Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain


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Addicted to God

When we became a Christians it was because we loved God and we loved Jesus.  Our pastors and the Bible promised us that they loved us first.  After all, Jesus had sacrificed himself for us and for all mankind.  God loved us enough to give us breath and then he loved us enough to make provision for our sinfulness.  Not only that he made the sun, the moon, the stars, the earth and everything in it for our use and pleasure.  Though we never actually heard his voice, though we never saw him we knew he was there because his word told us so.  We believed.  That’s right, love was the reason for it all.

What next? Now that we were Christians what were we supposed to do?  Read our Bibles, pray, and go to Church?  We did.  Faithfully.  Beyond that what was there?  Reading the Bible and praying and going to Church didn’t seem to be enough.  If we were truly in a relationship with Jesus shouldn’t it change us?  A reading of the New Testament tells that is so.  Change us it did.

John 15:5 says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”  We took that to heart and let that shape our thinking.  Apart from Jesus we could do nothing. And for the most part we didn’t without consulting him in prayer.  In addition Matthew 22:37 says, “Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” The Bible is literal, right?  We did our best to love God with all our hearts, souls and minds.  It’s the greatest commandment, isn’t it? Well, what does that mean?  To love God like that? According to John 14:14 Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” If we were a part of the fundamentalist Christian movement we believed that “He must increase; I must become decrease.” John 3:30 and that The first will be last and the last will be first.” Matthew 20:16

We learned that we couldn’t or shouldn’t do anything without God.  Our wisdom? What wisdom?  None apart from God.  Our strength?  What strength?  We have none.  Our hearts?  What hearts? They belong to God.  In every way we diligently tried to conform to the will of God.  This is all supposed to be our joy to do.  Each time we handed over another piece of ourselves to God we were delighted.  Why were we delighted?  Because we thought we were delighting Him.  We thought we were pleasing the Almighty Himself.  What greater joy could there be?

In the beatitudes we are exhorted thusly, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:3-11

We are to be completely enmeshed in God, believing His every promise.  God has found lost little us and we have gained heaven.  We are to allow the Holy Spirit, with whom we’ve been baptised, live through us to be gentle, to learn His ways, to show mercy, to remain pure, to keep the peace and to be the bigger person. It is no longer us, but Christ who lives in us (Galatians 2:20).  We are meant to have no will of our own, no thoughts of our own, no things of our own.  Not only are we supposed to be this obedient to God, but to any authority he has placed over us.  Parents, husbands, pastors, teachers, employers.  Give ourselves.  Give our all.  To serve, to please, to help, and to take care of others. We became rescuers, martyrs, the persecuted and persecutors.

Now we have a hard time knowing what we like, what we want, how we feel.  We feel guilty when we put ourselves first, when we make a priority of taking care of us, and meeting our own needs.  We second guess ourselves because we’re not supposed to trust our own judgement. Many of the patterns and characteristics of codependents fit us to a tee.   Because that is what we were and maybe still are.  We were in a one-sided relationship where the other wanted all our attention, praise, and efforts.  It is an unhealthy way to relate to another.  And yet, as Christians, that is what we are told we must be to please God.

We cannot be ourselves.  Not until we develop some healthy boundaries which then make the relationship untenable.  Slowly but surely the distance in the relationship grows larger and it dies.  But we have not. A miracle has happened. We have broken free.

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A Pair O’ Ducks

Cute, ain't they?

Doubting your faith is a curious thing.  The farther I go the curiouser it gets.  Here are just some of the conclusions I’ve come to:

Jesus is a historical figure.  He was a real man who walked the earth, got his feet dirty, lived and died just like everyone else.

The virgin birth and the resurrection are quite unlikely.  For all of apologetics’ “most likely” scenarios, these two are not it.  I suppose if there was a God who could speak the earth and all of it’s wonders and inhabitants into being, He could make those things happen. Which brings me to :

I don’t believe that a God spoke the earth and all of it’s wonders and inhabitants into being.  He didn’t paint the sunsets or draw the stars in the heavens.

God didn’t part the Red Sea or cause a global flood or send plagues on the Egyptians.

The Bible contains some historically accurate information, but is not historically accurate, nor is it inerrant, nor is it a sacred, holy text.  It provides some valuable moral insights, but no more so than any other religious text or even a Disney film for that matter.  The Golden Rule isn’t exactly a watershed moral movement.

Even having come to those conclusions, and though I am currently unchurched, I still feel sad when I think about the prospect of never going to church again.  Not only that I feel a bit melancholy when I think about not teaching the children I don’t yet have about the love of Jesus, or not taking them to Sunday School, or not having them attend Vacation Bible School.

Kind of a weird pair o’ ducks, eh?


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Self Revelation

I had my agnostic brother and my sister who says she’s Christian over for dinner the other night.  We had a great time and got into some pretty deep conversations that were interesting and fun.  We got off on politics and that led to the local school system.  My sister seems to think the downfall of the local public school system is the lack of a prayer/devotional time like we used to have in the good ole days.  Never mind that some students had to excuse themselves and stand in the hallway during that time. 

My brother and I both seemed to agree that the downfall was a lack of parental involvement and discipline.  It used to be that when you  got into trouble at school you knew you’d get into trouble at home, too, if it became too much of a problem for the school to deal with.  None of us ever had that problem because we knew that if the teacher had a talk with mom and dad we’d be dead meat.  Now days if a child gets into trouble at school the parents go down to the school and rip two trips off the teacher for having the audacity to discipline their child.  That is if the the teacher can actually get in touch with a parent.  In our little community there are probably a good 60 percent or more of students who are being raised by a grandparent, an aunt or their older siblings.  It’s not pretty.  I digress…

At some point during the conversation my brother in law said, “When I was a kid I knew if I got a paddling at school I was going to get it when I got home, too.”  My parents didn’t have that rule.  They generally allowed the school to handle our discipline while we were there.  If the school couldn’t handle it, if we became so unruly that the teacher had to make a call home, then they’d get involved and we definitely did not want that.  In the spirit of us being independent and able to take care of ourselves our dad had an additional rule.  He’d better not hear of us starting a fight, but if someone started one with us we’d better defend ourselves.  “Don’t come home crying to me about it.  If somebody else starts it you better finish it.”  That’s what my dad always said.  The only time I can remember getting into trouble at home for something that happened at school was the time a boy bit me on the school bus and I came home crying about it.  My dad asked me what I did about it and I told him nothing.  I got into trouble for not taking up for myself.

Kids being kids I got bullied a little – not a lot – in school.  My older sister took up for me usually.  She looked at me and said, “You’ve always been like that; letting people run all over you.  Why are you like that? You never took any crap off of me.”  She’s pretty feisty.  Kind of like John Wayne toilet paper, that one.  Rough and tough and doesn’t take any crap off of anyone.

The truth is I’d rather be hurt than do the hurting.  That has caused me to be a doormat in the past.  Clearly she’s puzzled by that. Clearly we weren’t raised that way.  I’m not sure why I’m like that, but I know that I am.  I try to steer clear of confrontational situations.  I hate the thought of injuring someone else whether it be their pride, their feelings or their person. 

I’m learning, though.  It’s hard, but I’m learning.  Sparing someone else isn’t always the best thing – for me or them.  I’m learning to take up for myself.  Who knows?  Before I’m done I may have a little John Wayne in me, too.