Tag Archives: Church

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…

 

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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?

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?

On the edge…

I just spent a lovely afternoon with a beautiful cousin of mine celebrating her soon to be wedded bliss. It was a fantastic day with a great group of people.  It’s always fun to get together and celebrate a joyous occasion.  As I walked into my house tonight I was met by a sense of contentment.  I was home, my feet were free and life was good.  It had been a good day.

After a quick snuggle with my little guy and a visit with my husband I got comfortable and waited my husband’s work in the laundry room to be complete.  I grabbed some apple cider, sat down at the kitchen table and began to read. I read a little about the future of the Church, about the PCC’s upcoming General Assembly and of course a little news.   It was a little disturbing to say the least.

In a short time I had read about a shooter at the Eaton Centre in Toronto who killed 1 and injured 7.  I read about Churches and their lack of desire to find ways to connect with new generations as it often means change and discomfort.  I discovered that the pension fund of my church has serious issues and I’m very grateful I am not relying on it as a source of income for retirement {but I worry about those who are}.  There were also cannibalistic killers, teenagers addicted to ‘Bath Salts’, governments struggling and people being oppressed.  It was not a good day for reading.

How do we deal with these things?
How do we deal with trouble that surrounds us?
How do we cope in such a broken world?

In truth, lately as a ‘church’ it seems like we’re not dealing with it very well.  There is so much out there that is troublesome.  So much out there that we cannot cope with.  We have turned our heads inward.  We have sought a safe place.  We have hidden from the world.

This week I am afraid that my denomination is hiding from the world.  Hiding from the reality that what we’re doing isn’t working anymore.  This week Wynford Drive will ask for more money from churches who are struggling.  This week the Pension and Benefits Board will let us know that costs will rise, there isn’t enough invested and something bad might {perhaps will} happen in the future.  This week as I tune in to watch the sederunts online I will likely be frustrated as I watch people argue over rules and structure, phrasing and form.  I will watch people get stuck in the process instead of ministry.  I hope I am wrong but I’m afraid that’s where we’re at.

As a people we’ve been blessed with a great message and mission.  We need to be spreading truth in the world. We must be blessing it in our actions.  We can’t be holed up in a room arguing about protocol and procedure, we need to be out in the world doing mission, living the message and sharing the Gospel.

It is my hope that we start to deal with the things that are happening around us soon. We need to invest in our communities so people know someone cares.  We must recognize the power in shared moments.  Our children need us to invest in them as opposed to maintaining for ourselves.  The people outside our doors need care, attention and grace.  They need good news and someone to share their life with.  If we would stop worrying about ourselves {and our books/rules/order} and started moving out into the world to actually do the ministry of Christ, I think we would be far more Christ like than we presently are.

That said, I have faith.  I believe in the power of God.  I trust that the Holy Spirit still moves.  So this week:

I pray for change and inspiration.
I pray that new ways to minister will be discovered.
I pray that the Holy Spirit will descend upon the gathering and breathe new life into a gasping organization.

I pray for truth to be revealed, for grace to be offered and for passion to be felt.

If you’re the praying kind please pray with me.  The world is desperate and struggling.  It needs good news and we are a people who have it.  It’s time we realized this as the gift it is and start spreading it into the world.

It’s time to move out.  We need to move in.  Let’s live on the edge…
_______________________________________________________

Are you sure about that?

People are generally nice to you when you’re doing Pulpit Supply.  You come in and they’re polite, they hand you a cheque and then you leave after doing my thing. Because I’ve been doing some places quite regularly people think they know me.

In some ways they’re right, they do know me.  I come in and do the service and quite often stay for coffee.  They say they like my energy and enthusiasm for the future.  They say they are excited when I say there is hope.  They love my little boy as he brings life to the party.  It’s like our family is the poster child for the family they want to attract.

It sounds nice, right?  It is.  I appreciate that they don’t hate me.  The thing is I’m not really sure how they would feel if I were actually their minister.  I have energy and hope for the future but I know how much work is required to make the future happen.  I believe that great things are possible but they require faith, work and dedication.  I believe in listening to God and changing what isn’t working.  If I were actually their minister I would expect things.  I’m not sure they would like it if they had someone expecting things.

Isn’t this always the way?  We love listening to people on TV.  We love when our politicians speak about great change and new ideas.  We delight in gurus telling us our lives can be different.  But when push comes to shove we don’t want to change.  Usually we like things just the way they are.

I don’t like things the way they are.  I’m unsettled and uncomfortable with the road we’re walking.  Right now I have the ability to speak the truth about how I feel without worrying about a job.  It’s freeing.

I like this but I do wonder how people would react if they were stuck with me full time.  Would people continue to like me?  I suspect some would and some wouldn’t and I’m actually ok with that.

Worrying gets us nowhere.

I feel like I write about this all the time but it seems like all we do as a Church is worry and let’s face it, worrying gets us nowhere.

Think about it.  When in your life has worry actually accomplished anything?  In my life worrying never accomplishes anything.  I can worry all I want but worry doesn’t change the outcome.  All worrying does is cause anxiety and waste energy.
When the Church worries the same thing is true.

The Church right now is living in a state of anxiety and we are wasting energy discussing and debating all of our worries for the future.  Sinking into the worry and allowing it to consume us has not propelled us forward.  It has prevented us from visioning or making plans because we are worried of what might happen and we’re not focused on what is happening.

In my reading this morning I ran across this statement in 1 Chronicles 28:20, where David tells his son Solomon not to worry but instead to “…Be strong and of good courage, and act.  Do not be afraid or dismayed; for the Lord my God is with you…”  What I loved about this was that David reminds Solomon to act.  Not to get caught up in other things but to be strong, of good courage and act.  When we worry we fail to act.  When we worry we think about what might happen but we don’t act in the present.

It’s time to act.  To be the Church.  To stop worrying about the future and start thinking about the present.   It’s a tough time to be the Church.  Decisions need to be made.  Choices are going to be difficult.  Things must change.  All of that is hard to do but worrying about outcomes and wondering what’s going to happen doesn’t make it any less necessary.

I know it’s difficult.  We really don’t know where we are going but we aren’t the first people to have no clue what lay ahead.  The Israelites had to trust that God would lead them.  The Apostles waited in faith for the Holy Spirit to arrive.  Countless others have waited on God and now it’s our turn.  We are in a time of transition but as David reminded his son when he passed the torch “…the Lord my God is with you…”.  We aren’t alone in this.  God is with us.

When we give in to worry we cease relying on God.  We must have faith.  We have to trust that God is leading us somewhere.

Worrying gets us nowhere.

As David reminded Solomon, God is with us and we must act.
God is indeed with us. Are you ready for action?
How are you going to let go of worry?