Saturday, February 26, 2011

For anyone who needs a taste of Psalm 23

"God is my shepherd, I won't be wanting..."

My friend, Leigh McLeroy, posted this song by musician Jon Foreman in her Wednesday Words enewsletter, and it calmed my soul.

I hope it calms yours, too.

You may be experiencing tremendous loss. Inexplicable health problems. Ministry challenges that tie your heart in knots.

Whatever it is, if you know Jesus, God is your Shepherd. He longs to lead you beside still waters. To restore your soul. Listen, and may your soul be revived.

Are you in a season of quiet waters or raging currents? How does Psalm 23 speak to your soul?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

One anonymous blog comment too many

A few days ago, an anonymous commenter dropped a comment on the "Pink Flamingos in a Sea of Blue Herons" piece I wrote. Said comment doesn't really require a response:
1 Corinthians 14:34-35 KJV Posted by: Man of God on February 19, 2011

It was just a warning to tell me I should be silent in the church, and in a preaching class, if I take the King James Version translation of the Bible seriously. It took him all of three seconds to write it. It took me all of three seconds to be steamed by it.

Here's why I didn't post a comment to follow it:

  • Man of God did not have the courage to tell me who he is. Unfortunately, this is not a trait I would associate with a "man of God." To have a conversation, I deserve to know who I am conversing with.
  • Man of God doesn't want to dialogue. He just wants to wield Scripture verses like a sword. So it's unlikely he'll care at all if I point out that Paul instructed women in his culture on "how" they should pray and prophesy in public in 1 Corinthians 11. He doesn't care to discuss or to dive in deeper, to have a thoughtful conversation on why two passages in the same letter seem to contradict each other, so responding would be fruitless.
  • The awful truth is, I was PMSing at the time, and I didn't believe my response would be redemptive, but reactive.
There you have it. That is my take on "Man of God." I do need to thank him for one thing. He got me thinking about the harm we cause by "drive-by" comments. Posting anonymously to make a point, without bringing ourselves into the light, without offering the love of Christ, doesn't help anybody, no matter what their viewpoint might be. I want desperately to discuss the difficult issues of the Christian faith with the wider body beyond my church. But in doing so, my speech must be kind, loving, and redemptive. Yes, ESPECIALLY on the Internet.

"Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person." 
-Colossians 4:6 ESV

Have you experienced painful "drive-by" comments? Do you believe we should reveal our identities when commenting on posts? Why or why not?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

What Shakertown Taught Me About Bad Theology

Last weekend, the husband and I escaped into a different world in only four hours. No kidding. We stayed at the Pleasant Hill Shaker Village in Harroldsburg, Kentucky--a place that at one time boasted a community of 500 individuals of the Shaker religious faith. Inevitably, they eventually died out. That's what happens when members are required to take a vow of celibacy.

Kentucky historians chose to restore these simple, beautiful buildings, starting in the 1960s and 1970s. Things are peaceful there: with wood pegs surrounding your room to hang all your earthly possessions on, useful and beautiful furniture and implements, and cows, horses, and goats grazing. You can pretend that the world is not insane, even if your room does boast a small flat-screen television (without cable).

The Shakers sustained themselves over the years by taking in widows, widowers, and orphans--often the "least of these" in their society. 

They were kind and charitable to many, efficient and practical in every endeavor, and known for their expressive worship. Houses here contained what came to be known as "families"--women staying on the left side, men on the right. They did many things right--and a few things very wrong, from what I can see.

Ann Lee, exhibiting perfection!
You see, starting the whole deal in England in 1747 was the obscure founder, a Quaker woman by the name of Mother Ann Lee.  Her views were rejected the the Quaker Society of Friends, so Ann determined she'd start a new religious order. This is where things get scary. From then on, Ann was known as the "daughter of God" in the same sense that "Jesus is the Son of God." They took the New Testament principle of giving up their goods and having everything in common extremely seriously. Ageism was not a worry--every member was valued. Since they believed they were already living in the Millennial Kingdom on earth, marriage was not allowed. There were healings, prophecies, revelation, and for Ann herself--a clairvoyance that seemed to allow her to predict the future.

The order moved to the States and continued to grow, spanning multiple locations. As with all great tragedies illuminated by history, the rise of Shakerism grew from bad leadership. Ann's theology was a mix of biblical truth, ecstatic fury, and even a mean perfectionism. There was something to be said for communal living, something that seems laughable to Americans today. But how God must have wept as a woman named Ann tried to exalt herself as divine, sought to desecrate marriage--a relational reminder that illstrates God's love for His church, and tried to fashion each Shaker into a person who only does any task with absolute perfection.

I believe I know why she did it. And bad theology has everything to do with it.

She wanted people to see that Christ's image needed to be displayed "in the female." From their "Millennial Church" booklet, a case is made that women prophetesses and leaders in the Bible proved that Jesus must have a divine female counterpart who just happened to be Ann. (God does offer fatherly and motherly care for each of us--but Scripture doesn't indicate an additional "female" representation of Jesus. She made that part up.) What started as one woman's yearning for equality evolved into a twisting of theology. Heaven help us, men and women alike, that we discern God's Word correctly, and rightly divide the Word of truth. The over 150 years of Shakers history are proof: it can be tough to "shake" bad theology. Thankfully, we have the assurance that God's Word never changes. I, for one, pray for wisdom to truly accept it and obey it.

How has your life been impacted by bad theology? How has correct theology set you free in Christ?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My Preaching Class Adventures on Christianity Today's Gifted for Leadership Blog

Yes, you've probably read about some of this before, minus the pink flamingo part. Enjoy! And by all means, please comment on their blog. :)

A Pink Flamingo in a Sea of Blue Herons
by Suzanne Burden

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Was Jesus balanced--or integrated?

I've been using the word "balance" for years. But I'm not sure the concept of balance actually works.

I've got to learn how to balance my work, social, and ministry lives.
I'm off-balance and had to pull out of that activity.
What we need is a more balanced approach.

Sound familiar?

Recently my friend Mary Byers shared this quote:
"Forget the idea of balancing work and family. Think of "integrating" instead, making everything and everyone an important part of a holistic life."
-Julia Klein

Let's take the example of Jesus, for instance. I can't say He was your average well-balanced individual. He made fresh wine for people who already had enough alcohol. He miraculously created food for huge, untenable groups of people who were hungry. He healed those he chose to heal, then ducked into anonymity to protect himself. He withdrew to mountaintops for prayer when needed. He said "he had food to eat you know nothing about" and skipped meals. But that was nothing compared to his 40-day temptation in the wilderness where he ate nary a morsel. He wept at the death of His friend Lazarus. And he stayed up all night sweating drops of blood before His impeding crucifixion. He told truth in subversive stories many didn't understand and ate with those the prevailing religious culture deemed "most unacceptable."

He wasn't balanced. But He was full of the rhythms of grace. "I have come that you might have life, and that you might have it to the full," he said. He was fully present in every moment and ready for what each situation required. His integrated life reeked of wholeness and holiness, the gift of His presence and the withdrawal from activity when needed. He was fully integrated.

In the quiet moments, isn't this what our hearts truly long for? In my prayer times, I sensed God was giving me the word ENJOY for 2011. My life is made up of a thousand different pieces, and my usual course is to run around frantically, to procrastinate, to obsess, and to stay on the treadmill. Instead, I am trying to rejoice in the Lord in every activity (Philippians 4:4).

I enjoy the food he provides me at breakfast. I delight in a client Skype meeting, the stringing together of words for a project, the simple joy of baking gluten-free scones that will nourish my body and encourage others. I stay in the moment, lingering, until the next activity or person calls me on. No day is perfectly integrated, but with God's help, I am moving more gracefully, responding more holistically. I am enjoying the abundant life He designed me for.

Are you trying to integrate your life? What obstacles--and joys--do you face?