Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A quote in song from the Passion You Make Everything Glorious CD by good old David Crowder himself,
"You make everything glorious. What does that make me?"

Sunday, August 27, 2006

I was blessed to attend a small portion of Fire in the Valley this weekend. Aside from "gettin' my dance on" in a major way, I enjoyed the overall unity of the event itself. It's a worship and prayer initiative over the Tennessee Valley. Dozens of churches and leaders came together to pray for our region. One section I'd like to remember by blogging is the Thunder Watch- two hours of drumming and praying. A Native American couple led a visual demonstration in the midst of pounding percussion of the absurd practice of misogyny in the church. They both talked about the godly covenant of intimacy in the eye to eye meeting of man and woman. The man then ascended a chair with his foot on the back of his wife kneeling facedown on the floor. It was startling for me to watch this action as a woman. It's one thing to remember a powerful man say to me in my past, "Who taught YOU how to think like that? Men, are the only ones meant to go that deeply." and it's quite another to see a man actually put a woman under his foot. The lump in my throat grew and I cried familiar salty tears. In this native American's prayer, he came down from the chair and knelt facedown beside his wife and place his arm around her. They talked for quite some time crouched beside one another. He rose up, but she remained crumpled like a used tissue. He spoke of the oppression of women and how men who have participated in the sin are not meant to lift her up, but she must call to God for her rescue. Surprinsingly, she still did not rise. Her husband bent and spoke softly with her for a while longer. After the talk, he asked for her sisters to call out and help her rise. "Rise up! Rise up!" was shouted from women across the arena. I couldn't contain more tears when she finally stood strong and proud to the explosions of banging trashcans, cymbals, djembes, double drum sets.

Here's a funny for my own sake. Mike McClung introduced Ray Hughes for the Thunder Watch mentioning the "theology of drums". Ray stepped up to the microphone and announced,
"I hate theology and botany, but I love Jesus and flowers." I chuckled at myself when the silly thought crossed my mind, "What's not to like about botany?"

I'd also like to remember the watch from my particular church's worship team. I was truly puzzled when Bart and my buddy Carol climbed onstage to the back up singer positions when I know they do not sing on the team. My confusion dispersed as they opened in prayers and scripture which they spattered perfectly among the praise and worship offered by the musicians. Well done, friends! You listen to the Lord and lead us so well.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Anne Lamott thinks God's a cat in the corner, but I say she's wrong. He's a an adorable bunny who meets me on my walking trail. He didn't show Himself Monday as he usually does, and I was distressed. And my walk that night was not revelatory as it had been the week before.

Tonight the same perky long eared furry fellow appeared across my path, and suddenly I have the first and key paragraph to a paper I've been working on for over a year. Coincidence?

Believe it or not, God is in that bunny, and I can't always find Him.
I'm working something out here, so please be kind if your views oppose mine for now.

In my work with children, I have established a theological view which my own church does not embrace. And I believe it's probably a matter of ignorance. I believe the very best way to go in the spiritual formation of the young child is to introduce Jesus and have them fall in love with Him before bringing up the concept of sin. In fact, six is the age I'd begin to introduce moral formation and not before. Does anyone out there believe a child under the age of six would go to hell if he hasn't confessed his sins and himself as a sinner before dying? If you do, why would you serve a god like that?

My belief is based on observations of the developmental stages of the child in that he or she cannot grasp and hold onto the idea of sin until he grows old enough to recognize it more fully for himself. And it's not the I believe young children are sinless. I personally spent countless hours redirecting and training my young children through "use the drum stick to hit the drum and not the kitty", "pulling hair hurts", "we use words when we are angry". I've observed children growing in their understanding of sin, and it hasn't been until six or older that I think they "get it". While a young child can parrot back a definition of and actions of sin, a six, seven or eight year old may burn red-faced with guilt in recognition of hurting someone or something. So, why not wait, let the child know Jesus as their friend first, and when the child is ready and searching personally to remove blocks sin has put in the way, help the child through the process of reconciliation for his or herself? It makes sense to me this way, and not the other way around.

So, I mentioned these ideas to Claire to ponder years ago. As far as I could tell, she was not sold until a few weeks ago. She called me and announced, "I think I've got it." She went on to explain she felt our Protestant Evangelical community is deeply entrenched and centered around 'man as sinner'. It's not God centered at all. We need Jesus to clean us in order to approach God. Yes, I agree, we do need Jesus in this way, but it's the non-God centered thing by which we've both been struck.

It occured to me that the 4 spiritual laws man had to rewrite and add the "God loves you and has a plan for your life", because of this very principle teaching of the Protestant Evangelical church.

The whole "Sinners at the Hands of an Angry God" has never sat well with me. God is my Dad who longs for an intimate relationship with me. He made me, and better still, He loves me better than I love myself. Better than I love anything. He's not on high crossing His huge arms, rolling His eyes, muttering, "Tsk, tsk, tsk" everytime I blow it. And I blow it quite a lot. He's the father standing at the window day in and day out, silently hoping, watching, waiting for his wayward son or daughter to return.

If I teach a 3 year old about angry-god-because-we-have-sin first, isn't there a strong likelihood the child will have to heal his or her relationship with angry god before wanting to approach God the Father later?

Have we Protestant Evangelicals missed the boat in how we approach and introduce God? Especially to the child?

On to more of Claire's ideas. She see the Catholic faith as a covenant centered faith, and therefore God-centered. God orchestrates relationship with us through covenants. He showed Himself to Abraham and the covenant between God and His people still exists today. Jesus came in order to fulfill God's covenant. Catholics offer the amazing way to be with intimately close with Jesus in the Eucharist, an expression in remembering our covenant. Jesus enters and heals us through the bread and wine.

I have not had a conversion experience to Catholicism, and my Protestant Evangelical faith is where I stand. However, I find I'm drawn to learn from the saints before me no matter the denomination. Heretical?

Saturday, August 12, 2006

What's so funny 'bout peace, love and understanding?

As a matter of celebration, I observe Pentecost with the little children in my Christian spiritiual formation class on Pentecost Sunday. In turn, we choose one gift of the Spirit listed in Isaiah 11:2-3

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him.
The spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The spirit of counsel and strength,
The spirit of the knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
And He will delight in the fear of the Lord,
And He will not judge by what His eyes see,
Nor make a decison by what His ears hear

So the children listen as I read the Acts account of Pentecost, this Isaiah scripture and explain each gift, "Knowledge is a gift which will help us know God better. Strength will help us be strong in the Lord. Fear of the Lord means not to be afraid of Him, but to think about how great and big He is. " And so on.

One at a time, the children speak their gift, and somewhere in the mix I select one as well. Over my nine years of teaching, each time I find myself tending toward wisdom, and I must listen intently to hear otherwise.

But not this year. I had an epiphany of sorts on a walk in the park a few days ago during my son's soccer practice. I was listening to my ipod when curious and beautiful music accompanied by chanted prayer I'd never heard before exploded over my headphones. I couldn't make out the words exactly, but I've found them since.

Phos Hilaron

Hail, gladdening Light,

of his pure glory poured,

who is immortal Father,



Holiest of Holies,

Jesus Christ our Lord!

Now are we come to the sun's hour of rest;

the lights of evening round us shine,

we hymn the Father, Son and Holy Spirit divine.

Worthiest art thou at all times to be sung,

with undefil├Ęd tongue,

Son of our God, Giver of life, alone!

Therefore in all the world thy glories, Lord, thine own.

Words: Greek;trans. John Keble, 1834

Phos. Light! Beautiful.

Hail, gladdening Light. I know the Light which makes me glad. And better still, He knows me.

I considered the word "hilarion". I know it must have the same root as the word "hilarious". Gladdening. Hilarious. A light that makes us giggle inside and out, from the well of joy in being with Our Creator. Of having friendship with His son, Jesus.

Hail, gladdening light.

So what does this have to do with the gift I seek from the Lord at Pentecost? Everything.

The light of the Word came to me about the gift of understanding. I've explained to the children, "The gift of understanding is coming to understand God better." Oh, not so! As I listened several times to the Phos Hilaron track, and kept walking. Suddenly, like a light bulb switching on over my head, I comprehended the gift of understanding for the first time.

Perhaps I'm a very slow study when it comes to holiness, so perhaps you got this long before me.

Some years ago, a wise man emphasized the need in our marriage for Buck and I to approach one another differently in times of conflict. If Buck saw me flying off the handle, Buck's natural response was to become defensive and fire back at me. The counselor recommended a new way to deal with an undone me in a kinder gentler manner, "I see you are hurting over this. What can I do to help?" I was directed to do the same when Buck came unglued.

Internally, I thought, "Now there's a huge paradigm shift. That sounds impossible.", but I saw the heart and keys of the gospel in it somehow.

My walk with Phos Hilaron brought it altogether for me.

"That I might not seek to be understood, but to understand" as my friend Francis of Assisi taught.

Understanding is a gift I must seek from the Lord, because it's definately not in me. What's in me is imperfection, selfishness, stubbornness, unbridled anger, pain, insecurity, hopelessness. But it doesn't have to be so. Nothing is impossible with God, so I'm asking Him for the gift of understanding here and now. I'm sure I'll have plenty of opportunity to put on this new discipline promised to me.