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?”

How to Pray | Matthew 6:5-8

Do you bow your head submissively, or do you lift your face & hands to the heavens?

When given The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6, we’re told to pray in private:

5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

There are probably just as many references in the Bible to bowing in submission as there to lifting up faces and hands. When you raise both of your hands and hold them out, palms up, in private, what do you feel? If you’re out of shape, you probably tire quickly. :) But seriously, you may not feel much of anything. If you’re not too self-conscious to raise them in a group or in church, what do you feel? Exposed? Vulnerable? I do!

I understand that bowing our heads shows that we acknowledge that we are weak and the Lord reigns over us. There’s a place for that. When confessing our sins and praying for forgiveness, sure! When bringing requests to God in prayer (as in praying for the sick), we humble ourselves before Him by bowing our heads to show that we accept His will. When praising God, I can totally see lifting up our hands and faces to Him. Here’s an interesting article on “How We Pray“.

Bowing our heads, closing our eyes, and folding our hands may feel like hiding (praying in private). I get that. Lifting hands is hard for many because it’s out of their comfort zones. I get that, too. It’s easy to get “swept away” if you let go and just lift your hands, though. There’s an energy that fills you completely when you lift your hands in prayer. No matter what your beliefs are, you can’t deny this. Whether it’s the Holy Spirit filling us or other energy that runs through all existence in ways we will never understand, it is there. Either way, I believe it’s possible that it’s all one and the same.

Texas Hold ‘em | Poker Night with Fellow Christians

The Lord did not say, “Thou shalt not gamble!”

We are warned against greed, the love of money, and being irresponsible with what God gives us. These things become a huge issue with those addicted to gambling. It’s true. However, if you have limits which you adhere to and cheerfully put a large percentage (if not all) of your winnings in the offering pot as it comes by, there is no sin being committed by taking part in a poker game once per month with fellow Christians! Greg and I are a part of Colorado Christian Cardplayers 4 Christ poker league. We know and adhere to our limits and cheerfully place our winnings (if we win) into the offering pot!

Last night, I placed 3rd. Had to represent the ladies! Hollah! So I walked away with $20. I put 50% of that into the offering pot this morning, and am using the other 50% for my movie ticket to see Burlesque with my girles today.

Do not attempt to adjust your monitor. It is snowing on my blog. ‘Tis the season!

 

Putting Trust in God | One in a Million Women’s Study: Session 3

It will all work out.

We tend to try and manipulate situations so they will turn out the way we want them to, even if this means working through and dealing with some pretty rotten and tough times. We are impatient. When things don’t go our way, we tend to whine and complain. We need to shut up and listen. Sometimes we just need to step off and wait. Sometimes there’s a different plan for us. The people being led out of Egypt had this complaint in Exodus 14:10-12:

10 As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the LORD. 11 They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!””

Like them, we tend to think we’d be better off suffering through hard times or staying in a bad situation just so we can try and control things and make them work out the way we want. Never mind that this could make for a lifetime of unhappiness. If we would only be still … stand still … and be patient. Open our eyes and see what God is doing in our lives right now. Even when we think He has abandoned us because all seems positively wretched at the moment, He is working in our lives. Don’t just focus on the one thing that has taken center stage at this moment in your life; step back and look at the entire stage … the entire theatre. Take off your blinders and pay attention to everything. Exodus 14:13-14 goes on…

13 Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.””

I’m still not in a place where I am willing to let Him carry me (fight for me) because I don’t visualize it this way. I do accept that there is something greater than me and it is within me as well. I can even believe this to be a spirit. I’ve felt the profound effect but for some reason, I fight it. This profound effect isn’t that far off from the people you see on TV where the preacher is thumping them on the head casting out evil spirits and they’re crying out and falling on the floor. I’m not kidding! I think that between the stigma of that being “crazy” and totally unbelievable, staged, or fake and the simple fact that I would be handing over control, I’ve found my hang up with the whole thing.

It will be interesting to see where this journey leads me.

Worry Addressed in the Bible

Matthew 6:25-34

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Oh, to be a bird in the air or a flower growing in a field! But we’re not. However, the human ideal of what we must do to survive – no … to merely exist is blown entirely out of proportion fed by desire alone. All forms of media tell us we must have the latest and greatest gadgets, and we must dress in the finest clothes and wear the finest, most expensive jewels. Do you ever wonder why trends change? Money! Those who are easily molded into the epitome of the latest look have spent as much money as they’re going to on achieving that look. So a new look must be fashioned. Wanting to be accepted or noticed, those same people will give away or sell their old stuff and purchase new stuff. A lot of my stuff, I’m not ashamed to say, comes from Target, Walmart, Ross, and Marshalls. I’m not one to go out and buy something from an expensive store in a mall just because Peggy Sue Mergatroid is wearing the exact same thing. I seriously don’t get that way of thinking anyway. Why would I want to wear something just because someone else is wearing it? I want to wear things that look and feel good on me. “Oh, but it’s all the rage!” you say? And your point is…?

That may have strayed a bit from the verses above, but I felt the urge to express that thought!

My next thought is on verse 34 alone: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” This is where most people stop with that verse, but it continues: “Each day has enough trouble of its own.” So this is not telling us to just live our lives carefree or willy-nilly thinking that God will make sure our needs are met. We do have to tend to today and what is right in front of us. Unlike when Scarlett said, “I won’t think about that today. I’ll think about it tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day.”, this isn’t a free pass to procrastinate or push all your cares away until it’s more convenient for you to deal with them. Tomorrow holds it’s own trouble, but you do have to deal with today’s troubles today.

Proverbs 12:25

25 Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.”

Worrying makes us anxious, and if you stop and pay attention to how you’re feeling when you’re in the midst of worrying about something, you will notice that your heart literally feels weighed down. You’ve all heard it described as a weight on one’s chest, right? Well, there ya go! Likewise, when you’re happy, you feel as if your heart is floating in your chest. Which would you rather feel a majority of the time?

Philippeans 4:6-7

6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

When you’re anxious, you tend to fear the worst possible outcome of whatever the situation may be. If you take the time to really think about it all, really put everything into proper perspective and count your blessings, then you’ll find that things generally don’t look quite so bad anymore. Remember what Maria sang to the Von Trapp kids about remembering her favorite things? Well that kind of positive thinking actually works! The peace of God truly does transcend all understanding. I don’t understand it myself, which is something I struggle with just accepting without needing to understand it. What helps me is this: I know that each who believes has been given the gift of the Holy Spirit to live and dwell within us. If you are of a faith that believes in a triune God, then you must know that this means God Himself is within us. I’m just going to let that one sit there.

Peace!

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.

Reflecting on 2010

There is one blog post of mine that I see viewed repeatedly more than another other:  Hello 2010 – Do the Tao!

It’s interesting to read that now and to reflect on 2010 as we draw near to its end. Like so many other things I start in my life, studying Taoism fell by the wayside. I have, however, remained consistent with my struggle with faith. Like so many other things, this one came back to bite me in the ass in the second half of this year in the form of some pretty hefty life-changing events. A test of faith? An eye opener? A testament to the size of my ass? I mean really … how many things can possibly bite me there? (My apologies if my language offends anyone – just keeping it real.)

I’ve come to believe that philosophy and religion can, and most definitely do, go hand in hand. So my latest mission is to to give both a fair shake and pay attention to just how well these two things play together.

A Letter to God Regarding Time

Dear God,

I was wondering if I might put in a request for the addition of one day to the week? I know it would completely obliterate the original story in Genesis, but perhaps we could revise the Bible to say that on the seventh and eight day, you rested. Technically, on our seventh day, we don’t completely rest because we have to get up early and rush to get ready to gather in Your house to for worship and fellowship. An eighth day would be marvelous to be able to sleep in and just lounge about the house the entire day.

This wouldn’t change work or school schedules of course! Work and school would still only be five days per week. We would have a three-day weekend, though. How many times do you hear pleas for more hours in a day? So give us a whole 24 hours more and call it a day!

Amen