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.

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.

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.

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.