Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Things We Can't Keep Straight...

People love you the most for the things you hate
And hate you for loving the things you can't keep straight

-Derek Webb, "This Too Shall Be Made Right," The Ringing Bell

Like any discussion of theology we spend a lot of time here drawing lines and arguing and, to be frank, loving each other for the things that we hate (or dislike at least).  There's not a lot to be done about that.  I don't actually have a problem with disagreement, or even with arguments.  They are good and provide an opportunity for us to hash out our own understandings of the world in which we live and our places within it.  But disagreements are only half of the story.  Deconstruction only gets us so far.

When I was a kid I used to take things apart.  I once took my watch apart because I wanted to see how it worked.  That was all well and good, until I tried to re-assemble what I'd disassembled.  That happens to our theology as well...and theology is a little more complicated than a cheap digital watch.

So instead of another question and debate, let's try this.  What is that thing that you can't quite make fit in your theology, but you think should fit?  What is the thing that you love but can't keep straight?

No need to provide a reasoned argument for it.  If you can do that then I guess it wouldn't quite fit the question.  But tell us why you love it, or why you think it should fit, as well as why you think it doesn't.

Nothing is out of bounds.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Easter

Please feel free to keep discussing the other questions below this post... but since this is Easter weekend I have a question for you all...

How can we TRULY celebrate Easter in church without it turning into a clich├ęd painfully dull religiously ceremonial hat-tip to Jesus' death and resurrection?

You can find my musings on the subject HERE. But I would love to hear how you pastoral types are celebrating Easter in your church and how you non-pastoral types WISH churches were celebrating this weekend.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Janine's Question...

Janine, a commenter on the last string, asked a wonderful question.  It's such a wonderful question, in fact, that I'm bumping it to the top of the pile.  There's still a good discussion going on about spiritual gifts on Tara's thread (I've got a comment I want to throw in there after my last papers are in on Monday) so keep checking there, but Janine's question looks like a great way to look at another important topic.  Here it is, have at'er:

I’m wondering if any of you could elaborate on the community aspect of salvation. If salvation is about “being part of communion with the Triune God in Christ together with all the saints, as sort of a first outpost… of the Kingdom of Heaven”, what does that look like? Community can be about conforming and unquestioned loyalty. If Christianity is about more than me and my Bible and God, more than being good and more than my Decision, what do I do with my intense desire to learn and debate and question in a Church community that seems happy to float along on entertainment?


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Tara speaks

I have been MIA for awhile from this blog because we moved and life was chaos... but since the question in the post below is from me I thought I might explain a little better what I meant.

I am talking specifically about how spiritual gifts play out in the church, in community. We all know how some of the gifts "look"- preaching, teaching, encouragement, hospitality those are pretty easy to see. But how about the gift of wisdom? or discernment? Or how about the gift of tongues with interpretation in some of the more conservative denominations? How about prophecy?

How do we, as a community, encourage those with the gift of wisdom to use it? What would it look like if they DID use it? How do we facilitate the gift of discernment in our churches? How do we respond to people with those gifts? Is there a way for those gifts to be used publicly or only in one-on-one situations?

For example say that the board of elders is meeting about an issue of great importance to the church body and they are stuck. They just don't know what to do. So the chairman of the board goes home and shares his frustrations with his wife. His wife happens to have the gift of discernment. She has an immediate and clear answer. How should she and her husband go about sharing this revelation? Would anyone listen if they did? What if she stood up on Sunday and shared her wisdom with the congregation... is that even an option? And how do the general masses in church know whether a person has the gift of wisdom or is just a crackpot who wants attention?

I have talked to many people who don't know what there "place" is in church... some of these likely have "less obvious" spiritual gifts, gifts that are harder to see. What is their place? I personally have never seen a sign-up list for those with the gift of discernment to join a discernment committee. But I have seen dozens of sign-up lists for those with the gift of teaching (we need Sunday school teachers), or hospitality (we need billets for the visiting choir tour), or helps (we need folks to help us fix up this building), etc.

I have been a pastor's wife for almost 10 years and I definitely have NOT figured this out. Feel free to enlighten me!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Question about Gifts...

Hey all.  Tara had a question awhile ago that we never got to, so I'm gonna throw it out there and see if anyone is still alive enough to answer.

What are spiritual gifts?  How do they work in the Church?  Do they work in your Church at all?

Have at it!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Critical Years

I have recently been thinking about a certain issue which I would like to bring up on this blog and see what the rest of you think. I know that this hasn’t been approved by the 4712 deity (aka Toffelguy) but I’m sure he won’t mind if I go over his helmet on this one. It is really an issue regarding parenting. It’ll be a couple of examples and then my two cents.

I was recently talking with a Dad (whom I will call Joe) of two girls (aged 21 and 17) whom we shall name Ethel (21) and Gertrude (17). Joe would talk very differently depending on which daughter he was talking about. Gertrude just so happened to have just come home from a missions trip to El Salvador where she helped in the construction of a school building. Her boyfriend, whom Joe foresees her marrying, is about to leave for 3 months to go to Brazil to work in an orphanage. Joe is obviously very proud and considers this daughter to be up to his standards for a good Christian girl. Ethel, whom I attended Alpha with and who I found to be a very delightful young woman, has some issues with drug abuse and is currently living in Regina. Now this is somewhat of an extreme example. Joe was very blatantly comparing his two daughters in a way that I found uncomfortable. “Gertrude is always thinking, always coming to me for advice. I foresee her and her boyfriend getting married and going into the mission field. Ethel, well, she just gets our hopes up sometimes just to dash them, I think just for fun.” Those two sentences came right after each other.

Although I realize that no parent wants to see their son or daughter doing drugs, I felt that his obvious comparison of his two daughters was very painful. He gives off a very strong impression that he is proud of his missions minded daughter and ashamed of his daughter who is struggling (even if he isn’t ashamed, this is the aura that was portrayed).

As well, I have noticed a somewhat general trend amongst Fundamentalist Evangelical parents (mine excluded). If asked about their kids, they inevitably bring up the ones that are in full time ministry with pride and those who are involved in some sort of non-ministerial career are presented as somewhat sub-par (again I reiterate that my parents are wonderful people who have always supported my brother and I in all of our endeavours, no matter how crazy). There seems to be some sort of sub-cultural trend amongst evangelicals which places those in full-time ministry on a pedestal above those who work as meagre secular employees.

These two thoughts led me to another train of thought (which is not entirely profound, but something to think about) regarding the nature of teenagers. If one takes a quick glance at a typical youth group (and I am thinking back to mine as well) it is somewhat evident that teenagers have a great faith in God, one that often surpasses more mature people in the church. One reason I think that this is the case is in regard to the tendencies of most teenagers. Teens have a tremendous need to belong to a group, to feel accepted by a group of peers. Once they do feel they belong within their group, that group in and of itself becomes almost a single entity that moves along as a single mass. For example, within a youth group, the decision to become baptized is hardly an individual decision. Perhaps one person decides to get baptized, but sure as shootin’ there’s going to be a whole flock of friends within the group who will follow. This has been exemplified recently at our local Alliance church with the bombardment of teenage baptisms that have taken place. Teenagers find their identity as a group, whatever group that happens to be. That being said, if a certain teenager finds their acceptance within a different kind of group that is not a church youth group (ie. the druggie crowd) , then they will follow the leading of that group. It is for this reason that many parents are so concerned that their kids go to youth group and fall in with the right crowd as many believe that this will set the trend for the rest of their lives.

Although I do feel it is important to have good friends as a teenager in order to stay out of trouble, I would argue that the trends set as a teenager are not the ones which will last for the rest of their lives. When you are a teenager, your thinking generally revolves around your friends and the group. However, after graduating from High School, I feel it is at this point that people realize just how silly the cliques and groups were that existed in High School. It is then that people begin to mature intellectually (although everybody matures at a different rate). It seems that most people start to think for themselves at this point and I believe that these are the critical years rather than the teenage years.

Joe seems to think that Ethel is beyond hope, that the trends she set in high school are the ones that she will maintain for her whole life. I humbly suggested to him that she is not beyond hope and that people mature at different rates. I offered examples of certain people whom I know that were in the druggie crowd in high school that after a number of years after graduation, matured, turned their lives around, and began to live ‘just and upright’ lives. This seemed to be of some comfort to him as he hadn’t actually thought of that possibility.

So, two points here. The first is pointed towards parents (myself included) to be proud of your kids and support them no matter what they are doing vocationally. Being a missionary is not better than being an oil worker. The second is regarding raising our kids as teenagers. Does having your teenager in youth group guarantee that they will grow up being righteous and Godly people? Does having your kid fall into the wrong crowd in High school guarantee that they will be drug addicts for the rest of their lives? The answer to both of those questions is no. I for one, would not want my child to live a life of faith in High School simply because the rest of the youth group was doing so (I know that is a gross generalization). I personally think that the ‘critical years’ are not the teenage years, but the years where people begin to develop their personality as an individual apart from the influence of the group, because that is who they are eventually going to be.

I made many gross generalizations throughout this rant and I realize that people can cite specific examples that point to the opposite direction. I am merely addressing an issue that is prevalent amongst fundamentalist evangelicals.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Love and Horror...

We've been discussing pain and appropriate Christian responses to it below.  Please go there and add your two cents if you have two cents to spare.  I just wanted to relate an experience that I had today.

On her blog this morning April DeConick referred to a trial down in Texas surrounding the beating death of a little girl named Grace (for some reason Dr. DeConick has removed that particular post, but please follow the link to her excellent blog anyway).  I won't relate the details simply because they are too horrible to type out.  She was killed by her own parents in the most vicious act of child abuse I've ever heard of, that's all I'll say.  When I read about the crime I was horror-struck, and I was unspeakably angry.  I wanted to write horrible things about those parents in the comments section of Dr. DeConick's post, and on my blog, and on this blog, and on every other public forum that I could find.  Then I wanted to speak to every person that I know and say more horrible things.  Then I looked at my little boy who was, as usual, running around between our living room and his bedroom being loud and silly.  Instead of saying horrible things about horror I did these things instead:

I made my son spaghetti with meat sauce (aka loodles!!! [noodles] in his parlance).  While the loodles cooked I watched little Liam take my steel mixing bowls off of their rack, set them some four feet away on the kitchen floor, then pick them up one by one and return them to the rack only to then move them from the rack to the floor again.  He did that for around ten minutes.  He was very content.  Then he ate his loodles while I cleaned up the kitchen.  As always he made a horrible mess and fed the dog almost as much as himself.  Then we played in the living room.  I was daddy-monster and chased him, then he was Liam-monster and he chased me and knocked me down and climbed on me screaming and giggling.  Then we snuggled and watched the Mole Sisters on Treehouse.  Then we changed his diaper and we snuggled a little more and he laid down for a nice, quiet nap.

I did those things for my son because I love him.  I also did those things for my son because they are the things that were not done for that poor little girl named Grace.  I can't help that little girl.  I want very badly to help her, but I can't.  But I can love my little boy.  I can care for him and be responsible for him and be his father.

I can't quite explain why, but that responsibility seems even more important to me in light of poor Grace's death.  I suppose the more horror I see pushed out into the world, the more I want to let out love to push back.  That, in my mind, seems like the Christlike thing to do.