Beautiful Monsters

Beautiful Monsters
Beautiful Monsters

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Stepford Religion

This week has been kind of  a grouchy week, and I think I put my finger on why.

 I have been letting other people's rules sit in my soul, and weigh heavy there.  They are good rules, and perhaps spur them on in their faith and draw them nearer to God.  But they aren't God's rules.  It is man made boundaries to define what "godly" looks like, or does.  I think it is all well-intentioned,  someone read something in the Bible, thought they should apply that to their life, and then decided that since God spoke to them about it, He must mean that everyone else should do it too.

If I thought God had shared something spectacular with me, I would be wrong not to share, right?  Go ye therefore into all the world, huh?

For all of our so-called diversity, we live in a pretty homogeneous world.  Macaroni and cheese tastes like Kraft, our meat all looks the same, our eggs are all the same shape and uniform in size in the cartons.  Thanksgiving dinner is pretty much the same with slight variations on the theme, across the entire country.  We even dress similarly, with huge style trends that come and go. It is convenient, and less expensive, and easy to have everything mass produced, and just buy what everyone else does.

It reminds me of my sister's "secret recipe fudge".  Once upon a time, when people did for themselves, and everything was not the same in a box, grammas would have their own recipes, handed down through the family.  It made them unique.  It was personal.  Now, our secret recipe is the same one on the back of the marshmallow fluff jar.

So we go make disciples of men.  Except that we are trying to make disciples of us... what we see, what we think, what we do.  Because everything should be the same.  And if my faith is real and vibrant for me, then have I got a formula for you!  Except that God didn't create one-size-fits-all people.  I really believe that if He so wanted uniformity among His creation, all tigers would have the same stripe pattern, all roses would be exactly the same, and we could make  a template for snowflakes that they all would fit.  

It is Stepford Faith.  If we all look the same, act the same, talk the same, read the same books, listen to the same music, have the same mantras, raise the same kids, hang out together in protective bunches and never stray from the path, it is safe.  We must be doing it right.  Because we are all doing it the same.  Right?

The Bible lays out what God says we must do.  I love that it really boils down to -
1. Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength.
2. Love your neighbor as yourself.
(Luke 10:27)

Simple.  Love.  Love naturally puts constraints and boundaries on us.  When I love someone, I won't do something that hurts them. But because of my love.  Not because of a pithy saying that you think I have to live by in order to meet your standard of holiness.  That isn't love.  That is bondage.

 Colossians 3:  12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate                      hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another,forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

I grew up in my faith in a place where not a lot of Christians "looked like" Christians.  I know as men of faith the guys at the Set Free Church with their biker vests and long hair and tattoos.  I know guys who look more like beach bums than pastors, but can tell you about Jesus in a way that will make you weep with joy.  Jesus didn't call only the guys that looked like everyone else to be His chosen inner circle.  God didn't send an angel to a band of accountants to follow the Star.  He found the value in the person as He created them.  He did call Saul/Paul and didn't ask him to become a rough and tumble fisherman before he entered his ministry.  But neither did he tell Peter to get a hair cut and shave before he really could be a serious follower of the faith.

Galations 5: For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified[a] by the law; you have fallen away from grace.For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. 10 I have confidence in the Lord that you willtake no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. 11 But if I, brothers,[b] still preach[c] circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. 12 I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!  13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

I hear verse 9 used a lot in talking about sin.  A little sin leavens the whole batch.  But that is NOT what this says, in context!  I never realized that verse 9 is talking about legalism.  That changes so much.  I might have to spend some days thinking on that.  A little legalism ruins the entire thing.  Why?  He set us Free!  I have to think that if He meant any other word than free, He would have used it.  And then again, love.  I have never met anyone who came to a saving relationship with Jesus because they wanted in on all the rules.  They come to know Christ, because of love.  In fact, the same crowd that uses verse 9 to point out how much trouble you are in backs it up with verse 13... and here... try out these rules.  They will keep you safe.  They will keep you steady.  You will be like the rest of us.  I can't help but feel, as I read the power of the Good News, see the amazing variety of folks God works, and the crazy way He brings about His will, that soul changing, life saving faith is a wild and free thing.  It sees the man-rules, and laughs, and goes about its business. 

So I think, after a time of meditating on this, and digging deeper, I will have a few things to say about folks who want to help me find the rules I am missing in my life.  I am sure I will be a whole lot more careful about trying to "fix" other people's walks by what God has convicted me of in mine. God forbid I be the one trying to chain up His children.  I know as a human parent how I would react to someone trying to do that to mine.  And if it is a sin for you to be on Facebook, or carry extra pounds, or watch TV, then by all means, I will support you in it.  But don't put that burden on the people around you.  And absolutely don't put those chains on me. My God set me free.  And since He has set me free, I am free indeed. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Learning is hard.

The boys have been hip deep in football this fall.  The middle school team ended the season at 1-8.  The high school team is coming up on playoff games at 7-0.  The same freshman on this year's unbeaten  high school team had a season last year with not a single win to his name.  They learned a lot.  Like my 8th grader this year is learning a lot.  But it is a hard, long, cold, heavy way to learn.

I like to believe that my son who didn't win a game last year learned what it means to give it every thing you have, every ounce of try, every bit of sweat, every push during conditioning, all the heart in the world, and still lose the game.  And hopefully, hopefully, it makes him a more gracious winner.  Hopefully he will understand that sometimes, no matter how hard you try, how much you want it, you don't win.  And have a little grace for people that he might otherwise be tempted to look down on or dismiss as lazy or not trying hard enough.  Maybe wishful thinking on my part, but still.  If this year is any indication, my youngest will get to learn all about it next year, too, when he hits 8th grade.

I got to learn a little this week, too.  I teach our ladies bible study, and we are working through a book called  "Unglued".  Mostly about godly reactions during emotionally charged situations.

I had a victory with this last week, where, instead of stuffing how I was feeling, and then exploding later, I expressed myself like a grown-up, and then moved on.  Took 30some years to learn how to do that, but - yay! I got it!

So of course, enter the stupid situation that should have been a whatever thing.  No reaction needed.  I had a homework assignment for a project management class returned for not showing my work, where I didn't think showing my work was necessary.  Truth, I still don't.  It is a senior level college class.  I looked at 7 weeks to finish half of the project, and 0 weeks to finish the other, and just wrote "The project will take 7 weeks to complete."  I did not write out 7+0=7.  The whole college senior thing made me think we were past that.  Apparently not.

So of course, I sat down quietly, and fixed my answers and re-submitted them.  I wish that was true.

I wrote a dissertation on how, if a person can't look at the chart and the given information and the narrative they had already written on the project presented and figure out that 7 weeks and no weeks is 7 weeks without writing out 7+0=7, perhaps they weren't smart enough to be a Business Management major.  I certainly don't want them even cashiering in my business.  THEN I started in on the grading process, the people doing it, etc...

I wish it ended there.  I really do.

THEN I got out my crayons.  And some paper.  And for each of the problems, I drew pictures, with detailed explanations.  7 blue squares (one for each week) and NO red squares , count them, 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 ... Gasp!  7!  Each problem also had a number line, and a hundreds chart.  All colored, with my best crayons.  I wish I could tell you I didn't spend almost two hours on this.  I would be a much better person if I could.

But I can't.  When I didn't send in the snarky, illustrated version, I can't even say that I did it because I got my head back, and I wanted to be on God's side more than I wanted to be right.  I didn't send it in, because the graders could sit on the assignment until after the term was over, and cause me to fail the class for this semester.

I know this, because it is exactly what I would have done.   Strike 4?  5?  Pretty sure I am out.

And I got to thinking.  I am learning.  How better to learn a lesson, than to live it?  How could I teach this, if I wasn't walking it?

God says that He began a good work in me, and He will be faithful to complete it.  Right through when he comes again.  There is good news in that.  He began a work, and HE will complete it. My part is to willing to let Him.  And try not to sabotage the works.  There is better news.  He is going to be completing His work, for my whole life.  So any illusions I had about getting "there", about arriving, about making it... I can let go of those!  Because it isn't going to happen.  If God is going to be fixing me from now until forever actually does come, do I really think that I can do it in the next 3 months?  As a New Year's resolution?  Truly?

Sometimes, you get the perfect pass, tuck the ball in, and a running lane opens up and you truck that ball on down the field and do a dance.  Sometimes, you get to the end zone, but in a series of 3 and 4 yard advances that are hard fought and truly earned, every step by step.  Sometimes, you have to sit the bench while bigger players with more experience get the glory.  And, sometimes, you line up and the next thing you know the biggest guy they have is testing you out like a mattress for firmness and bouncability.

Learning is hard.  But if life is the game, the game is worth it.  After all, Jesus is providing personal, private coaching sessions, and He is sitting in the stands cheering loudly for me.  And He already paid off the refs.

His "mean" face! 

Now he's in High School, he is all business. No smiles for mom.