Beautiful, Part 1 | Church

Watch this. No, seriously! Watch this!

Don’t be afraid to comment. If you make it through the first 15 minutes, that’s about the point where you might be able to make out someone saying “Dude!” (that would be me). Yes, I said “Dude!” during a sermon at Elevation Church.

That’s what’s kind of cool about this church (besides the fact that the tattooed pastor wears jeans and plaid shirts). You don’t have to sit there all prim & proper. They affectionately call themselves, “the church of the jacked up“.

I still have my issues with the whole faith thing, but there HAS to be something more out there – karma, cosmic energy, fate, or an omnipresent being we call God. There’s still a big part of me that thinks people need so desperately to give fate a name (God) or that they can’t accept that things happen as they are going to happen and leave it at that.

However… there are moments like Sunday that reach out and slap me in the face and make me wonder. I mean really spooky like. That sermon was going to happen whether we were there or not, and it had been planned in advance. We learned something rather sensitive about someone dear to us the day before, and that very thing was touched on in this sermon. I wasn’t even planning on attending until two hours before the service started!

Karma? Fate? Coincidence? Or did this supernatural entity we call God put us there to hear this?

I know exactly why I can’t just let go and believe by faith alone that God exists. I don’t like to be vulnerable. I like to be in control. I don’t want anyone to see me get caught up in something that isn’t grounded – that isn’t hard fact – that doesn’t let ME drive the bus! Honestly, I’m a little jealous of those who are comfortable lifting their hands in worship. This may sound wacky, but to do so exposes armpits, and I am extremely ticklish! To do so exposes more than that, though. It exposes my soul. I’m not comfortable with that.

Agnosticism, Skepticism, Pick an ‘ism’ | Evidence

The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict

This is the fairly large book by Josh McDowell that I found in my closet the other day. I remember buying it years ago when the left side of my brain took over and started looking for proof of many things in the Bible. I was already embarking on other Bible studies and reading the entire Bible cover to cover, though. By the time I finished those, I was satisfied … for a while.

I read “A Case for Christ” and was also satisfied with this historical facts listed in that book. I believe Jesus existed, and he was a good man. What I still struggled with were the supernatural acts of a being that no one could see, hear, or touch, and that this being was Jesus’s father and also Jesus himself. Immaculate conception???

So I picked up “A Case for a Creator” and was overwhelmed because it was a much harder read than the other book. I never finished it and have no idea what happened to either book. So I’m hoping that this Evidence book will fill in some blanks for me.

The series of posts I write while reading this book will be called “Evidence”, and it will be a place where I share my questions, feelings, doubts, answers, and revelations. My first question that I even jotted down right in the book after reading the author’s note in the beginning is this…

Why do people need to rely on something (God, Jesus, etc.) to be a loving, forgiving, generous, unselfish person? It is possible to be all of these things without believing in something you can’t see, touch, or know is real.

Josh (the author) said it himself in his note…

How could something as flimsy as Christianity stand up to an intellectual examination?

This is something very personal, and I know there are a lot of people out there who think you shouldn’t discuss “religion”. I think they’re wrong. You probably shouldn’t push your own beliefs on others, but there’s nothing wrong with discussing religious or spiritual beliefs. So feel free to reply to any post in this series with your thoughts, insight, or questions. {All replies are subject to approval. Any blatant attacks on other comments will not be approved. I invite healthy, civilized discussion only.}

I want to describe where I stand going into this study, but I don’t know how to explain thoroughly enough and still keep it brief or easy to follow. My mind is hyperactive!

OK, so I’ve already mentioned my struggle with the supernatural-ness of it all. My mind wanders to all the cults out there and how people say they’re so bad. People are easily swept into believing all sorts of things that Christians say are false. How do I know Christianity isn’t also a cult? I’m not saying it is! Don’t get your panties in a bunch! I know it’s so much bigger than any other following, but it clearly has many of the same characteristics of what we call cults.

My biggest issue with organized religion is the recitation of creeds in unison to profess our faith. These things are not in the Bible. Why do we have to do this? The Lord’s Prayer is in the Bible. I have no issue reciting that one in unison.

Then there’s the belief that “the Lord will provide”. This is even straight from the Bible, but it’s certainly tossed around by many. How do we know this supernatural being will provide? What if things turn out how they do simply because that’s how they were going to turn out – period? If God knows the number of our days and knows what will happen, then how can prayer change things? Those two things are contradictory. If we change things through prayer, then what God already knew would happen isn’t going to happen that way anymore. Is your head spinning yet? Do you have an answer for that one? Where does this free will come into play if He has already planned our days? Do we have a point A and point B in place but alter that path along the way by our own free will? Is that how it works?

These are just a few of the things I psychoanalyze. How do I know the whole concept of God isn’t purely psychological? The power of suggestion is a just that – a powerful thing! Couldn’t the idea of a Holy Spirit dwelling within us be a powerful psychological suggestion?

To the other extreme, science would have us believe that humans began as an amoeba and slowly evolved over time. They also have said that we evolved from apes. If so, then why are they still in existence? However, if you think about how life develops now from two single cells that join together and create an entire body full of vital organs and an elaborate central nervous system in just nine months, there’s no denying how amazing that is!

I see how happy and content people with strong faith are; how full of joy they are. I want that. I also see how uncomfortable some people are around those who are exuberantly overflowing with their love of Christ. I don’t want to make people feel uncomfortable. Then I see the worst – people who call themselves Christians but turn their backs on people who don’t believe exactly what they believe. I can’t accept that. Love others as you love yourself. Live as Jesus lived. I don’t remember reading anything about Jesus turning his back on anyone. If I’m wrong, please give me chapter and verse so I can look it up.

Now that I’ve laid this all out here, it should be interesting to document what I learn from this book, which is technically not a true book but a compilation of notes prepared for the author’s lecture series, “Christianity: Hoax or History?”

Session 2 Video Day | One in a Million Women’s Study

I threw on sweats, ran a brush through my hair, and made it just a couple minutes late for the video today. Since the group leader (pastor’s wife) is out today, there was no discussion at all – just the video. I think a little bit of discussion amongst ourselves would have been good. I have all these thoughts and questions in my head, and no one can answer them. I felt invisible today. I also felt like the biggest hypocrite in the room. With the doubts I have, why should I be there? Do I deserve to be there? I don’t know. Am I the only one who feels this way? Is anyone even reading this?

Today Priscilla talked about God leading the people out of Egypt. I believe she’s getting at the path He laid out for them, which apparently was not a straight line. She pointed out that God’s path may not be the one we’ve chosen and asked if we would go with Him anyway. Philosophically, things will go as they will go as we do without doing (the Wu-Wei principle). So I guess we are to go with Him without question. I can even pull Newton into this. Newton’s third law says, “To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction.” This refers to motion, of course, but isn’t life always in motion?

Religion tells us that there’s something God wants us to see about ourselves when things don’t go according to our own plan. He’s pointing something out to us. I tend to get hung up on trying to figure out what that is. If we have a watchfulness and quietness of mind to begin with, perhaps this wouldn’t be so hard. Perhaps we wouldn’t have the need or desire to align ourselves so rigidly to such plans and goals. If we just go along and let life unfold as it will, we can live in harmony. In practicing non-action, noting remains undone.

When things go off without a hitch for so long, we feel in control. It’s our own plan. This is what we want, the way we want to live. If something shatters that plan, we crumble. OK, so we hit a brick wall and have fallen on our asses. OUCH! That wasn’t in the plan, but it happened. Now what do we do about it? Do we sit there nursing our wounds blaming everyone else? NO! We get off the ground, evaluate the situation, adjust our course, and move on. In evaluating the situation, perhaps we’re seeing that something about ourselves that God’s trying to point out. When adjusting our course, we have no idea where God is leading – we just go. If it’s not right, I suppose we’ll hit another brick wall and fall on our asses yet again. Rinse and repeat! But I’m contradicting myself. Letting life unfold may mean a road that leads uphill sometimes and downhill others, but there shouldn’t be brick walls.

I wasn’t paying attention recently, and I guess I jumped in a rail car to ride downhill with my eyes closed. I reached the end of that track and had to get out to climb a mountain – nearly straight up. I reached a level where I no longer need to search for footholds, but I’m still climbing a fairly steep grade.

Fittingly, the song playing on Pandora through my Galaxy S is “Jump” by Madonna. I’m ready to jump!

Cool Parkour in the video by the way.

Don’t you just love my ADD mind???

One in a Million, by Priscilla Shirer | Women’s Study | What’s My Stronghold?

I joined a video & workbook based study group on this “One in a Million” series because the description in the newsletter read:

” “One In a Million” – Do you hear about the power and greatness of God, but seldom experience it? This six-week, video-based study features Priscilla Shrier, author, Bible teacher, and conference speaker, as she helps us to understand how to experience His power, hear His voice, and live in the abundance He promises.”

That sounded exactly like what I needed right now. I want to know how to experience His power, hear His voice, and live in the abundance He promises. So the first video was OK, but the five days of homework in the workbook wasn’t what I expected. It focused on understanding what’s holding us back from a closer walk with God. Many questions tried to get us to single out lifestyle sins standing in the way. Maybe I’m not understanding this because I ran through the list of “thou shalt nots” in my head and seriously couldn’t think of anything.

I don’t have any other “gods” before Him.
I don’t worship idols I’ve made myself.
I occasionally say “God damn it!” and more than occasionally say “Oh my God!” (Is that taking His name in vain?)
I’m not great at keeping the Sabbath day holy.
I honor my parents – I have respect for them and love them but also have my own mind.
I don’t murder.
I don’t commit adultery, nor do I even think of it.
I don’t steal.
I don’t bear false witness against my neighbor.
I don’t covet anything my “neighbor” has. I’m quite satisfied with what I have.

So what am I missing. I don’t understand what she means by “lifestyle” sin. What choices am I making that would be a sinful hindrance to my walk with God? My main problem is that I struggle with handing absolutely everything over to a “power” and “presence” that I can’t see, feel, touch, or truly know. This is where the Tao makes more sense to me. It’s logical. It’s not evil, and nowhere does it express that God does not exist.

The next newsletter had this description for the study:

“God has abundant life waiting for those who allow Him to take the lead in daily living. ―One in a Million is an opportunity for you to experience your deliverance from strongholds, to conquer your wilderness living, and to claim your God-given inheritance.”

I suppose I do have some sort of stronghold. I think it’s just my own mind trying to analyze and make sense of what I can’t see. Good and bad exist. I can understand that. Yin and Yang – there’s a balance. When you translate it into supernatural beings, God and Satan, I have trouble grasping that as fact.

Curiosity is killing this cat. We missed church this morning because we’re sluggards! But I’m going to get dressed and go to this class. I want to see where this is going and if I can figure out my invisible stronghold.

Does Strife + God Make Sense?

I just found out that the person who first trained me at my current job has decided to leave the company after her position was eliminated. Supposedly, the parent company did try to offer some other position(s), but she didn’t feel it was right for her.  In her email to all of us saying goodbye, she quoted this verse:

Jeremiah 29:11-13 … “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Well, she quoted Jer 29:11, but I like the next part as well. It seemed to fit our own situation perfectly. You see, we recently started attending church after a year (give or take) of not going due to work schedules.

Here’s what’s more interesting. I got my “V8″ moment in August 1997. That’s when I accepted Christ in my life. Things were looking pretty grim on the financial homefront. We then tried a church that completely freaked Greg out because it was pretty contemporary. What I didn’t care for is that they required children to go to separate classes and not attend church with us, which was equally traumatic for them. Soon after, we were presented with the opportunity to move into Greg’s sister’s house free of rent to “house sit” while they were temporarily transferred to another state. What a great opportunity to get our finances sorted out and save for a new house.

We found a Presbyterian church near that house and started attending and tithing what we could (more on that in a bit). Before we knew it, Greg was offered a promotion, which meant relocating to Denver! Thank you, Jesus!

Cut to recent events after all this time not gathering in His house and leaning on Him. We’ve had a lot of crap handed to us with Greg’s job loss and the medical issues we’re dealing with that I still can’t go into detail on (but would love to for the support)! After the first week of being in prayer and gathering in His name again at Peace With Christ Lutheran Church, Greg was referred for a job running the Denver operation of a transportation company (name withheld for now). Yes, running it! No boss hanging over him here. After our second week of leaning on the Lord, Greg has now had his first and second interviews for this company. We are cautiously optimistic at this point.

This is where the honesty comes in when I reveal that I’m also cautiously optimistic about religion. It’s true! My walk may be closer by His side again, but I haven’t fully let Him carry me. I can’t explain my feelings about the whole thing. I’ve been told that it’s not about feelings; it’s about faith. I’m bad at that part! You’d think that the evidence would be clear to me at this point looking at the history outlined above, right? It does have my attention at least. I’m trying.

I said I’d mention more about tithing, so here it is… What I don’t understand is how God will take care of the rest if you give Him your “first fruits”. If we gave 10%, we would default on debt payments and end up in trouble with them, which is very, very bad! Am I to believe that if I gave 10% of my income in tithing that my debt would miraculously disappear? I don’t think the credit card companies were sent that memo. For those who have been wise with their money, I absolutely believe tithing would not be a difficult thing to do. That’s really all I have to say about that. We will do what we can.

Before I could even finish this post, Greg walked in to tell me they had already called him back and offered him the job! He starts on Monday! They are putting together all the details to email to him this afternoon. I guess now I can tell you where … Matheson Postal Services. It’s very near UPS in Commerce City, so no change in commute.

Times of strife were small potatoes while we were “religiously” attending church and tithing what we could. When not attending, that strife was more like two ton boulder sized potatoes. I’d say that’s enough to make me pay more attention to the path I’m supposed to be walking instead of trying to make my own path.