheel and the pedals… God has got everything under control…and I need to remember and accept that.

–When I first decided to go running, I wanted to find people to watch my son, so I didn’t have to bring him in the stroller and worry about him crying and all that. It seemed reasonable to me. Y’know, get a little time for myself away to think and what not. And then it struck me how selfish that is. And it made me wonder if this whole “me time” isn’t in itself a little selfish. Maybe not in all cases–that I have yet to understand. But at least for me, in this situation, I was wanting to not have to deal with him. Like he was a problem, not a person. I didn’t want to share that part of my life with him. But… isn’t that the whole point of being a parent? To share life with and show the world to a new little person? To train them up and teach them about the world and everything in it? (especially GOD)… But, here I am, not even 1/4 of 1 year into this whole thing, and I’m already wanting to shut him out and do something for me. Shouldn’t I want to share this with him? Use it as a chance to be outdoors together? To teach him to enjoy nature and God’s creation and maybe as he gets a little older, maybe to run together? Teach him to enjoy the wonderful working body that God gave him? To appreciate and not waste the gifts he’s been given? A lady I cleaned for wanted to do her own thing, and it got to the point where most of the time, she shut her kids out, she shut her husband out–all in order to get a little time for herself, do make herself better, do accomplish something for herself. All the things she was doing was good theoretically, going to school, working as an EMT, fixing up the house… but her kids spent a whole lot more time in front of the tv then with her, her older daughter barely knew how to read, and neither of them had any clue how to do any cleaning or anything household related… It just makes me wonder… I mean, I’m sure there is a balance between things I should do on my own, and things I should do with my kids, but I have a strong feeling that the vast majority of things, I should do WITH my kids–for both our sakes: for mine–if nothing else, to teach me selflessness (but i’m sure I’ll enjoy it and learn other things on the way), for them–to be shown the world from the one God put in their lives to show it to them and I’m sure for a lot of other reasons too…

— Along with that, I’ve learned since becoming a stay-at-home mom… how incredibly terribly selfish and lazy I am. My DH is working full-time, and going to school full-time, AND being a husband and father. Me? I nurse…a lot… and maybe make dinner… and other then that? Well… that depends on how I feel. I am a master at excuse-making. If I don’t want to clean the house, if I don’t want to have dinner ready, if I don’t feel up to taking a shower or doing laundry, go running, spend time playing with the baby, or even getting out of my pjs… well… maybe I’m not feeling so great. And y’know what–NO ONE CAN MAKE ME… That’s the truly scary part. If DH doesn’t want to go to work, we’ll he’ll lose his job  and we won’t have money to eat unless one of us finds another one. If he doesn’t go to school, he’ll fail and never get his degree. But, if the dishes sit in the sink a little longer… or I don’t go running… it doesn’t really make any difference… does it? Well… it does. It makes a lot of a difference. It tells me I’m selfish and lazy and I don’t love my husband enough to take care of him, to take care of our son, or even to take care of myself. It tells me that I don’t want to honor God with the precious little time He gave me. It tells me that I don’t want to show God how grateful I am to Him for giving me the family He did. It tells me that I don’t care what God COMMANDED me to do as a wife and mother. It tells me that all I care about is myself. … and that… is a big deal.
–one last thing that I’ve been learning and then I’ve got to go work on something else for a while before coming back to all this another time, is gratefulness. Someone asked the question, “what if tomorrow you woke up with only the things you thanked God for today?”…and it really shook me up. A lot of times I get caught up in asking God for things, both for myself and other people, and I don’t think to thank Him. Elsewhere, I was listening to a sermon about bitterness, and the preacher said that the best way to let go of bitterness, is to be grateful. I always thought it was to forgive, but, I guess gratefulness is not necessarily BIGGER then forgiveness, just maybe more tangible and accessible. I’ve been working a lot on thanking God DAILY for things like my amazing husband and our wonderful marriage and our ridiculously good baby… and things like the sun and the ability to be “independent” even with a baby and the clouds and the breeze and hugs and friends and a myriad of other things. And y’know what? I’m more positive and happy about, pretty much everything in life. I have more energy and motivation to do things. And I think, it is simply because of gratefulness. 😀 (and God… of course :P)

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Dreams…

Back in college and before that I’d been having a lot of really awful nightmares–very very vivid ones that I couldn’t ever get out of my head when I woke up. They almost always were torturous or demonic (or both). Anytime I’d have those dreams I’d struggle the whole next day with depression and just feeling overwhelmed. When I moved to MN I got involved in a small group that was more on the charismatic side . I mentioned the dreams to them once and they prayed for me. Since then I’ve still dreamed, but I can never remember the dreams, so I’ll wake up and know I had a bad dream, but since I don’t know what it was, it doesn’t bother me or have any effect on me. BUT…. the night before last, I dreamed again. I’ve been struggling with God and with prayer and just feeling like I’m not really connecting. I feel very purposeless and stuff… So in my dream, I went to this conference about spiritual warfare. It was some women’s thing at a church and I wasn’t convinced at all that it was worth my time and I didn’t feel like I was going to get anything out of it, but I went anyway. There were some people I knew and what not, but overall I just kept wondering why I went–I was going to be bored out of my mind and not learn anything. The head lady brought in a guy. She said that he was struggling with demon possession and the demon’s name was —– (this is one of the two things I DON”T remember… but I feel it’s very important….). And she said she had a vision that we needed to cast the demon out. I mentally rolled my eyes…. I’ve seen that before and just imagining a bunch of church ladies whose relationships with God were who knows where trying to cast out a demon sounded like something I didn’t really want to watch. Then they guy started telling his story. It piqued my interest. Mostly because I felt like he was leaving things out… things that would embarrass himself… things that might incriminate himself. He was definitely not trying very hard to get right with God–his pride was way too much in the way… It put up several warning flags in my mind… AND it made me feel like I should pray for him–not like trying to cast the demon out or anything, but just pray for the guy, specifically. I hate praying in front of people and praying out loud, so this in itself was a very big deal to me. So, I asked if I could. Him and the head lady said sure… so I went over there and knelt down by him (he was sitting against a wall on the floor and the head leady was across from me). I held his hand to pray, then my friend Rachael from college came over next to me and held my other hand. (I hadn’t seen Rachael in the dream until this point, but she used to be my prayer partner at school and we had a very very strong fellowship in prayer and her support here meant the world to me.) I asked the man for his name, so I could pray for him by name. He told me… (and this was the one other thing I cannot remember, and somehow I feel this is also very very important). Before I could start praying, the man started talking…. and the things he was saying bothered me. There was something very wrong about what he was saying, and I kept wondering, why was he saying these things and why won’t he let me pray for him? and as he spoke, his words turned into someone else’s words and Satan was standing there, casting a dark shadow over the whole room. He was bragging about his plans to overthrow the world, and how his warriors were so strong in their evil and deceit, and us Christians were all wallowing and weak. And as he said these things, I felt hopeless and small and I felt that he was speaking the truth. Looking at the sin around us it IS so strong, and the churches are just full of Christians who don’t care… He kept bragging about himself and his plans and his people and the more he spoke the darker the room became and the more hopeless and small I felt. And then he stopped talking for a moment. In that moment, I felt like I should pray. I could barely whisper because I felt so small and insignificant. I prayed that God would give us His Light. Suddenly, the room was brighter–not tons–but noticably brighter. Rachael laughed, like she used to when we’d pray together and God was doing something amazing. Her joy gave me hope, and she whispered, “you should pray for God’s love!” So I prayed for God’s love, and the room grew brighter, Satan took a step backwards. And I began to pray for more of God’s character attributes: His power, His faithfulness, His Mercy, His Kindness…things like that. I wasn’t praying that God would cast Satan out, I just prayed for more of God Himself. And with every one, the room grew brighter and Satan became less menacing and went closer and closer to the door. Finally, I prayed for God’s Truth…and I could feel the bonds breaking and the light burst into the room and Satan vanished. I could FEEL God’s Presence in and through me as I was praying–I KNEW He was there with every fiber in my being. I KNEW He was at work in and through and around me… We talked to the guy, and I told him flat out that he needed to let go of the things in his life that were holding him back from God and that were stumbling blocks in his life. He needed to be humble and open to his own mistakes and he needed to ask forgiveness and let go of them. In my head I could see towers falling and walls crumbling, and I reminded him that if he held onto even a little bit of them that this would all happen again… So we started praying for him and as we prayed God reminded me that Satan and his warriors were not stronger, but HE was stronger and we are His servants filled with His power and He has created and designed us to be stronger and to conquer. And, somewhere in here I realized that this was all a dream….but… it felt too important to let go, I couldn’t stop praying…and so we continued…and it wasn’t too much longer after that that my alarm went off and I woke up… but…  I felt God’s presence and power in that dream so very very strongly. I felt HIM….in a way I haven’t since freshman year at SAU… I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it ever since. I feel like something very important happened and I was a part of it… I felt like I had purpose and God was using me and I cannot stop wondering what all I am supposed to be taking away from the dream. Part of me feels like the guy was/is a real person…I know that sounds crazy, but, I do…. and part of me feels that maybe that guy represented me–I’m making excuses for everything and letting Satan stop me from being effective and I’m not owning up to my own failures and maybe that’s what is preventing me from having a relationship with God like I used to… Part of me thinks that it was a reminder to me of how powerful prayer is, and that God wants me to start praying again because He has things for me to do… and part of me thinks that it was a sign that things are changing and I need to keep my eyes open…. or maybe there was another reason… But… things are changing.

Thoughts on the Church

I was having a discussion last night with my husband about the Church and how it seems to be split into so many categories. High Church–(orthodox and catholic) seem to be focused on tradition and the sacraments, Liberal churches–focused on DOING things, lots of service and community, Pentecostal–focused on the Spirit, and I don’t remember what he called them, but basically churches focused on the Bible. Nat said that his teacher had pointed this out in class and that all of these churches together ARE the Church. No one is right, but a drawing together of all these things is what the whole church is supposed to be.

It reminded me of my time at SAU and how I WAS getting all of these aspects speaking into my life at one point,I went to an orthodox church a couple times and had a took a couple classes on spiritual formation that dealt with a lot of sacraments and disciplines–and had to incorporate those into my life, I was involved in a youth group and in implementing the 30 hour famine on campus as part of my service and I was hugely involved in the spiritual community on campus, we also had a group called Consuming Fire on campus that was very Spirit-focused that I attended pretty regularly, and on Sundays I went to a church that was not only Bible-focused, but was going through the Bible chapter by chapter with the intent of teaching through the whole Bible in 4 years for the students.

During that time in my life I think I grew more and felt God in my life and had my eyes opened to more then I had at any other point in my life. It was incredible, it was challenging, it was the hardest and most rewarding and beautiful time in my life. But then I moved… and now I see only pieces here and there of what the whole can be like. Until Nat and I talked last night I just thought I wasn’t doing enough or wasn’t going to the right church or something as simple as that. But, last night I realized what I was actually longing for–the whole church. I feel like something is missing because, it is!  I go to a wonderful Bible-focused church, and it does a great job doing what it is supposed to do, but it doesn’t have the other parts, and I haven’t been able to get into the community yet.

There is more to living the Christian life then praying and reading your Bible and going to church and getting plugged in. Those are all hugely important, but, prayer and reading the Bible are only two aspects of spiritual discipline, fasting and solitude and true communion and others should not be ignored. Going to church and getting involved are so vague one could easily forget to serve the Church as well as those outside the Church, and surround oneself with Christian community that challenges us in our walk. When it comes to music, obviously everyone is different, but when I was actually immersed in a community and environment that allowed me to flourish spiritually, when I would get wrapped up in songs that showed me God’s heart and my commitment to Him, I would understand Him better, I would feel Him there with us, and it meant something to me. Now, when I go to churches with music, I hear noise shoving Him out.

I’m going to ramble for a bit here. There are so many pieces that I feel the need to put together. The Consuming Fire had the incredible idea to put the band in the back and the words in the front when they would play music, to remove any pressure to focus on them, to remove the distractions, and then they allowed everyone to connect to God however they needed to. Some people stood and sang the words–and they were able to focus and talk to God that way. Some people sat and prayed or wrote down their thoughts to God. A couple  people would dance off to the side. Some people would draw. Some would read their Bibles. Some would kneel or lie down and cry, letting the words and God’s truth wash over them. I miss that. I miss the freedom to worship God the way that works best for me at the time. Some days I did just need to pour out my heart to God, some times I did need to sing and praise God outloud, sometimes I just needed to cry and let Him hold me… but, in a normal church, if you don’t stand and sing it will distract people and people will wonder what is wrong with you.

What about church history and the church calendar? It seems like all churches except for the high churches have completely abandoned it as irrelevent. Why? Why can’t that be a part of our other churches? I think Lent is a fantastic idea, but for someone who isn’t catholic or orthodox it seems really weird to the rest of the world, and I admit, without someone else doing it with me, it’s a lot harder! What about all the other things in the calendar that we miss out on? And icons and history–why can’t we have those? Those people are part of us! It is because of them that the Church is where it is today. I want to know their stories, I want to know my history. I love the reverence and ornateness and holy feeling that the catholic and orthodox churches bring when you step inside and you see the icons and you see the reverence of the priests and you remember that this is thousands of years old and everyone around you is the Body of Christ and everyone, including the saints of old, had a part to play and we will get to meet them one day. I want that. I want a history that I know. I want that overpowering realization that I am part of something much bigger than myself. I want to know that I am needed and that it’s okay to need everyone around me. No one is independent here, we are a body and we need each other.

What about communion? Why is it a 5 minute deal on a random (or chosen) Sunday? Everyone in their own separate little world, saying thanks for dying, hope I live well for the next month. slurp. crunch. end of story. Walk out. Forget. Shouldn’t their be so much more then that? Again, back to the college scene, a friend and I had been irregularly attending church and had happened to miss communion for several months and we really wanted to have it. We had also been talking about having a Bible study together and had been regularly praying together and talking about what was going on in our lives. We decided to have communion together, but, we were going to prepare–in our minds–properly. We fasted for an entire week. Not from food, but from types of food, for her-from fb, for me-from talking, it was challenging, it was eye-opening, it was powerful. After giving up things that mattered to us and consumed our time and prayed together every night and when we finally got to the end we secluded ourselves in a corner of the cafeteria and prayed together and broke bread together and remembered the blood shed and the meaning of it all and to date it was the most meaningful communion I have ever had.  Why can we not do that? Why can we not even do it facing each other and talking to each other about our struggles?

There is another thing. What ever happened to mentors and accountability partners? Why has busyness overrun our lives so much that people forget about what actually matters in life–if someone tells you, hey pray for me–we often forget. If someone says, I need help with this, you help them once and no more. If they say, teach me, we meet once and figure they got everything they wanted from us. I’m guilty of this too, but more often I feel that I have been left out to dry by those I scraped together all my courage to ask to help me. I’m not saying that as a guilt-trip or even out of anger or bitterness. It just is. At this point, it doesn’t matter and I only bring it up to face a truth that I want to know what to do with and how to change.

I have run out of time to rant and question… but, I have a feeling that this topic will be revisited again in the near future…