O American Church, Where Art Thou?

Recently, Francis Chan (whose book “Crazy Love” we have been following recently), announced he was resigning as senior pastor of his church. As I viewed the video, there was something that stood out to me, and I probably wouldn’t have noticed it except for the carefulness in which it was expressed.

“There is no immorality, no discipline… no issues with the elders”. It had to come up. When a leader steps away from a ministry we have been trained by experience in past events to look for some sort of moral miss step. We almost brace ourselves as Christians, “another one bites the dust”.

What an indictment of our American Church life.

Once upon a time, understanding that a person was further following his calling was the usual response, as Chan is today. What happened to this? Why have we become so inured to the idea of corruption and moral failure that we jump to that conclusion, first… and must be reassured should it not follow the (now) modern norm of a “fallen leader”?

Why have we become accustomed to that?

About God

The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference…..And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference

Elie Wiesel said that. If you aren’t sure of who he is, Elie Wiesel was a Holocaust survivor who came to terms with the horrible things that happened to him and those around him at the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp. And that quote says something that God wants us to understand about Him. I say God, because he also said some of the same in the teachings of the Bible. But we aren’t ready for that statement yet. Let me backtrack a bit. As usual in this sort of conversation I want to talk about us, because we understand ourselves somewhat more than we understand God.

First, A little About Us and this Conversation

Several things led here for me. Two are fairly recent, with input from two young women at very different places in their lives. One is just starting out, not yet out of High School, but questioning the things she was taught about God, Christianity, and though not calling it by name, Truth. The other is moving into that strange time of life as one approaches one’s thirties, a retrospective, an analysis of what one’s family of origin, teachings of the Church, and personal faith has actually returned in terms of that search for Truth. I capitalize it, because this sort of truth is the metaphysical, the elusive, great all encompassing sort of truth we seek in the final answers of who God is. Some give up on that, but not usually before they have spent some time in the search. So most of us have some experience with that.

I am not sure I am talking to either of them so much as to myself, because it is that underlying impetus that has always been a part of me, to know God, that occupies so much of my mental, and physical efforts. And that quest has been in company with many who are or have been atheists, or materialists, or religionists. The three are not so far apart as you might imagine. Much of what I have encountered and embraced has been “about God” and that is the core of this post, because you rarely come to know God unless you know something “about” God. Not that the information must all come from teachers,preachers, or tomes. Nature has plenty of puzzle pieces, enough to give us an inkling, but also enough information to make us dangerous. That is kind of a joke, but I’m going to let it stand with its grain of truth.

OK, about us. We learn that as little children we have a hard time seeing the world apart from ourselves, and in some ways, especially spiritual ways, I don’t think we manage to get very far from that subjectivity. We think “others” are like ourselves, and spend a lot of painful history finding out how much competition there is in the “selves” walking around. Not wanting to spend too much time on this, but how far are we –really– from two and three year old children? Just better quality masks.

Whether agreed on that, one thing that is quite clear anytime you talk to people about God is how sure they are that God is how they feel(in their own minds) He is. Or He is like what they are familiar with- or what they need Him to be. Invariably it starts with us. I can see one thing in which that is as it should be. We are individual persons, with our own personalities and characteristics, and our own experience of events and others, and all the rest of it that makes up our lives as sentient beings.

That ought to illumine us about something. If we have personal individuality and personalities, then a Creator God ( and all others are too small and inconsequential to bother with), at least has that much. And if God has His own personality and character, then it can not only be a possibility to be known, but it is also “other” than us. We don’t get to say we automatically can know who God is and accurately know things about Him…. not without His relating to us in some way.

Not anymore than someone would presume to know us, without relating to us and allowing us to express ourselves to them.

Now is the time to look at that beginning quote. Much of what we revolve around, indeed if you believe certain thinkers like Rollo May or ( as in the book I’m re-reading right now,Scott Peck) or even the Beatles, all that we center on.

So here is what I am going to say about all this:

We can’t possibly know anything about God, without Him revealing those things about Himself. He is very “other” than us, and we can’t project our emotions or thoughts on Him with any sort of accuracy. There are things we can presume, in the way the Bible puts it:

Psalm 94:9
He who planted the ear, does He not hear? He who formed the eye, does He not see?

If we are beings, we can see that God is a being. More of a logical sequence than a projection.

The truth of Wiesel’s statement about indifference as the opposite of life and love, both aspects of God, finds correlation in Revelation 3:16
“So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.”

What Type of Conclusions, Then?

One of the universals, and there are very few, is the response of all living things to love. God states that He is love, and that would all make sense. Jesus stated that He is life, so again, you can see the tandem existence of life and love, the only remaining problem with this becoming the definition of what love looks like. While that isn’t small in philosophical efforts to define, the 1 Corinthians 13 definition is not only sufficiently challenging, but realistically practical enough to merit consideration. And more than that, real attempts to live by it.

Thus far, though I haven’t said anything earth shaking or ground breaking. We can all pretty much reside peacefully on that page: God is loving, He is lifegiving, He cares.

Where the division often comes is in the validity of the information which more specifically outlines things about God.

Like the Bible.
But that is for you to chew on for awhile. Let me think more about where I’m going with these thoughts. In the meantime, I invite you to please express how you see this discussion going, or where you have gone with it yourself. Or just wait until we take it up again…. probably after I repost things that might add to the conversation.

I’m probably going to meander around this landscape for awhile.

What’s the Meaning of a Name?

I was always interested in name meanings, perhaps because my own name was an unusual one, but probably because most people think that the meaning of their names holds some interest, or sparks their curiosity to some degree. We are seeking our identity most of our lives, and what is more of an identifier than our personal name?

When my children were conceived, and in some cases before, I had mulled over what I would call them. In some ways it is such a reflection of what the parent imagines or hopes for their child. At times, though the name comes in response to the characteristics in the child. Not in our culture so much, but we, too, adjust matching up meaning through either waiting to choose the name after the birth, or through giving a nickname of some kind.

Most of the time those nicknames or endearments fade into the past, although they are sort of a secret sort of shortcut to the past with those who might call up the “Tommy”, “Lainie”, or “Pokey” [my Dad’s nickname because he procrastinated, did things slow but sure]…whatever the nickname might have been.

I always paid attention to the meanings of the names when choosing them for my children, keeping within cultural acceptability and preferably with a spiritual wish, or connotation. I remember choosing the name of one of my sons, Nathanial Michael. he came after a previous miscarriage that was difficult to adjust to. His first name means “gift”, “Gift of God, God has given”. It is actually a verb, with the meaning of being a giver.
Depending on the context the word is translated in these way :

to give, put, set

1. (Qal)
1. to give, bestow, grant, permit, ascribe, employ, devote, consecrate, dedicate, pay wages, sell, exchange, lend, commit, entrust, give over, deliver up, yield produce, occasion, produce, requite to, report, mention, utter, stretch out, extend
2. to put, set, put on, put upon, set, appoint, assign, designate
3. to make, constitute
2. (Niphal)
1. to be given, be bestowed, be provided, be entrusted to, be granted to, be permitted, be issued, be published, be uttered, be assigned
2. to be set, be put, be made, be inflicted
3. (Hophal)
1. to be given, be bestowed, be given up, be delivered up
2. to be put upon

It was the name of a prophet who spoke to King David.

I am reminded of the scripture: James 1:17 “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
That statement declares that a recognition is made of this person, that they are intended to bring good into that family through their lives.

The second name, Michael, is the name of the archangel who in the book of Daniel is designated as the angel over the particula matters of the Hebrew people.
It is a given name that comes from the Hebrew:(Mikha’el), meaning “Who is like God?” which asks a rhetorical question. To be named ‘Michael’ is a constant reminder that no one else is like God, that He is holy, and alone to be worshiped.

So the combination of the two names creates a statement that God gave this life to be a giver of truth, and a testimony to the fact that there is no other god than the Lord God, alone.

I have a story for each one of my children, and I try to remember their unique destinies including the hints of them before there were any lines written on the pages of their lives.

What is the story of your name? What were the hopes attached to that story, and what does it mean to you now?
What’s in a name?- a Christmas meditation.

My name, Ilona.

States Rights, Tea Parties…What Do You Think?

Mostly we center on the economy anymore (in the news, personal conversations, blogs, etc)…. I know that gets the lion’s share of my own interest in reading news, etc. But what about the rumblings on States rights, what about the tea parties protesting our taxes and national debt? Are they hot air, just letting off pressure, or genuine attempts by informed citizens… or something else?

What do you think?

Sometimes I honestly don’t know what to make of some of these activities and I’d like to get a bead on what the real issues are.

For instance, this move to consolidate states rights. Is it too little, too late? Is the state the last bastion in a check on runaway federal spending? Or is it a way for citizens to have more say on issues? Are the courts and the federal delivering a one-two punch to the concept of states rights?

Those are things I question when looking at what is going on today.

Why Won’t They Shut Up?

Those questions, I mean. The self-questions, the life questions. Why won’t they stay resolved?

These are not real questions I am asking in that paragraph… they are not really rhetorical, either. Just intro. Because I read Radmila’s reaction and it, in turn, created more thoughts on the subject.
Continue reading Why Won’t They Shut Up?