Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Living in the Light (SOAP Journal #10)

From my old journal, dated 8-2-07:

S) You belong to the light and live in the day. We don't live in the night or belong to the dark...so we must stay sober and let our faith and love be like a suit of armor. Our firm hope that we will be saved is our helmet. (1 Thes. 5:5)
O) This whole chapter is talking about looking forward to Jesus return. If we really believe it's going to happen, we will behave in such a way as to reflect that.
A) Not only do I want to stay sober in a physical sense, but especially in a spiritual sense. I will give an account for all I do in this life: I can't forget that!
P) Thank you Lord, that I no longer belong to the dark-you have brought me into the light! Help me live to show others your love; and that I really believe you're coming back.

As I am transcribing my old journal and re-examining the things I wrote, I am trying to put my finger on the things that feel prickly to me now; or that I just plain don't agree with anymore. The thing about the light vs the dark that bothers me now is how it creates an "us" (the good people that God loves) and "them"(those sinners who aren't doing the good things that we are doing).  And when this happens, the "suit of armor" becomes a way to protect ourselves from "them".

We know there is a problem with this attitude, because Jesus hung around sinners. Those "sinners" never felt like Jesus was just too good for them, and Jesus never seemed afraid of sinful people dimming his light. His light drew them! If Jesus had any words of "reproof", they had a healing affect and "woke them" into believing they were indeed loved children of God!

all the things reproved by the light are revealed, for everything that is revealed is light: for what reason he said, 'Arouse yourself, you who are sleeping, and arise out of the dead, and the Christ shall shine upon you'.(Eph. 5-13-14)

The group of people who 'slept' through Jesus first coming were the ones who were sure they already had all the answers. They didn't have any need to be told about who God was; they had their scriptures already memorized, thank you very much.

It seems to me that this idea that the "second coming" of Jesus is for the purpose of giving all those sinners what they have coming is the problem. It makes this "helmet of faith" a protection that we will be "saved" from the wrath of Jesus because we believe the correct things. Does this seem right to you? Is this what Paul means by "firm hope that we will be saved"?

I have come to a place of peace with understanding that Jesus "coming again" is a mystery. Do you realize you will never find the phrase "second coming" in the Bible? There has already been a "second" coming of Jesus. He appeared to Paul, right? If we are truly to be made into the image of Jesus, then isn't our presence in the world like a "coming" of Christ? If my "being saved" means becoming "complete and lacking nothing", then isn't my "salvation" a hope not just for myself, but for everything and everyone around me? Read this scripture with that in mind, and see if it doesn't make much more sense.

You see, all of creation has collapsed into emptiness, not by its own choosing, but by God’s. Still He placed within it a deep and abiding hope  that creation would one day be liberated from its slavery to corruption and experience the glorious freedom of the children of God. For we know that all creation groans in unison with birthing pains up until now.  And there is more; it’s not just creation—all of us are groaning together too. Though we have already tasted the firstfruits of the Spirit, we are longing for the total redemption of our bodies that comes when our adoption as children of God is complete— for we have been saved in this hope and for this future. (Rom 8: 20-24)

It seems to me we have been so focused on trying to figure out what it is we need to believe and do and perform to insure that we will be safe and not blasted by God, that we have missed the entire point of salvation. Maybe God is not interested in sending Jesus back to earth to destroy all the horrible sinners and blast the earth...maybe God is interested in refining each of us (yes, with fire...maybe it's not hateful after all) so that EVERYTHING can be transformed and salvation will come to the whole earth. I know it's not Hollywood's interpretation of the coming doom and paranoia of being "Left Behind", but it's the ending I'm hoping for. And that belief is a firm hope and a "helmet" that gets me through some dark days when it seems nothing will ever be right and good. Jesus is coming! Lord, let it be through me.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Worry (soap journal #9)

S) Don't brag about tomorrow! Each day brings it's own surprises. Don't brag about yourself, let others praise you. (Proverbs 27:1-2)
O) The Bible says several times that we shouldn't brag or worry or generally over concern ourselves with tomorrow. Certainly it doesn't mean we can't ever plan or prepare, but it's hard to know where that line is. Also, verse 20 struck me...why is it so hard to be satisfied? Is it good or bad to always be striving for more? It seems to be saying it's bad, but yet I'm always feeling guilty about not striving for more.
A) To continue to look to and depend on God for my present happiness and my future well being.
P) God, help me to find that peace and balance I so long for. I want to live each day to it's fullest, without worrying about tomorrow. (soap journal originally written October 2004)

I can't think of one time in my life I didn't struggle with this idea of not worrying about tomorrow. Even now, as much as I believe God has showed me over and over that I can trust...I can't trust. I don't think about each day's "surprises"; I think about how tomorrow everything is going to go to hell in a hand basket, because I didn't do anything right. If your wondering what verse 20 says, here it is:

Sheol and destruction are not satisfied, And the eyes of man are not satisfied.

I'm finding this connection interesting...death and destruction, and the eyes of man that can never be satisfied. This constant clamoring the ego does to surround itself with accomplishments or stuff or whatever it is that will make it feel valuable can never be satisfied...and it's hell trying. But at the same time, isn't this part of what it means to have a human existence? We struggle to survive...are we really supposed to just sit around and wait for provision to fall out of the sky like manna? Maybe we are; I mean Jesus gave thanks for the bread and the fish and there was enough for everyone...more than enough. He taught us to pray for our DAILY bread, he pointed to the birds and asked why we worry so much about taking care of ourselves when the birds are free to live their lives without worry and still have all they need. Except I do see dead birds at times, right? Death keeps us worrying; but the fact is, death comes regardless. In the meantime, I really do want to know what it means to truly live...God, please show me.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

I Have Found My Peeps

I am now part of a secret society. It's a private Facebook group for mom's with gay kids. It's private because we all have come from some sort of church background, and many still haven't "come out" to anyone in their real lives. But what has been very fascinating and beautiful to see, is how we are coming out to each other in all kinds of ways. Coming out of the closet means you stop hiding and pretending your something your not; even when you know this carries a huge risk of rejection and judgement from others.

There are times in our lives where things get confusing. We feel lost, disorientated; and it seems that there is no stability or security to be found. Not many people actually talk about it; but I'm pretty sure it's true at one time or another for just about everybody. For most people in my secret group, having a gay child is what rocked their religious world and made them question certain "truths" they always took for granted. Not for me. My world was rocked years before my daughter came out; she was just the blessed straw that gave me permission to say good-bye to my religious institution.

My husband and I were the darlings of our church. He lead worship, I taught Sunday School, our kids sang in the Christmas pageants...the whole shebang. Not to make it sound like it was all show, because it really was everything to me. I wanted nothing more than to live for God; but the more I sought Him, the more clearly it became that certain things I was told I had to believe and what I was reading in the Bible didn't add up. Things didn't fit. It felt like an itch in my soul that I could never scratch.

I'm not going to go into what those questions were, or the answers I believe I found. I will say that finding those answers was the most beautiful and the most terrible thing that has ever happened to me. I knew I had now become a "heretic", because my beliefs no longer toed the Christian party line...but at least I no longer had the itch in my soul. Those itchy questions, though, only opened up a whole new set of questions. They weren't itchy in the sense that I knew something wasn't fitting...they were now achy, because this new way of seeing things opened up such a huge expanse of wonder. Wonder has three very different meanings: 1) to think or speculate curiously 2) to be filled with admiration or amazement 3) to doubt. All three fit; but #3 is the achiest. 

In all this pain and confusion, I have found solidarity. Condoning gay relationships gets you kicked out of safe zone Christianity just as fast as not believing in an eternal hell, (oops, cat's out of the bag) so we are all on the outside together. One woman in the group isn't a mom to a gay child, but she is there simply because she relates so much to this "outside" feeling.

On the Facebook page, you might see a post like this: "my whole world felt upside down-I felt like everything I depended on was being taken away from me...I didn't know where to turn or what to ask for or who to ask. I felt alone and lost". This is one way we are coming out of our closets; we have stopped pretending we have total assurance and are rock solid. With this group, I can say "I want to follow Jesus but I don't think I'm a Christian", and nobody even flinches. It's a good place to be.