Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Fear of the Lord II

Here is a bit more on this subject.

Psalm 111:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;
A good understanding have all those who do His commandments.
His praise endures forever.

Definition of "fear" -- Worshipful submission, reverential awe, and obedient respect to God

Maybe I'm in Oxford mode, or just fantasy mode, but I mentioned Aslan (from C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia in the post below on this subject, and now a comment on my original post has me thinking about a scene from Lord of the Rings from Lewis' pal J.R.R. Tolkien's famous trilogy.

Perhaps you recall the scene near the beginning of the movie where Gandalf the wizard comes to the home of his longtime friend, the hobbit Bilbo Baggins. Good natured Bilbo has had "the ring" for a long time, and Gandalf has come to tell him that he now must give up the ring so its evil influence must be dealt with once and for all. We watch Bilbo's face change drastically as he begins to grow suspicious of Gandalf, and he clutches the ring (sin?) tightly as he scowls and snarls, "How do I know you don't just want the ring's power for yourself?' Gandalf, who is very kind but very powerful, suddenly changes too. His genial expression of kindness changes to anger and the room darkens and lightnihg flashes, Gandalf shouts, "Bilbo Baggins, I am not some conjurer of cheap tricks!" Bilbo looks shocked at the change in Gandalf, and then grows sorrowful and runs to throw his arms around the wizard and tell him he is sorry. He gives the ring to Gandalf, who again looks at Bilbo with a face of love and compassion as he pockets the ring.

The fear of the Lord is like that. Hopefully, we know God loves us, but we must also know that Almighty God is not a conjurer of cheap tricks. Understanding his power and then realizing that this God-in-Flesh died for us should make us run to Jesus (as Bilbo did to Gandalf) rather than away--even if God's countenance seems a bit fierce!

Recall with me a few scriptural accounts of God encounters and what happened. I am only posting small snippets, but I put the chapters so you can read more if you like.

Moses - from Exodus 3

The Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the middle of a bush. Moses stared in amazement. Though the bush was engulfed in flames, it didn’t burn up. “This is amazing,” Moses said to himself. “Why isn’t that bush burning up? I must go see it.” God called to him from the middle of the bush, “Moses! Moses!” “Here I am!” Moses replied. “Do not come any closer,” the Lord warned. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground. I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” When Moses heard this, he covered his face because he was afraid to look at God. I am aware of [Israel’s] suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and lead them out of Egypt into their own fertile and spacious land...seen how harshly the Egyptians abuse them. Now go, for I am sending you. Say this to the people of Israel: I Am has sent me to you...Yahweh, the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham...Isaac, and Jacob—has sent me to you.”

Deut. 34:10 & 12 Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, who did all those signs and wonders the LORD sent him to do...For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.

Daniel --from Daniel 10

I saw a man dressed in clothing white like linen, with a belt of pure gold around his waist. His body looked like a precious gem. His face flashed like lightning, and his eyes flamed like torches. His arms and feet shone like polished bronze, and his voice roared like a vast multitude of people...My strength left me, my face grew deathly pale, and I became weak. Then I heard the man speak, and when I heard the sound of his voice, I fainted and lay there with my face to the ground. A hand touched me and lifted me, still trembling, to my hands and knees. And the man said to me, “Daniel, you are very precious to God, so listen carefully to what I have to say to you. Stand up, for I have been sent to you.” When he said this to me, I stood up, still trembling.
Then he said, “Don’t be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven.” While he was speaking to me, I looked down at the ground, unable to say a word. Then the one who looked like a man touched my lips, and I opened my mouth and began to speak. "My strength is gone, and I can hardly breathe.” Then the one who looked like a man touched me again, and I felt my strength returning. “Don’t be afraid,” he said, “for you are greatly loved by God. Be at peace. Now be encouraged and be strengthened.”

Isaiah - from Isaiah 6

I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: “ Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!” And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.So I said: “ Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts.” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said: “ Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away, And your sin purged.” Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “ Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” And He said, “Go, and speak to my people...

Saul (who became known as Paul) - from Acts 9

Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers. As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. He fell to the ground and heard a loud voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?” “Who are you, lord?” Saul asked. And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”


From Revelation 1 (We've seen this glorious being before.)

It was the Lord’s Day, and I was worshiping in the Spirit. Suddenly, I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet blast... When I turned to see who was speaking to me, I saw seven gold lamp stands. And standing in the middle of the lamp stands was someone like the Son of Man. He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across his chest. His head and his hair were white like wool, as white as snow. And his eyes were like flames of fire. His feet were like polished bronze and his voice thundered like mighty ocean waves. He held seven stars in his right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword came from his mouth. And his face was like the sun in all its brilliance. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as if I were dead. But he laid his right hand on me and said, “Don’t be afraid! I am the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last. I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave.

In each case, seeing the Lord in person was frightening and unsettling, and also life-changing. God is glorious, powerful, full of light, and causes the humans nearby to have some fearful reactions! But in each case God is about to show great favor, love, even intimacy with the created. Even John, close friend and disciple of Jesus of Nazareth, reacts with strong emotion and even physical "symptoms" but the risen and glorified Christ comforts him and reassures him.

Amazing! Wonderful! We love Him because He first loved us!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Sunday Inside and Out

Smiling at Grandpa

Looking at My Mommy

About to Get a Bath

In the Pooh Tub Grandpa Got Me

Four Generations and a Pursiful Quilt

(Thank you, Mrs. Dr. Platypus)

Napping With Grandma Leta


Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Big Snow and Blow

It is hard to tell how much snow we have because there is lots of blowing and drifting, but at least 10- 12 inches. No church today. But being snowed in with a new grandbaby in the house is not so bad.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Hoped-For Baby Dedication that May or May Not Happen

Princess Trinity Ann of Halseth in Cities by a Large River
I'm still thinking of those aristocratic titles....
Anyway, it seems the big midwest snowstorm of 2007 is about to hit us with a whallop. However, Trinity and Company are on their way here from Minnesota. They should arrive fine, since the worst of the snow and winds are not supposed to hit till the wee hours Sunday a.m. Trinity is supposed to be dedicated to the Lord tomorrow. But we aren't sure anyone will be able to make it to church.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Friday Five: Companions on the Way

This week the Rev Gals and Pals are thinking about companions. Songbird says, " Dante had Virgil as a guide. Before he had younger siblings, my oldest child had an imaginary friend named Patrick. Betsy had Tacy. Laura Ingalls depended on her brindle bulldog, Jack. All of them were companions on the way.As we take the beginning steps of our journey through Lent, who would we take as a companion? Name five people, real or imaginary, you might like to have with you as guide or guardian or simply good friend."

1. This is tough to answer. But since we are talking about imaginary things, well, I would take my sister, Darlaine, in her pre-Alzheimer's state. I love her so much, and she used to understand me better than anyone else. She also has a deep love for God.

2. I'd also like my Vision Team members to come along. I love them all deeply, and together we are seeking God's heart for each other and for Jubilee Church. So, Pat, John, Darren, Nancy, Wendy, Jim and (husband) Ken...join me on the road.

3. I'd take along Rosa Mae Wead, who mentored me without knowing it, and was the first to show me that a gracious, softspoken loving woman could also be direct, a preacher, strong, and courageous. (Not that I'm exactly saying I'm softspoken..but still.) She passed on long ago, but this is MY list.

4. Okay, may I take a dog? A deceased dog? I'll take our dog Cassie--sweet, loving, fun and in tune with the spiritual world. No kidding. She was an amazing dog and one of the best companions I ever had. I still miss her and she's been gone for many years.

5. In honor of Black History Month, I'll bring along Harriet Tubman. The link tells a bit about this amazing women, called "Moses" by many. She was born a slave, suffered abuse and injury, escaped, and returned to the south 19 or 20 times to assist in bringing about 300 slaves north on the Underground Railroad. She served as a spy for the Union during the Civil War, but was shabbily treated by the government afterwards and worked for decades to obtain a tiny pension. She lived to the amazing age of 93. The link doesn't include much about her spiritual life, but her faith sustained her through many "dangers, toils and snares."

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Fear of the Lord I

In the post below "The Fear of God at Jubilee" you see the dash ornament called "Buddy Christ." It made me think of a brief conversation in C.S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” Two of the characters (Susan and Lucy) were getting ready to meet Aslan the lion, who represents Christ. Two talking animals, Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, prepare the children for the experience.


"Ooh," said Susan, "I thought he was a man. Is he quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion." "That you will, dearie." said Mrs. Beaver. "And make no mistake, if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knee’s knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly." "Then isn’t he safe?" said Lucy. "Safe?" said Mr. Beaver. "Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? Of course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the king, I tell you!"

Just a few thoughts...

Living in the right kind of fear is not living in terror, nor is it waiting for God to smash us for our shortcomings and failures.

Holy fear is..."Worshipful submission, reverential awe, and obedient respect to God”

Worshipful submission. We can come to church, sing, lift our hands (or fold them reverently), pray piously, share the bread and the wine, say and do all the right things, but if we do not worship and live in an attitude of surrender--submission to God--we do not fear God.

Ecclesiastes 5:1-2 says, “Guard your step when you go to the house of God. Better to draw near in obedience than to offer the sacrifice as fools do, for they are ignorant and do wrong. Do not be hasty to speak, and do not be impulsive to make a speech before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.”

Drawing near in obedience--worshipful submission--means God can do eternal work in us. And his "heavenly view" must be quite different than ours!

Real change. Philippians 2:12-13 says, “So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you, [enabling you] both to will and to act for His good purpose.”

Proverbs 8:13 says, “To fear the Lord is to hate evil.”

"Working out" (not "working for") our own salvation with fear and trembling has to do with change and growth. Why fear and trembling? It must be serious business. Why do you think that is so?

The words "reverential awe" in the above definition of holy fear made me think of how we might see something amazing and catch our breath. The almighty, glorious, holy, wise, awesome God who created us wants to work in us! Amazing! How do we dare take this God so lightly?

Monday, February 19, 2007

Taggged by Dr. P.

Dr. Platypus tagged me--and our friend, Psalmist, too--for this meme. Psalmist beat me to the starting line, but here goes.

A - Available or Married? Married, to my high school sweetheart and love of my life.

B - Best Moment? Hmmm...hard to pick. Birth of my children is one, certainly.

C - Cake or Pie? Both. Oh, I have to choose? Pie. Pecan, apple, peach, strawberry rhubarb.

D - Drink of choice? Diet Dr. Pepper. Psalmist and Dr. P. and I all agree on that. How odd.

E - Essential Item? Daytime: My glasses. Nighttime: My pillow.

F - Favorite Color? Blue. Red and purple are good too. And yellow...and...I like colors. But blue is tops.

G - Gummi Bears or Worms? Worms, but they need to be the sour kind.

H - Hometown? Los Angeles. Grew up in the San Fernando Valley, a bit to the northeast.

I - Indulgence? I don’t even believe in purgatory. Oh, that kind of indulgence. Books. (Okay, I copied that from Dr. P. but I agree. And I have to add ice cream. Ice cream and books. And coffee and Starbucks ice cream flavored coffee...yum!) A book and Starbucks ice cream with chocolate syrup.

J - January or February? February. We got married in February.

K - Kids & names? Yes. Kristina and Joshua.

L - Life is incomplete without? Faith in God

M - Marriage Date? Feb. 13, 1971

N - Number of Siblings? Two sisters

O - Oranges or apples? Both! I like my oranges with a bit of salt on them and I (like both Psalmist and Dr. P.) prefer Granny Smiths...with a little salt. Or caramel.

P - Phobias/Fears? Crowds. I mean crowds where you are carried along or have to push to make headway. Scary. Like I hear Bourbon St. is today. Oh, no waaay!

Q - Favorite Quotation? I can't pick just one.

R - Reason to Smile? My new little granddaughter, Trinity Ann. :-)

S - Season? Spring, spring, glorious spring! And then summer...and then autumn....

T - Tag three people. I refuse! Play if you like, and let me know so I can read it.

U - Unknown fact about me: Everything about me is known to someone. Okay, okay. I am basically a wallflower, a woman scared of people, who fakes it--and overcomes it by the grace of God.

V - Vegetable you hate? asparagus

W - Worst habit? interupting

Y - Your favorite food? Mexican! Ole!

Z. Zodiac? Why yes, those constellations are up there in the sky. I love being far out in the contry on a clear night.

The Fear of the Lord at Jubilee Church

Psalm 111:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.

I've been too busy or tired to blog lately, but I'm alive and well.

I started my "Fear of the Lord" series last week and continued yesterday with part two. Something significant is happening. I can't quite describe and certainly can't explain it, but the sense of God's presence is still with us. Yesterday was not peaceful, however--more intense. We changed the order of service so that we were singing praises at the end of the service instead of the beginning--after reading about some encounters with God (Jacob, Moses, Isaiah, Daniel, Paul and John). More about that later. (I don't preach from a manuscript, so I can't post my sermon here, but when I get a little more time I will post a bit of what I've been preaching.)

Last week I began the series with this picture. I know it's meant to be a satiric piece from a satiric movie (Dogma), but I fear that it is not really very ironic or satirical at all. I think in some sense we have lost "wisdom" as individuals, as churches, as a society because we have lost almost all understanding of what it means to "fear the Lord."

We believers are not immune. It seems we often think Jesus Christ really is our game-show-host-political-candidate-thumbs up buddy who is asking "whazzup?"On the website which offers this charming item for $18.99, I'm informed that now my Buddy Christ can cover my ass in all circumstances.

What a contrast to this:

Rev. 5: 8-14 Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying: “ You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth.” Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice: “ Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!” And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying:

“Blessing and honor and glory and power
Be to Him who sits on the throne,
And to the Lamb, forever and ever!”
Then the four living creatures said, “Amen!”

And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever.

The Lenten season is soon to begin. I pray God's Holy Spirit makes the holiness, the sacrifice, the majesty, the overwhelming love of the Lamb of God, slain for the sins of the world, real to us in fresh ways.

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Monday, February 12, 2007

It is Lincoln's Birthday

Today is the birthday of Abraham Lincoln--one of the most beloved (and interesting) of America's presidents. Few of our national heroes are as mysterious or enigmatic as A. Lincoln, and you can find "proof" that he was a Christian, that he was not a Christian, that he hated slavery, that he was ambivalent at best about slavery, that he loved his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, that he did not love Mary Todd Lincoln and was probably homosexual, that he was a wonderful father, that he was a terrible father, and so on.

I find his story remarkable, whatever the truth about the contested parts of his life may be. There is no question that he grew up in obscurity and near poverty, but that he rose to prominence by perseverance and hard work, that he became president after losing numerous prior political races, that he loved his children, that he was an amazing yet humble man, despite his bouts with depression and the challenges of living with a wife who eventually went completely insane. It is in vogue nowadays to trash our national heroes. It is certain that while he affirmed the right of freedom for all, he believed the white race to be superior over the black. But that was hardly surprising in the mid 1800s. I also know Lincoln was undoubtedly a deeply flawed person (as are we all) but I wonder what history would reveal if Fredrick Douglas had won the election?
Guiding the fractured nation during the horrific years of our Civil War -- "The War Between the States" surely is one of the most crushing burdens a head of state can bear, especially for a person of integrity and compassion.

Here are just a few quotes that I find notable.

On Slavery

"Whenever I hear any one arguing for slavery I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally."

"If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I can not remember when I did not so think, and feel."

"I never knew a man who wished to be himself a slave. Consider if you know any good thing, that no man desires for himself."

"To read in the Bible, as the word of God himself, that "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread," and to preach...'In the sweat of other mans faces shalt thou eat bread,' to my mind can scarcely be reconciled with honest sincerity."

"The slave-breeders and slave-traders, are a small, odious and detested class, among you; and yet in politics, they dictate the course of all of you, and are as completely your masters, as you are the master of your own Negroes."

On God

"In regard to this Great Book, I have but to say, it is the best gift God has given to man. All the good the Savior gave to the world was communicated through this book."

"The purposes of the Almighty are perfect, and must prevail, though we erring mortals may fail to accurately perceive them in advance. We hoped for a happy termination of this terrible war long before this; but God knows best, and has ruled otherwise. We shall yet acknowledge His wisdom and our own error therein. Meanwhile we must work earnestly in the best light He gives us, trusting that so working still conduces to the great ends He ordains. Surely He intends some great good to follow this mighty convulsion, which no mortal could make, and no mortal could stay."

On What is Right

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan..."

"The probability that we may fall in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just; it shall not deter me."

"I believe it is an established maxim in morals that he who makes an assertion without knowing whether it is true or false, is guilty of falsehood; and the accidental truth of the assertion, does not justify or excuse him." (TAKE NOTE, SENDERS OF INTERNET EMAILS!)

"Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it."

On America

"At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years. At what point, then, is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide."

"Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that "all men are created equal." We now practically read it "all men are created equal, except Negroes." When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read "all men are created equal, except Negroes and foreigners and Catholics." When it comes to this, I shall prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty - to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure and without the base alloy of hypocrisy."

Just Interesting

"I do not think I could myself, be brought to support a man for office, whom I knew to be an open enemy of, and scoffer at, religion."

"It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: 'And this, too, shall pass away.' How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!"

"My friends, no one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe everything. Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of the Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail. Trusting in Him who can go with me, and remain with you, and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell." (Saying farewell to Springfield, Illinois as he departed for Washington D.C.)

We lived in Washington D.C. when our children were small, and a visit to the Lincoln Memorial (night is best!), Ford's Theatre (where Lincoln was assassinated) and to the house across the street where he died were memorable. I also recommend a visit to the Lincoln Home and the Lincoln Museum--and maybe Lincoln's Law Offices too--if you find yourself in Springfield, IL with some time to spend.

Friday, February 09, 2007

It's an American Idol Friday Five for the Rev Gals & Pals

Songbird says: Yes, it's true. I've been watching Season Six of American Idol with my daughter, our first time dipping into this particular well of pop culture. In the spirit of believing you can do anything, as the auditioners so clearly do, please fill in the following five blanks.

1) If I could sing like anyone, it would be: My own self, just waaay better.

2) I would love to sing the song: Well, I can't pick a song about God or Jesus or stuff, 'cause I already do that, so.....well, I always said I'd love to sing the blues so I'll say, it wouldn't matter what song as long as I had an awesome bassist and piano player backing me up. Maybe "Shout."

3) It would be really cool to sing at: The Hollywood Bowl! I used to love that place.

4) If I could sing a dream duet it would be with: Well, since it's gonna be the blues, I guess I'll say Aretha Franklin or Patti LaBelle..

5) If I could sing on a TV or radio show, it would be: Well, since we are fantasizing here, it would be my own show. I'd be an amazin, sought after speaker and singer!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

God's Quarrelsome Children

I am increasingly aware, and increasingly disturbed, by something I see in Christendom. We must stop sniping at each other if we are to have any credibility at all in this world.

Remember the words to "Onward Christian Soldiers"? When I was a child that was the hymn of choice for us, the children who marched into the church sanctuary carrying the American flag and the Christian flag. We First Baptist kids sang and marched and filed into our seats during Vacation Bible School each summer as Mrs. Polk pounded out the tune on a spinet piano. I loved the imagery of the song. Here is one verse:

Like a mighty army moves the church of God;
Brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod.
We are not divided, all one body we,
One in hope and doctrine, one in charity.

It just doesn't sound the same to say "Siblings, we are treading..." I suppose. :-)
I know some Christians dislike the combative images in hymns such as this (and I am aware that some have used them inappropriately), but I am not one who wants to remove all such songs from the hymnbook. Scripture makes very clear that we are indeed in a battle. It is a battle against our old nature (Remember the Apostle Paul's cry in the Epistle to the Romans, "Who shall deliver me...wretched man that I am?") and against the forces of darkness.

Darkness of a spiritual kind brings poverty, injustice, disease, division, hatred, bitterness, pride, lewdness, slander etc. Ephesians 6, verses 10 and following tells us that we are to put on the whole armor of God and describes in detail just what that armor consists of--and why it is that we are putting on this armor. It is not so we can wage war against people ("flesh and blood" says the King James Version), but so we can effectively battle against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

We can debate theology and discuss just what that last part means and just what "darkness" is and who are the "evil spirits in heavenly places." That, however, is not the point of this post. The point is this--I am quite sure that this chapter DOES NOT refer to others in the "Body of Christ," the Church Universal--those who are my fellow believers in Christ Jesus. Perhaps they aren't? Of course. Going to church doesn't make one a disciple of the Lord. But who am I to say where someone else stands with the Lord because we disagree about something?
Yesterday, cleaning my office, I was distracted by a couple of old magazines. One, a charismatic publication, contained scathing letters to the editor because the magazine had dared to put Pope John Paul II on their cover and even write a positive article about him in the weeks following his passing.
Last week, looking for images, I used some some very innocent search terms about worship styles. I was horrified when what arose on my monitor was an extremely offensive picture of a feminine idol. The article accompanying the picture described, in vitriolic but educated-sounding terms, how those of us who lift our hands in worship are participating in pagan, dark, deceptive practices. Many scriptures were wrestled out of context to make this bizarre and scurrilous argument. I was well and truly shocked--and here I thought I had gotten past the point where some rant on the Internet could do that to me.

I've recently read derogatory and stereotypical remarks from mainline people about evangelicals and charismatics. I've also read or heard plenty of snide and prideful things from evangelicals about the "liberals' in the mainline branch--each side dismissing the other as if we do not have the same Lord.

Not long ago I posted a comment on the website of a minister known for his strongly patriarchal views. My comment was dismissed with the retort that my egalitarian words had about as much credibility as Mein Kamph or The Communist Manifesto. I was told that a woman pastor was a greater spectacle than a worship team where the women were flashing thighs and bellybuttons.

Recently one of our denominations district leaders was criticized for writing an excellent piece about how prayer could be written out beforehand when we pastors were participating in public gatherings, and why that was a good thing. Apparently someone took issue with the fact that he suggest that prayer could ever be anything but extemporaneous.

Have we lost our minds?
Malachi 6:8 succinctly instructs us about what God requires: "O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God."
And what about these instructions?
Galatians 5:14-16 "For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh."
And are we just choosing to ignore some of the final prayers of Jesus (in John 17) that his followers would be one with him and with the Father--and known in this world by their love and unity one with another?
This morning I attended the area ministerial meeting. Conversation turned to music styles and struggles with the pros and cons of contemporary versus traditional music. The consensus was that we wished we could have it all, beautifully and worshipfully and skillfully done, no matter whether the instrument is a pipe organ or an electric guitar or whether the singers are a robed choir or a jeans-clad praise team. We concluded that it wouldn't happen till we were worshipping in heaven.

As we sat around the table sipping coffee and later praying together and making plans for our ecumenical Good Friday worship service, I was struck with the diversity of the clergy. Two Catholic priests, two kinds of Lutherans, me (from the Assemblies of God), one Methodist, three from the United Church of Christ, and so on. This group has not always been trouble free. Our theology and our worship styles and our customs and our traditions differ widely. And yet, as I bowed my head and prayed for needs among the group and then as we recited The Lord's Prayer together, I was (once again) aware of the sweet presence and peace of God.
Loving my neighbor includes my neighbor from that "other church" too. My "enemy" who uses me spitefully should not be my fellow believer. And vice versa.
Dear God, help us, your quarrelsome children. We are brats sometimes, fighting and critisizing those within our own church families and lobbing grenades of misunderstaning and arrogance and foolish pride at those with whom we disagree--or who we just don't understand. Forgive me, gracious Lord, for the times I have spoken when I should have been silent, or when I have judged someone's heart. I am ashamed to realize how much pride lurks in my own heart. May we see the day when we are one in faith, a mighty army of the Lord, who the world knows are disciples of Jesus Christ because of how we love. Amen

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Uncle Josh Bought the Packer Outfit

Miss Trinity Ann was all decked out in pink Packer stuff to watch the Super Bowl. She is one month old.

Who's That Guy Over There?

Danny G. the Once and Future Methodist, admits in a comment below (to "No Women Need Apply") that he has attended not one but two Beth Moore studies! I am impressed (I mean it) and I applaud your comment, and your "masculinity" my friend! It is true that women attend video studies led by men, but men don't attend those led by women. Not in my experience. Beth M. is a wonderful teacher, and so why is she a "woman's teacher?"


Sunday, February 04, 2007

A Prayer Gathering

A few posts down I mentioned that this has been a week of prayer at Jubilee Assembly of God--and also a very difficult week for me. Friday evening we concluded with a prayer gathering that would begin at 7 but have no set ending time. I struggled with plans, hoping that my "down" mood would not affect others. A few hours before time to began I felt greater freedom, and ideas came for a very loosely structured time, praise, petition, communion.

I did not know what to expect, knowing that many who would have usually attended a time of prayer were out of town or unavailabe for other reasons.

Darren, our worship leader was already there when I arrived, quietly playing his guitar and singing. The cold was bitter. The temperature was below zero, and the moon shone in a clear night sky as cars begin to arrive, tires crunching on the snow. Inside, the sanctuary was warm and inviting. Candles glowed, and the light behind our wooden cross cast a soft light over the platform area. The turnout was not large, but as we gathered in a circle of chairs and began to sing, the presence of God, once again, seemed warm too. John and Kelly (our youth leaders), Deacons Pat and Jim, Jim's wife Phyllis, Aaron Jeremy, Jordan, Johnnie....and more. "Let the glory of the King rise among us..." we sang, and then the hymn, "O God, Our Help in Ages Past"--I was struck with the thought that without God's grace and enablement, we can't even worship as we desire to.

(The pictures are of Darren and Pat on a recent Sunday (morning.)

We took turns praying aloud for needs that we had mentioned to God all week long. Families, people in need, our community, our nations, our local church and pastor, the Assemblies of God, the universal Church, the nation, and the world. Then Darren led us in a second time of worship as we prepared to share communion. Cubes of Phyllis' wonderful, just- baked, bread sat on the altar plate, and a chalice sat next to it. I invited people to take the bread, but to give it to someone else and then to pray for that person. The time that followed was unhurried, and it was so sweet that the sense of love and unity was almost palpable. Then we took another piece for ourselves, dipped it in the cup and spent time praying in silence as we partook together in this ancient ritual of remembering Jesus' death and anticipatiing His return. Communion is always meaningful to me, but there was something so intimate about this setting, a small group of believers in a small church, sharing "bread and wine" by candlelight--and outside the dark and the wind and the cold.

Darren played a simple chorus, "Let it Rain" and once again the warm sense of God's presence was with us as we raised our hands (this comes easily to Pentecostals who are very used to it, even though at first it is difficult for newcomers) in a gesture of surrender to God. It almost did seem like warm water--the worship ebbed and built--and ebbed again. Some sat, some stood in silence with hands lifted or palms up, some knelt, some were prostrate. Several of our young people were there and we prayed for them. They dropped some of their usual shyness with the adults, and they joined us in singing, "Let it rain....let it the floodgates of Heaven..." The simple guitar and our voices were so beautiful--harmonious, and worshipful. There were times of silence, times of petition, times of exortation or encouragment, times of joyful praise and times of peace. You know how sometimes a prayer meeting can go on long past the time your mind left the scene? Not this night. We concluded at 10 p.m., aware that the cold was increasing and we'd better head home.

Some time back I posted about the presence of God. I asked people to comment about their experiences and some did. I'm still pondering it, over a year later. What is it that somehow seems to pull aside the curtain between our busy, distracting, physical reality and allows us a fuller glimpse of spiritual realities? I don't know. Was it the prayer that happened during the week? I don't know. It certainly was not that the pastor was full of excitment or expectation! I don't know why the "love of God poured out in our hearts" was so strong that it was almost more than I could bear at times. Was it the candlelight and the music? Those things help us focus perhaps, but not every candlelit service is as full of an awarness of God as this one was.

Perhaps that is exactly as it should be. Perhaps God wills it to be so in order that, once again, we are reminded that it is not about us or our plans, that God's ways are higher than ours, that the Holy Spirit is neither tame nor predictable. Praise be to God for those times, however!

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Friday Five -- Changes

From the Rev. Gals web ring: Many of the RevGals using Blogger are experiencing some chaos this week as they move from Old Blogger to New Blogger. (Is that anything like New Coke?) Change is a given in life, yet it's not easy for any of us. So strap on your seat belts and let's talk about it:

1. Share, if you wish, the biggest change you experienced this past year.

I was about to say becoming a grandma at last, but then I realized that this most wonderful occurrence happened this year, on January 7th. So I suppose it would be an internal change, which is fairly recent. I can't explain it, but something or things happened to me which made me sort of emotionally disconnected and struggling to focus. Somehow, that has changed, and I feel more like me than I have in a long while. This is a very good thing.

But since I mentioned Trinity Ann, Grandpa is driving to upstate Minnesota so stopped in at her house. I'm envious, but must share a picture. Why? Just 'cause I can. He was talking to me on the phone when our daughter took this picture this a.m. I could hear her making those little noises new babies make. Sigh.

2. Talk about a time you changed your mind about something, important or not.

I changed my mind about "roles." I threw out my ideas of what men should, could, oughta do, and what women should, could, oughta do. I refuse to use the phrases "men's roles" or "women's roles"--because I have had a major shift in my thinking which has changed everything, and I mean everything, in my life. It started a long time ago with wrestling with God's call on my life, but it continued on to affect my (our) marriage in very positive ways, and continued to allow me to see people in a new, fresh, and more free understanding. When a book uses the term, or a speaker, or I hear those phrases on the radio, etc. I have a pang of sadness and frustration, and I also thank God for the freedom I have found. Sometimes I pray for my brothers and sisters in Christ who are still in what I believe is bondage to an idea that they believe came from God. I look back and realize more and more how terribly constricting and NOT GODLY is the view of a large segment of the evangelical church world, even though I still "are one." Stamp out "gender roles." God never invented them. Instead, use the gifts and talents you have for the Kingdom, period. (Rolls, on the other hand, are just fine.... ba dum dump.)

3. Bishop John Shelby Spong wrote a controversial book called "Why Christianity Must Change or Die." Setting aside his ideas--what kind of changes would you like to see in the Church?

By all means, let's forget his ideas, as Quotidian Grace commented in her answers! However, I do believe in the title, to a point. Christianity will not die, but will weaken considerably if we do not change. I would like to see the Church, and I mean the people of the Church, truly and wholeheartedly seeking the heart of God. I would like the ministry, the work, the worship of the church to be the focus of more than just that famous 20%. If we would be in "one accord" in a real sense, we would change the world once again. Where is passion, love and conviction? I'm not talking about emotional responses, but deep faith that comes out in action. We are weak because many things are more important to us than seeking God's heart. For example, during this week of prayer I mentioned a couple of posts down, a tiny percentage of our congregation is taking part, it seems. The good thing is, some have come to the church to meditate and pray specifically every day, or almost. Ah, I'll get off the soapbox.

4. Have you changed your hairstyle/hair color in the last five years? If so, how many times?

Just once. It was too horrendous to do it again. I started getting gray hair at 15, and I started dying my hair in my 20s. I took the big step and let it go. I do look older, I know. And maybe I should have waited a few more years...but the dye is cast....or not cast...or....whatever.

5. What WERE they thinking with that New Coke thing?

They were trying to come up with something new to combat Pepsi's growing popularity, trying to be hip, and they changed for the sake of change itself. ALWAYS a mistake. Forget Coke. Go with Pepsi, even though this cartoon, which made me laugh out loud, says otherwise.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Nah, I'm Just Fine, Thanks

Today is a painful day. Not physically painful. It started as emotional pain. But isn't it "interesting" how emotional distress rather quickly shows up in physical symptoms sometimes? My tears, sadness and (okay, I admit it) anger of this morning rather quickly became a slighty painful and queasy stomach., an achy head and a general feeling of weakness, which has persisted all day, much to my chagrin. I sound like a hypochondriac, it seems! Well, no. I am aware that I am not sick, except "sick at heart."

I am attempting to do what I always tell my parishioners to do. (Pastor, counsel thyself?) That is, I am taking this emotional distress to God, trusting that something good can be made of it.

That is one of the things I love about God. Without faith, pain and misery are just plain old pain and misery. But God can transform these things into good somehow. I am not trying to sound like Pollyanna. I am thinking of the many emotional outbursts of the Psalmists.

Here's a sample. It's one of my favorites, Psalm 42, from the TNIV:

As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.

When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
"Where is your God?" ...

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.

My soul is downcast within me...
I say to God my Rock,
"Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?"

My bones suffer mortal agony
as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
"Where is your God?"...

Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.

Achy bones. Hmmm. That Psalm was written to the music director. How would you like to sing that on Sunday morning? It probably is more honest than some of the songs we do sing.

I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. I will not seek answers so much as I will seek God's heart.