Category Archives: Reflections

@RichardDawkins

I’m always on the lookout for new people to follow on twitter and quite regularly pop over to their page of suggested people for me to follow.  Today I was rather surprised to find @RichardDawkins suggested on the list.

I have nothing against Mr. Dawkins.  We’re all entitled to our own opinions and views on the world and the fact that Twitter thought I should follow him interested me enough to make me click over to his site.  As I was reading through a few articles and statements there was one thought that continually struck me…

Athiests seem to spend a lot of time talking about a God they state doesn’t exist and discussing religions they don’t believe in.

It’s a little weird, right?

On top of this they seem to have created organizations where they discuss and affirm one another in their own beliefs.  Kind of a hold each other up scenario if you will.  Sounds an awful lot like church to me.

As the saying goes, no matter how things change they remain the same…

Doubting God.

I was in the middle of writing a post about tomatoes, gardening and pruning {I bet you have an idea of where I was going with this} but then I ran across this article “Young Americans Losing Faith?  New Poll Shows 31 Percent Of Adults Under 30 Doubt God Exists”  This doesn’t surprise me.  Does it surprise you?

To put this another way, 1 in 3 Americans under 30 have doubt about the existence of God.  I would bet the Canadian number is higher if only because we might be slightly less afraid to admit it and we’re a more secular culture in general.

To me this means as a church we are dealing in an increasingly secular world.  A world that isn’t afraid to express doubt and acknowledge the possibility that God may not exist.  It means we are living in a world that is different from one we have in our church memory banks.

We have to change.

We have ignored this doubt.  We push doubt away and pretend it doesn’t exist.  It does.  It has to.  If we’ve never wrestled with our faith or really struggled with God, how can we mature and grow as Christians.  We need to allow doubt to be part of the conversation.

Things are not as they were 50 years ago.  People today see churches as places that are great for weddings and hold a great deal of nostalgia but are not relevant as a faith option.  Instead of coming to church people are turning to the internet, friends and celebrities for ideas on faith and God.  We’ve lost our influence.  We are no longer part of their conversation.

This loss of influence has frightened us.  Fear is not the answer, faith is.  In the Bible God constantly says ‘Be not afraid’ and yet we find ourselves living daily in fear.  We hide from the outside world and wonder what comes next.   The problem with this way of living is that we will never know what happens next if we do not do something to make the next thing happen.   We cannot show others light if we are hiding it from them.

Jesus called us to be the salt of the earth, the light of the world.

This is a heavy calling.  We are to live in the world and shine our light.  We are to add flavor and substance to our communities.  We aren’t doing this.  Our lights grow dim and our salt is losing it’s flavor.  In focusing on ‘not’ dying we’re not living.  In our struggle to stay alive we’ve forgotten our purpose and mission.

Imagine a church that lived according to the Gospel.  That was the light of the earth and recognized the need to live in community and care for others.  Imagine a church that could say the following:

We are Christ followers.  We gather together to worship and praise the Lord. We live in the world God created and care about it.  In our community we love, we laugh, we live. We long to serve and will find ways to help those in need. We know that our building is a resource but is not our God. We pray hard and fierce. We read the Bible and learn from it’s message. We are living a mission given by God to us in this time and place. We are Christ followers. 

I would go to this church.
Others would too…

 

Lost in Translation

X. ran around today shouting ‘die, die, die!’.  He did it at the store.  He did it on the driveway for our entire neighborhood.  He did it for anyone we ran into.  This made me want to ostrich very badly.  I was so embarrassed.  As I shushed him and tried to express how inappropriate this was, my head was filled with thoughts like ‘Where did he learn this word?’ and ‘Why is he running around shouting die, die, die!’.  It was not a good scene.

As the day progressed and he continued to utter death threats I just began to pray that eventually he would grow bored of this fun new word and move on.   When his speech therapist arrived for our last appointment of the year I had almost forgotten the events of the morning until he began doing it again.  And that’s when it hit me, he wasn’t saying ‘die’ he was saying ‘dive’.  When my little boy says the word dive it sounds like die because he has not yet mastered the v sound.

Palm to forehead.   Assume ostrich position. 

The speech therapist and I had a good laugh about this.  And it really made me wonder how much in our lives gets lost in translation.  How often do we just not get it?

As I read through the Prophets I have to assume this happens more often than not.  The people of Israel cry out to God and wonder why God’s upset when it’s been expressed repeatedly by the prophets.  The thing is, the Israelites don’t want to hear or are unable to hear.  The message is confused and puzzling to them.  They need to sift through it and find out what God is trying to say.

I think this happens to us in the church today as well.  When we deal with our desires and plans we often shove God off to the side and plan on using him if he is needed.  There is a sense that if we make enough plans and prepare enough events eventually things will work out for us.  If it doesn’t then we’re lost and confused.  We wonder why things aren’t happening.  We wonder why God isn’t answering our prayers.

Unfortunately for us, God likely is answering our prayers.  The problem is like that we don’t like the answer or we don’t understand it.  We have a hard time with the translation.  We have a hard time hearing what God wants us to do.  This is something we need to work on.  We need to start listening and discern the message God is sending us.  We need to begin the process of translation.

Saturday afternoon

Over the last month weekends we spent in celebration.  I went to my brother and sister’s university graduation in Sault Ste. Marie, I attended a Bridal Shower, a Bachelorette Party and managed to squeeze in a birthday party for my husband. We’ve been busy.  This weekend I’ve been able to relax a little.  It’s been nice.

I’ve not been able to relax too much however as I do have to work tomorrow. That being said I’ve never been a person to allow a little work to ruin a beautiful afternoon.  I took my laptop out on the patio and sat in my backyard oasis while I did some editing.  It was heaven.

As I sat out on the back deck, enjoying the sunshine and sipping on some Iced Pomegranate Green Tea that my husband brought me I started thinking about how much work went into creating this lovely environment.   Over the years we’ve added to the garden, installed a retractable awning, hung baskets and fought against a particularly stubborn colony of carpenter bees.  We’ve cleaned and scrubbed and called for help when it was needed.  A backyard garden is not something that can be ignored.

That’s the way of things, isn’t it?  You cannot ignore something and expect it to remain perfect and functional.  Our garden, like our home needs maintenance and care. We must tend to things in order to keep things working the way we would like.

As maintenance is required in homes and gardens, so it is required in faith.  In order for us to function well we need to perform constant maintenance.  We need to fill ourselves with God’s truth by reading, discussing and examining scriptures. We must pray and open ourselves to a relationship with God.  It’s not easy, sometimes it’s work but it’s incredibly rewarding.

For the past 55 days I’ve been getting up around 6 to read the Bible and pray. Some mornings are more productive than others.  Some days I read more than I pray and other days it’s the exact opposite.  There is but one constant, God. There is one thing that matters, my relationship with God.  This personal time, this private time with God was not something I had allowed for myself on a regular basis before.  Often times my private reflection time was overwhelmed by Sunday preparation.  I wasn’t a diligent as I should have been about personal reflection.  I had forgotten to do regular maintenance and was in jeopardy of breaking down completely.

I have discovered much about myself these past 55 days.  I love the quiet time in the morning and am grateful for a chance to give thanks and embrace the stillness before the day begins.  In adding this activity to my already busy life I’ve actually found more time.  I’ve discovered peace.  I’ve shifted my priorities.  I’ve embraced a life with fewer worries and have found that going with God is a heck of a lot easier than fighting him.  It’s been wonderful, challenging and incredibly rewarding.  Much like tending a garden I’ve watched my own faith grow and change.

Maintaining our faith requires work and this is something we in ministry often forget.  We think we’re doing maintenance when really we’re helping others on their journey.  In order for us to function well we need to set aside time for spiritual development and reflection.  I think the same can be said for those sitting in the pews.  It’s easy to attend church on Sunday and expect the minister to do the work for us.  We want to come into a pretty garden, not do the work to help create it.   Faith is work.  Faith requires some effort.

This morning I ran across a passage that says it all:

“…In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”  Isaiah 30:15

We need to make time in our busy lives for God.  We must return to God’s presence frequently to find strength and peace.  In that quiet time we will discover who we are.  In that quiet time we will find God.

How will you find your quiet this week?
How will you meet God?

The Dishwasher and the Pea

This morning after my shower I moved into the kitchen to begin making breakfast.  When I entered the kitchen I found my husband lying half inside the dishwasher.  I was a little concerned as this is highly unusual behavior for him. I’m usually up hours before he is.  Asking him why he was hanging out inside our dishwasher he reminded me that I had asked for his help regarding it’s lack of cleaning power.  He had gotten up early to clean it out for me.  He’s a good man.

As I was assembling the necessary ingredients for our morning oatmeal and he was cleaning out dishwasher parts we had lovely conversation and chatted about many things.  Imagine my surprise when in the midst of it all he cried out ‘a pea!’. It would seem that a pea, one lonely green pea had gotten stuck in one of the jets, preventing the water from getting everywhere it needed to be.

This one pea.  This tiny pea prevented a large, capable machine from doing it’s job.  It’s pretty incredible when you think about it.  Something so small, so seemingly innocent can wreak havoc on whatever it’s involved with if it’s in the wrong place, in the wrong position.

The pea got me thinking.  How many of us accidentally become the pea when we think we are part of the dishwasher?  I know I sound crazy but hear me out.  In every organization we all play a role.  Some of us a leaders while others follow. Some organize and others dream.  Each one of us has gifts that are given to us to be used and shared.  We each have a role to play.

Sometimes we find ourselves stepping out of our role and becoming a block to others.  We become the pea.  Many times we think we can do everything and so take on more than we can handle.  Sometimes we believe we have the answer and when others don’t agree we put up road blocks to prevent others from moving forward in the direction they feel is right.  These actions are often unintentional, they’re subconscious. Regardless, they have an impact.  Sometimes they prevent the entire operation from working.  It’s important to see where we are the ‘pea’ in our lives and find ways of helping others achieve and succeed instead of blocking them.

Are you the pea?
Are there peas in your life?

My garden and a bunny got me to thinking…

This past weekend my family and I travelled up to see my brother and sister graduate from University in Sault Ste. Marie.  It was a wonderful weekend, we had so much fun and I’m so proud of them both.

Of course while I was away there was a heat wave here at home.  My garden sprung to life while I was away and so today I thought I would check out the progress in the clear light of day as we got home fairly late last night.  The change was phenomenal.

My clematis was gorgeous and in full bloom

My tomatoes exploded

My herbs were happy

…and the bunny was happy.

This bunny is one of a family of bunnies.  I know what you’re thinking.  Bunnies aren’t good because they eat your strawberries.  You weren’t thinking that?  I was.  They eat my strawberries!  Nevertheless they are in our yard this year more than any other and I discovered why.  While we were away this happened to my grass:

A patch of clover decided to multiply while we were away.  We’ve been battling this clover for a while but it’s gotten out of hand lately.  My husband has been working hard and removing it.  He is constantly outside digging it up, spraying some kind of natural iron compound on it, yelling at it and giving it the look.  So far nothing has worked.

The bunnies love clover.  They come into the yard and eat away all day.  It’s paradise for them.  Unbeknownst to us we’ve created a perfect paradise for bunnies free of dogs, quiet and removed from traffic with plenty of their favorite foods.

As I stood outside marveling at the determination of the clover to survive and the never ending stream of bunnies which seem to find their way into my yard I got to thinking.  Lately I’ve read quite a number of blogs by people in their thirties who are searching for a church and desperate to find a place where they fit in.  They long to find an environment they feel comfortable in.  They long to find a place that offers community, is recognizable to them and doesn’t exist simply for themselves.

Unfortunately they are struggling to find a place that they recognize as church and I’m not really surprised.  Church as most of us practice it today is unrecognizable to most people in their thirties.  There is no organization that they belong to, no place they go where people behave as the church does. Meetings are held at coffee houses or at a round table.  Gatherings are informal and relationship is the primary focus.  People come to church expecting to find relationship and connection but do not see it because we do not present it in a way they understand or can connect with.

My backyard is an accidental paradise for the bunnies.  A safe haven from the storms of the world.  A place where they are fed, nourished, protected and given rest.  Maybe we need to create an intentional paradise for the people of this world.  Maybe we should be creating safe places for people to escape the storms of this world. We should feed them, nourish them, protect them, empower them and allow them to be.

If we did that imagine what a ministry that would be, what opportunities we would have to serve others in our world. I’d love to know what you think.  What would your paradise look like? What do you need in a church?

And then there was silence.

At present I am unoccupied on Sundays.  It’s a glorious thing.  There is nothing forcing me anywhere at any specific time.  I can go anywhere I want, to any church I want or even not to church if I’m so inclined.  I’m currently on a three week break and I’m really enjoying it.  I was a little burnt out, tired of always being the cheerleader and I needed some time alone.

As a serious introvert I do need time away.  I need quiet time in the day to relax and unwind.  When I’m working I often loose that time as I keep X. company during the day, visit with my husband at night and manage to cram work in.   On top of that I am apparently an empath {or at least my husband jokingly calls me that} and I have a tendency to feel the feelings of the people around me.  This can be a good and a bad thing at times.

Usually I have barriers in place to keep myself happy and at peace.  Lately it’s just all gotten to be too much.  Every church I went to had some type of anxiety, fear, worry or hesitation.  So many voices.  So many questions.  So many demands. I know it’s the way things are but it was wearing me down so I took a break.  And then there was silence…

The silence has been wonderful.  With the voices gone, I’ve sunk into life.  I’ve felt God’s presence.  I’ve embraced comfortable jeans, watched movies with my husband and dug in my garden.  I’ve prayed and prayed.  I’ve read and debated.  I’ve sat in silence and marveled at the world around me.   The anxiety and fear are not present here.   There is no worry or hesitation.  In my house there is peace.

I love peace.

Feeling peace is incredible.  It doesn’t mean there aren’t moments of passion or heated debate.  It doesn’t mean there aren’t questions or moments of wonder.  It just means that through it all you know things are ok, God is there and will continue to be there. I wish the church could feel this peace, could embrace God’s presence and feel peace as it walks through this time of transition.

I will continue to enjoy my time.  I will watch my brother and sister graduate, enjoy picnics in the park and maybe take in a show or two.  The time will pass to quickly and soon I will be back to work.  Until then I’ll exist in the silence, I will embrace the gift of time that God has given me.

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I’d love to know how you recharge when you’re feeling overwhelmed?  Leave a comment below…