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.

Banana Muffins: Just like Grandma used to make.

Well almost.  They are almost like Grandma used to make.  I’ve replaced a few things, changed the recipe slightly and added some chocolate but let me tell you, Grandma’s essence is the heart of these addictive beauties.  I am absolutely delighted with the outcome of these muffins.

I started with my grandma’s recipe and tweaked some of the ingredients.  The result is a slightly healthier albeit equally delicious rendition of her recipe.  It’s so good.  If you have bananas that are soft, make these tonight!  Your breakfast tomorrow will be the best part of your day.

If you’ve noted the Thomas the Tank Engine wrappers please understand that I live with a two year old who is obsessed with trains and cars.  Imagine the devastation when he realizes we need to remove them in order to eat the muffins. 

Banana Muffins
just like Grandma made 

Ingredients:

  • 2 C whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp corn starch
  • 1/2 c soy milk
  • 3/4 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 c white sugar
  • 2/3 c brown sugar
  • 1 scant c unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  •  4 extremely ripe bananas
  • Optional: 1 c chocolate chips
Instructions:
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees. 
  • Line 2 muffin tins with liners.  Lightly spray each liner with cooking spray.
  • Cream bananas, sugars, applesauce, and vanilla.  Set aside. 
  • Combine soy milk with the apple cider vinegar to create sour milk.  Stir and set aside. 
  • Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and corn starch. 
  • Alternating dry ingredients with the sour milk, add to the banana mixture and stir until just combined. 
  • If using the chocolate chips stir them in. 
  • Bake for 20-23 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. 
  • Enjoy! 
Extra Information:

  • This makes 24 good size muffins.
  • There are many add ins that would work with these.  I think walnuts would be delicious.  Some coconut or chopped dried fruit might be nice.  Anything your heart desires {and believes would go with banana} is a welcome addition.  Create your own masterpiece!  

Monday, Monday.

Today was not a stellar day in terms of accomplishments for me.  I’m usually a zombie on Mondays due to having been in the pulpit on Sunday but today was particularly challenging.  I did however have some interesting moments.

One interesting moment was pulling up the bulletin outline for the church I’m working at on Sunday and discovering that they have a statement of faith following the sermon from ‘Living Faith’ the PCC’s little green book on faith.   I am not sure if I’ve looked at Living Faith since I was a student at this church so it was fun to dive back in.  The copy I used was given to me when I was confirmed at 12.  I can’t believe it was that long ago and that I’m so old now that 12 seems so young to me.  Where did the time go?

Sensibly following the read through of Living Faith I gave up on work.  My focus was just not there.  Anything I wrote down would likely have to be redone so I headed out to the grocery store to grab some corn tortillas and cucumbers.  On the way home I drove by the lake.  It was beautiful.  The combination of wind and waves is something I thrive on.  It was a perfect scene.

Following dinner my son and I goofed around with my iphone and took photos of one another.   His way of taking pictures was laughing at me when he saw my face through the screen and this was one we caught.  I think it might be my new social media picture.  I read this week that my picture should be clear and recognizable which mine currently is not.

There are worse ways to spend a day I suppose.  Other activities involved crayons and tickles.  We also had lots of laughs.

How did you spend your Monday?

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?

How an iPhone comes to power

This is the story of a girl who longed for the one thing she could never have. Well that’s not technically true, she could have had one but she refused to pay for it…

On Friday the last person to ever use a Palm Pre Phone ceased using it.  I should know as that person was me.  I had really been fighting getting a new phone.  My phone didn’t always charge, wouldn’t get messages for a few days and often disconnected from towers.  Regardless I persevered as I hate paying money for cellphones.   I sometimes wonder if there is a chip inside them which causes them to self destruct six months before your contract ends but enough with the conspiracy theories.

On Friday after finding my phone dead while sitting in the charger and discovering that the only place my phone would charge was in the car while I was driving I knew I needed to do something.  My phone was antiquated, unreliable and I do have a need for some connection with the outside world.  After making this decision I got the best news ever, my cell phone company decided that morning that I was eligible for an upgrade and I should just come in.

I did not rush in immediately.  There were other, more pressing things on my list of stuff to do.  My Gran and I needed to get our grocery shopping done.  We absolutely had to enjoy iced chai lattes while talking about our upcoming plans for my cousin’s wedding.  These things were of the utmost importance but once my day with Gran was done I marched my little family into the cell phone store and came out with an iPhone.

Friday was a glorious day that fed into a marvelous weekend {technologically speaking}.  I used my cell phone everywhere.  I unhooked my Nano from the car stereo and used my phone in its place.  I checked stats from basement while watching Game of Thrones.   I took pictures on Instagram.  We marveled at how slow and outdated the old phone was and contemplated selling my old iPod as I no longer had a need for it, after all my phone does everything right?

My phone does almost everything it seems.  It can schedule me, connect me, chronicle my life and even help me with work.  It can entertain me, sing to me and even become a book.  The thing my phone does not do is check the pockets of my shorts before I throw them into the wash.   Remember how I unhooked my nano and put my phone into the car stereo system?  I tucked that nano into my pocket and because it’s so small, forgot about it.

As a result my nano is currently sitting in a bag of rice on my desk and my prayers of thanksgiving to God for convincing the cell phone company to cut me a break have now turned to desperate cries for the life of my beloved nano.  My iPhone seduced me into thinking it was the only piece of technology that mattered.  It’s glittery features and quick upload speeds distracted me from other, equally important things.

It’s often the way in life, isn’t it?  When we move on to bigger and better things we forget the people and places we’ve left behind.  We really shouldn’t as they helped shape us into who we have become.  But I digress as that’s really a story for another day.

I present to you now a picture from my new iPhone.  The first of many to come I’m sure…