Friday, July 01, 2016

Spiritual Growth

Let's start off with the fact that I'm not an expert in spiritual growth, OK. I'm trying to walk with Jesus the best that I can, but I'm pretty sure that there are times that he's dragging me along and shaking his head. But, a couple of things about spiritual growth came up that I want to explore. So, here we go.

Al Mohler is quoted as saying, "Our spiritual maturity will never exceed our knowledge of the Bible" by Tim Challies (which I saw on Twitter). On the face of it, this seems like a reasonable statement. After all, the Bible is how we know about Jesus for the most part, so it seems like it's needed for spiritual growth.

On closer inspection, though, the argument breaks down. From a logical and historical point of view, there are problems. It follows from this statement that seminary professors and other well-educated people would necessarily be spiritually wiser than those less able to avail themselves of such knowledge. Yet, I dare say that we all know that this is just not the case.

It also doesn't work biblically. According to scripture, the way to grow spiritually is through trials. James 1:2-4 "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (See also Romans 5. And Job. And Lamentations.) Our walk with Jesus becomes closer and deeper with the more life that we live, particularly the hardships of life.

This brings me to the other quote I came across this week. "It is spiritually formative to be dissatisfied and unable to resolve it." Dallas Willard. Stop and read that again. He doesn't say that we learn something through resolving it. Rather, his point is that the very state of being stuck and not being able to fix it is the place where God wants us to be. That is the point where Jesus meets us. 

Yes, the Bible is the foundation of our faith. Yes, we study and learn as much as we can about Jesus. But, our spiritual maturity comes not from books and computers; it comes from experience and time with Jesus. When we are dissatisfied and can't do anything about it, it's time to get real with Jesus.

This is why that statement by Mohler was so elitist. It assumes that every Christian has unlimited access to scripture. Many believers have limited access to Bibles and even less to commentaries, etc. Yet, they are not lacking in faith. They are living their faith and walking with Jesus with the scripture they know. I have a feeling that God's OK with that.


Monday, June 20, 2016

Theistic Evolution and the Authority of Scripture

Does theistic evolution undermine the authority of scripture? First of all, why do I even ask the question? It came up during a conversation on Facebook. Where all good questions come from!

The answer to the question is NO. 

Why doesn't theistic evolution (or evolutionary creationism) undermine the authority of scripture? Because the Bible is not a science book. Genesis one was never intended to tell us about how the universe was created. 

The Bible is a reliable source of information about God and his plan for humanity. The first chapter of Genesis is a creation hymn of the ancient Israelites that was intended to differentiate them from the rest of the Ancient Near Eastern World. It was to show that one God created the world instead of the pantheon of gods that other civilizations claimed.

Even though I firmly believe in evolutionary creationism, I take the Bible very seriously. The Bible was inspired by God. It is not to be taken lightly. But, neither is it to be always read literally. Every portion of the Bible was written in a certain time and place and to a certain people. It is our responsibility as readers of the Bible to learn all we can about the context of the text so that we can make a reasonable interpretation.

So, when we read the first chapter in Genesis, we see that it is a poetic hymn written by a pre-scientific people. (Note: Calling ancient Israelites "pre-scientific" is not intended to be disparaging. These people were intelligent, but their culture had not yet developed the scientific method so their understanding of the universe was different from ours.) Reading the Bible this way is not frivolous or "loose". It is trying to understand the text for what it is.

For more reading on this topic, I would highly recommend anything on the BioLogs website or anything by Denis Lamoreux, a theologian and biologist. 

Your thoughts??


Monday, May 30, 2016

Men and Women and Jesus

I'm a Christian Egalitarian. I would also claim the name of Feminist. Men and women are equal in God's eyes. We were created equal from the very beginning. Patriarchal and hierarchical social structures were created by human societies early on. In the Bible, we see that hierarchy of men over women occurred after the Fall (Eve and then Adam eating the fruit in Eden).

The good news is that Jesus came to rescue us from sin, even the sinful social structures of hierarchy (and poverty and other kinds of injustice). You'll notice that Jesus never mentions that men and women are to follow him differently. He never says that women should do this or that while men do the other. Yes, his Twelve closest disciples were men, which isn't surprising in that day and time. However, he had a number of close women who supported him financially. Women were present with him at the very end, when he died on the cross. And, it was a woman who saw that the tomb was empty after his Resurrection, and "preached" that good news to the disciples.

Because of our tendency toward hierarchical societies, we've tried to impose them on Christian societies, despite Jesus' wiping away of sin. When Paul uses the Roman household codes to show how much further we are to show each other love, biblical interpreters have decided that they mean that men are to be rulers over women. When Junia was listed as an apostle, translators a number of years later couldn't believe that a woman could have been an apostle, so they changed her name to Junio, a man's name.

And, now, many Christians want us to believe that to be Christians, we must live in a hierarchical prison. I came across an article that I believe warrants a response. This article purports to help people disciple other Christians and show them the differences between male and female spiritual maturity.

I could get down into the nit-picking details, but I don't think that's the real problem. The issue that I have is overarching: the author has to make everything complicated. There are not just the questions of how wifely submission looks at home (it's more convoluted than you think), but how does a single woman relate to the men in her world? How does a woman relate to the older teenage boys? Are they men? Should she submit to them as she would to her husband? But does hierarchy require that she submit to men other than her husband?

None of this trying to nail down every detail is even necessary. Paul tells us that there is no male or female in Christ (Galatians 3:28). Jesus died to set us free from sin, and that includes the sin of spiritual and social hierarchy. Ephesians 5:21 tells us to "Submit to one another out of reverence to Christ." 

This business of who is in charge of whom sounds suspiciously like when the disciples asked who would get to sit at his right hand in glory (Mark 11). Jesus first told them they didn't know what they were asking, but then made the point that anyone who wants to be first is to be a servant to everyone. This is the crux of the whole Christianity thing: love, service, sacrifice. It's the opposite of hierarchy and patriarchy.

That's why discipleship and complementarianism don't go together. Complementarianism is the height of legalism. It's human-made rules that make us feel better and more spiritual. And there are entirely too many rules. The author of the blog post even admitted that he was only getting the ball rolling on the topic. (Consider that Wayne Grudem made a list of 83 jobs that women could perform in a church. Talk about overkill!)

I'm not an egalitarian because I don't want to be oppressed by the patriarchy. I'm an egalitarian because it's what Jesus taught. It's not my job to be spiritually in charge of anyone (OK, my kids before they became adults). (Obviously, when I was working, I had people who were working under me, and I was working for my employer. But, that was clearly only a business relationship.) I'm to submit to everyone and not just my husband. Our faith is all about mutually submissive relationships.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Gonna be a Crazy Month!

Ever since I quit working . . . OK, let's stop right there. Quit working just sounds so . . I don't know, like I just decided one day that I didn't want to work. How do I say that I stopped working because I was hurting all the time? That's pretty wordy. Now that I'm approaching 50 (but still only 48!), I could say I retired. I don't like any of those. Let's try again.

Ever since I left the practice of medicine due to illness (wordy, but precise), I've tried to keep life a little more simple. It's hard to make firm plans when I don't know what kind of pain I'm likely to have on any given day. Homeschooling was a godsend for us. We didn't have to work with the school's schedule; we made plans that worked for us. Even when Wild Man joined choir as well as band, it was just a few extra concerts. I've missed the occasional concert over the years, but the kids are understanding.

The next month, though, is just ridiculous. We have graduation, dance recital, graduation party, going home dinner, my parents visiting, and I'm sure a few other things. Somehow, I have to remember to breathe. 

Literally breathe. Meditation is one of the things that I do almost every day. When I have a bad migraine, my meditation is short. Otherwise, I do about 20-30 minutes of meditation and prayer. I start with the Lord's Prayer, then the Gloria Patri, then the Jesus Prayer for several repetitions and then everything backward. Then I just chat with God. Then I meditate on a piece of scripture or a prayer.

Other than that, I am going to keep anything extraneous out of our lives. I'm going to cook simple things. I'll make some casseroles or multi-day meals. And I'll give myself some grace when the house is a mess or things don't get done because we're busy or tired or I'm headache-y.

This is a time for family and celebration. It's not a time for stress or perfectionism. We're going to love each other in spite of migraines and deadlines like God tells us to.

Friday, May 06, 2016

Tow Trucks, Sanders, and Jesus

I came across this article in the Huffington Post the other day. I wasn't going to write about it, but I posted it on Facebook. A friend commented on it and then I commented on his comment and my comment got so long and I just decided to write an entire blog post on it.

The basic story is this: A disabled young woman with psoriatic arthritis and fibromyalgia (she's got other illnesses, but those are most pertinent) was in a car wreck. After the wreck, someone was able to move her car off the highway so she was safe. The tow truck arrived, but the tow truck driver saw the Sanders sticker on her car and said that he was a conservative Christian and that he, in good conscience, could not tow her. He said that she was safe in her car with the air conditioning on while she waited for another tow truck.

Folks, this is what happens when we can pick and choose who to serve based on "sincerely held religious beliefs." First it was bakers and photographers for gay people, now it is tow truck drivers leaving disabled women on the side of the road for having different political beliefs. We're going back to Jim Crow, but based on whatever the heck we want. This is wrong. And, it's not Jesus-like. Jesus would have baked the cake, taken the pictures, and towed the woman's car. And more. Because that's what he tells us to do. (Matthew 5:38-48)

 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. Matthew 5:40-42

Jesus is telling his followers that if a Roman soldier tells you to carry his load for a mile (which they were allowed to do), that they should not only carry it a mile, but carry it for two miles. We are to do more than is required, even for our "enemies". (The Jews weren't exactly friends with the Romans.)

It's pretty clear to me, here that Jesus is telling us to do more than is required to be a loving neighbor. And to be loving to people with whom we disagree. In fact, to whom might even be our enemies. I don't consider Sanders supporters to be my enemies (my daughter is one!).

My friend commented the following: 

And the people that won't do concerts or do business in NC? How about the mayor on NYC saying don't go to Click Filet? Do they get a pass on this?

My response:

Traditionally, it is the purchaser of services that chooses to whom they give their custom. This allows for competition in the marketplace. For example, we tried to entice people to purchase yarn from us by carrying different types of yarn than the yarn stores in Appleton and Stevens Point. But, in this country, a public establishment, like a business, is not legally allowed to discriminate in who they serve, hire, etc. (Note: this applies to public establishments, not private. So, churches are exempt and are free to choose not to hire women, or those with whom they disagree.) A business that is open to the public is legally required (and I would argue, ethically required) to serve anyone to chooses their business.

When someone disagrees with a business's policies or stance on an issue, an individual or group of people can choose not to give their custom to that business. For example, the Southern Baptist Convention for years encouraged people to boycott Disney. Liberal groups have encouraged people to boycott ChikFilA. Conservatives are choosing to boycott Target. These are all legal and ethical ways to show one's lack of support for a business. No one can make you choose to shop at a particular business.

Yes, this is the opposite of businesses who can't choose who to serve. But, remember the sit-ins of the 60s when African Americans were lynched just for the right to be served in the same establishments as whites. Public accommodations are for everyone, no matter their race, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation. 

I can shop in any store I want. No one can turn me away because I'm a woman or a Christian. No one should be able to refuse to tow my car because I'm a Republican. The very idea of having to have a set of towing companies for liberals and a set for conservatives is laughable! It just reeks of Jim Crow! We won't stand for that kind of discrimination by race and we shouldn't stand for it for any other reason.

Back to the original post. A man used the argument that he should not serve a woman with whom he disagrees because he's a follower of Jesus. I just can't go there. Jesus was always hanging out with people with whom he disagreed. And there's no evidence that they always changed their ways and became his followers. He certainly didn't require him to become his followers before he would love them.

And here's a radical idea. That Sanders supporter might be a Christian!! Is it so hard to believe? The tow truck operator used one little bit of identification to decide that she was his "enemy" without talking to her or learning anything about her. Who knows?

In any case, as Jesus followers, we are required to live in this world. We are to be lights shining in the darkness. We can't do that when we tell people that we won't associate with them. We have to know people, talk to them, love them. We can't do that when we label them from a bumper sticker and then refuse them service.

And, yet once again, we are back to LOVE!! Jesus wants us to love people, whether we like them or not. And to love them practically. Even when it hurts. So go love someone!!!

What do you think about all this??

Monday, May 02, 2016

Rambling On . . .

This is the third post in a row about illness. Blah. I just don't have much else going on inside my head right now.

We've been very busy around here. Grandma has been here to see the Aladdin, the school musical. Wild Man had the starring role! So, of course, it was a busy weekend with three performances of the musical. And Wild Man turned 18 yesterday, although we celebrated on Saturday afternoon with chocolate cake and friends and singing! We went to UWSP last night to hear their choir concert since Rosie Girl is in the Choral Union. It was amazing, of course.

I fought a migraine through the whole weekend. I skipped the Saturday night performance of Aladdin to get some extra rest. Overall, though, it wasn't too bad.

The fibromyalgia pain is what is doing me in right now. I'm getting out and walking on the days that the migraine isn't bad, but I can still only get about 1/2 a mile. My calves hurt with every step. It was only a few weeks ago that I could do 2 miles without any excessive pain. 

The bright spot is that my antidepressants are working. As much as I hurt, my mood is staying pretty decent.

Other little tidbits of life: I knit on Fridays with another woman. She's in her 80's. She's been knitting since before my mother was born! But, her eyesight isn't as good as it used to be, so she has me cast-on stitches or pick up stitches or figure things out for her sometimes when I come over on Fridays. This week, she couldn't figure out the heel on some socks. I thought I had it sorted out, but when I was done, I only had 13 stitches where I should have had 32! Later in the afternoon when I was just sitting, I suddenly realized how to do the heel! I called my friend and told her to bring her knitting when I picked her up to take her to the play and I'd do them this weekend. I finished tonight with the correct number of stitches!!

This is certainly a well-constructed piece of writing! Talk about rambling! Well, I can vouch for the grammar at least.

Have a lovely night! 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

I Don't Like Being Sick

It's been a rough week. I thought I had a handle on my illnesses, but I don't.

I kind of understand migraine. I know I can't control how or when the migraines or going to hit or how bad they are going to be.

But, I thought I had some clue about the fibromyalgia. The flares usually only last a day or two and then I'm fine.

Not this time. Last Saturday I caulked the bathtub and I've been miserable ever since. All my muscles burn whenever I do anything. I'm unbelievably exhausted. PWM and I walked 1/2 a mile today and I was panting halfway through.

I suppose going to see Barry Manilow in concert on Thursday night didn't help my case. But, otherwise, I've been trying to balance rest with gentle exercise. (But, really, do you think I was going to miss going to see Barry Manilow in concert? Even if he is 70 years old?)

I don't like to think of myself as sick. When I was working, there was a prejudice against the diagnosis of fibromyalgia. It was called a "throwaway" or "garbage" diagnosis. Things are definitely changing. My current neurologist certainly believes it is real; he commented on studies that show parts of the brain that light up on fMRI during a fibromyalgia flare. Yay for really being sick!?

I guess I'm a little vain. I don't want to be sick when our society is telling us to be healthy and active. I shouldn't be spending my Saturdays inside reading a book or blogging. I should be outside, riding my bike or hiking in the state park or doing some other strenuous activity. I can't do that, though. Even if I were to manage some strenuous activity, I would pay for it dearly the rest of the week.

My counselor would have a field day with this. She would tell me that it's good to grieve for the life I used to have but that it's OK to be content with the life that I have. And we would pray. And Jesus and I already have an active conversation going about this.

Today, I'll practice contentment, although it's really not easy. Paul ended his letter to the Philippians by thanking them for their gifts and explaining how he was content in any circumstances because of God's grace.

11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

I wonder if I can practice contentment with ice cream? So, what about you? How do you deal with illness and things that interfere with life? How do you practice contentment? What kind of ice cream do you like?