Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Holy Spirit - A Hostage Situation

This week I've been welcomed back to the USA with a lovely church crisis. It really isn't so much a crisis as an over dramatized situation. Without going into details, there is a particular person in the church who once again believes that the leadership of the church is driving The Holy Spirit out of all things.

While it excites me to know that any single one of us could have such power, I was a bit disappointed. I was counting on The Holy Spirit to be there for me on Sunday; to talk to me through prayer; and frankly to help me with church drama. But since the HS has been taken hostage, I guess I can no longer rely on it for such things.

What a contrast to Vienna. In Vienna, people put their families before church drama. Things closed down by 2:00 pm on Saturday and everything was closed on Sunday. Not necessarily because they are overly religious but because they realize the value of slowing down and stopping to smell the roses (or taste the sausages, wine, and pastries).

I could easily see how someone could give up the church (or unknowingly God) just to have that ease of life. Church is not supposed to be difficult in this way. It isn't supposed to be a burden. It is supposed to be an extention of Christ's work and a place to renew your spirit, not a place to validate agendas and criticize lifestyles.

Fortunately I think the drama is short lived. There maybe some fallout from it but since I believe our mission is in the right direction, this will only be a bump in the life our our church. Things like this are why so many people don't go to church at all. I hope we can keep the drama down and the spirit high (that is if the HS ever comes out of negotiations).

Until Everyone Hears,

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Pious Porn - and other blog titles you'd prefer the Board of Ordained Ministry never saw

Did I mention I am in two small groups? I know that I write often about my Wed morning small group where we might discuss the difference between cannibalism and religious rituals. But I facilitate that group.

I'm in another group on Wed evenings that I just show up to. I love it. No prep. No pressure. It's also at my parents home so I feel all warm and fuzzy there anyway.

So this group is really exciting too. We are reading Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz. One of my favorites! And we have some great discussions. Oddly enough, it seems that when my morning group gets stuck on a particular issue that they want to explore more, my evening group discusses the same thing.

Last Wed we were talking about how Donald became a Navy Seal for Jesus. I've used the term before - Evangelical Terrorist. He basically went overboard with his faith to the point that he wasn't really him anymore.

On the opposite extreme, our facilitator has a friend that thinks that Christians should be more real and is advocating that Christians curse more in order to show that they are real. He calls it Cursing for Christ.

At this point the smart you-know-what in me says "Yeah I totally agree with that too. That's why I started my Internet porn web site!" I guess this is something that you really don't expect a pastor to say because people couldn't stop giggling about it for quite a while.

Now I don't know if the cursing dude really curses a lot anyway or if he's looking for an excuse to curse or if he genuinely just wants to reach out. But I feel that there's got to be a middle ground between Navy Seal and Pious Porn. There is such a fine line between Jesus saying "Go into the World" and him saying "Obey my teachings." It is really ridiculous (to clarify for the Board) that we should use Porn to reach people for Jesus but I do really get irritated when people think they need to be cookie cutter Christians in order to join the club.

Christianity is about a change of heart and being who God made you to be. It's loving God and loving others. I hope that I can be authentic as a pastor whether I curse or not. And I hope I never get to the extreme of Navy Seal for Jesus or a subscriber to the Pious Porn web-site.

Until Everyone Hears,
Dr. K

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hoop Jumping

Another enlightening and fulfilling morning was spent with my new discussion group (seeking group, small group etc). I love this group because nothing is off limits. Today part of the discussion centered around religious hoop jumping. Religious hoop jumping is a sport that many of us have been training for our entire lives. We practice jumping through the hoops and strive to win the medal and yet we never get to stand on the platform and say "I did it." Instead we just keep on jumping because that is what someone told us to do or because "its in the Bible" or because it "brings me closer to God."

Hoops are things such as prayer, baptism, communion, going to church, reading the Bible. Things that it may be assumed every "good Christian person" should do but aren't really explained all that well anymore. They've become rote. And those on the outside looking in want some more background as to why we do some of these silly rituals.

The question quickly came up, "If my belief and love of God is what I need to get into heaven, then do I need the hoops?" My answer was no. But this response quickly gets drowned out by the religious terrorists (think of the Church Lady) that make us believe that the hoops are mandatory.

For me, the hoops are a means of experiencing God. I don't always experience God through them but have at times. And I'll gladly jump again if it means I can just catch a glimpse of what God is. Just for the hope to see God again is worth the dizzy hooping I do.

On the other hand, some of my non-hooping activites help me to see God too. I see God almost daily when I go for a walk and I saw God today in the coffee-shop in the eyes of the women in my group.

Is the "Kingdom of God" near? At times I feel like heaven is on earth. At times I feel like I'm living in hell. And I've experienced both while jumping through hoops.

So should we stop jumping through hoops? Probably. But that doesn't mean we should give up things that help us experience God. I guess its up to each person what those may be.

Until Everyone Hears,

Monday, October 8, 2007

It's a bird. It's a plane. It's SUPER-TOURIST!!!

I'm going back to one of my favorite places in the world next week - Europe. And this time I'm going some place new. I have a friend whose husband was transfered to with the military this summer to Vienna, Austria. The best thing about having a friend like this is the excuse to go visit them but also get to see a whole new country.

Even though I've been planning to visit her since April (before she moved), I still wasn't as familiar with my European geography as I should be. I thought Austria was in between Germany and Switzerland but as it turns out it is actually next to Switzerland and underneath Germany. It is right on the boarder of Eastern and Western Europe. Not that the actual location really matters. But I've never been this far East before in my life!

Last week I sat down with my travel planning resources (the internet) and mapped out what I really wanted to see. Vienna has two palaces, many cathedrals, a river, really old famous dead people's houses, mueseums, interactive stuff, great opera and classical music, great pastry cafes, other cool yet different food, and a whole lotta people that don't speak English (and quite a few who do). And of course I don't want to miss any of it!

So I've got to squeeze in an entire city, its culture, and its history in 5 days. I think I can do it. I know I'm up to it! I have this tendancy at time to want to squeeze every moment out of life for just a few days and then I crash when I'm done. I will probably come home and do absolutely nothing until Halloween. In fact part of my trip preparation is to do everything I would have done during those week right now. That way I'll be up to date.

So in a few weeks expect many blogs on how I'm now a refined Viennese informant (wait that doesn't sound right - perhaps: knows a bit about Vienna chick?). I should be able at the very least to tell you the highest point and what the view was like, what type of architecture the biggest cathedral is, and where you can get the best gelato and/or pastry.

Until Everyone Hears,
Guten Tag!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Seeking Group

My small group met again today and this time it wasn’t a really small group. Today there were five of us so we really got the ball rolling. It was amazing! We kind of all knew at least one person there but we aren’t what I’d call “tight”, but our discussions were very open, very quickly. I’m not sure if it was that the participants knew that the others weren’t committed to an established church or if they just felt comfortable for other reasons, but it has taken churchy small groups that I’ve been in months to get to the point this small group was at in five minutes.

You see churchy people think that they need to be churchy. They think they need to follow the rules. They believe they have sinned when they questions things like God, the Bible, established religion, or church leaders. Maybe some don’t think this but the “social mirror” we project is that questioning authority in a religious sense is not a good thing so churchy people are slow to do so.

This small group, on the other hand, was all about the questioning. Here’s just a snippet of some of the things we discussed:

• Why should I trust the Bible that was written so long ago by people we aren’t even sure wrote it or not?
• Also why should I trust the Bible that obviously contracts itself at various places?
• People seek God to find a purpose in life.
• I don’t see that people who are religious have anything better off than non-religious people.
• I know that I’m seeking something, I just have so many questions.
• Why is God the thing that is greater than ourselves that we seek? Why not family, community, other rituals?
• Isn’t religion a social construct that evolves as groups of people merge together?
• I don’t see how the Trinity can be separate but equal.
• How can people take the Bible so literally? I have a friend that won’t believe dinosaurs existed.
• I see all religions as a set of hoops that you have to jump through.
• Why are churches changing what they do in order to reach new people? Are they saying what they did before was wrong? Why does theology need to change?

We also covered topics such as choosing happiness, let go and let God, finding peace by doing good, “ruining” your child by not taking them to church, evangelical terrorists (having religion forced upon you), good people vs bad people vs religious and non religious, and a host of other things.

I feel like I’m beginning the next phase of who God called me to be. I so desperately want to tell them all everything I believe, but I know that they need to find out more about their own beliefs for themselves. I hope to answer so many of their questions, but I know from experience that even if I do they’ll have even more questions about their answers.

This is one of those times when I have to trust God and trust the women in this group. These are highly intelligent and deeply spiritual women who are just seeking to understand. I am there as a guide. To use my knowledge and resources to help them discover truth in a world that is constantly lying to them, fulfillment in a world with much emptiness.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Fearlessly Make Known

Eph 6:19 Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel,

I keep reading these words over and over this week as I prepare for a sermon on Sunday. Everytime it strikes me as odd that the writer of most of the New Testament, Paul, had to overcome fears about opening his mouth. Was he scared that he'd say something anti-gospel? Did he think his words would make the gospel more mysterious instead of more known? Did he think that he'd be speechless? Did he fear that his words would end him up in jail or dead (he was apparantly already in jail when he wrote this)?

What do we fear when we think of sharing the good news of Christ? Do we fear social rejection of being a "radical"? Do we fear that we'll get the information wrong? Do we fear that our beliefs aren't as strong as they should be?

Fear holds our actions hostage and often causes us to do nothing when we really know we should. So to fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel means that we share the good news with great passion and excitement. We share with the mission as primary in our hearts and put this before all else.

How can we overcome fear? Prayer. We have to believe that God will give us the words. We have to believe that we are not alone in this. We have to believe in the power of prayer.

When we join the church we promise to uphold it with our prayers, presence, gifts, and service. If the mission of the church is to make disciples, then our prayer for the church is to "make disciples." To pray for the people (including ourself) that we can "fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel."

Keep praying. And may your fears melt away with every conversation with God.

Until Everyone Hears,
Dr. K

Social Mirrors

I've just come across a few more great quotes to add to my list.

1) "Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is; treat a man as he can and should be, and he will become as he can and should be." - Goethe
2) "Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least." - Goethe

No I haven't been reading Goethe's Greatest Hits. I've been reading a book by Stephen Covey called "Principle-Centered Leadership." In it, Covey talks about how people project a "social mirror" on us. Basically what other people think about us can affect how we see ourselves and therefore how we act.

This has gotten me to thinking a)what do people think of me or see me as and b) what do I think people see me as? Some people don't like me and I have no idea why. Others like me even though we have absolutely nothing in common. My hope is that every person has a different image of me. I feel that I have so many different aspects of who I am that I can't possibly have ONE image that I project to people. But the brutal (to me) reality is that if you asked the majority of people who know me, they'd all use similar adjectives to describe me.

I feel that I'm such an enigma that people should have a positive image of me but not be able to describe me in words. "Indescribable" would be a great adjective that I could be satisfied with. Part of the reason this appeals to me is that I feel that I've changed so much in my 35 years. I'm gained so much intellect and maturity. I've also learned that I can't wear white socks with loafers (or really wear loafers at all anymore) and orange is not really my best color. So you can see why I get a bit offended when I see someone from High School or that I haven't seen in a while and they tell me "Wow! You haven't changed a bit!". I'd rather they say, "Wow! You've changed so much - for the better!"

So as I try to acheive my daily goals 1) have fun 2) learn something 3) respect myself and others, I hope that I'm breaking the social mirror of what others say I am or should be. Maybe that's the way to do it - if you define who you are others can't do it for you. And if I'm learning something new everyday, then I'm constantly re-defining who I am based on what I learn and therefore I should acheive "indescribable" status. (at least I can hope!)

Until Everyone Hears,
Dr. K

The Trickster

There is a character in most folklore known as the trickster. The Trickster at first seems to be a bad character. Who really wants to be tri...