Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Religion’ Category

the Infinite Monkey speaks: on the Jesus standard

Random brilliance from across the internet…

.

Loving people is sometimes hard work. Because they don’t always look like us, they don’t always act like we want them to act…they aren’t always nice to us. Sometimes the people that we are called to love are actually our enemies. That’s what Jesus has called us to do as his people. So loving people is hard, but we know that that’s the standard. That’s the foundation for everything that we do as followers of Jesus.

– Jonathan Sprang

September 28, 2014

Catalyst Community Church

Advertisements

Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev is buried in my neighborhood

So the big news around here last Friday was that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was being buried in my county. The police department was actually forced to make a statement along the lines of, “Yes, we know what’s happening. Stop calling us. Oh, and 911 is for emergencies.”

I’m not sure what all those people calling 911 were thinking, why they thought it was an emergency or what they thought the police were supposed to do about it.

Though I hate to admit it, my own knee-jerk reaction to the information, while hardly volatile, was  less than hospitable. I thought, “Why here? He doesn’t belong here. Why did they bring him to where I live?”

I just didn’t like it.

.

I still have that reaction on the surface of my heart, but deeper than that is the understanding that people are not one-dimensional.  There is more to us than our worst deeds.

God, for my own sake, I hope so.

And it’s easier than you might think to become something different from what you started out as. It’s easier than you think to get wrong ideas in your head, to become immersed in whatever crazy thing you believe, and to find yourself acting on that wrong thinking in terrible, possibly irreversible ways.

But I was saddened by the ugliness and just venom from some of the comments I read on-line, ranging from a simple “this is a disgrace” to “throw him in the sewer” to “Massachusetts  doesn’t want this trash rotting in their soil, so why should we have to take him?”

What he did was horrendous. But I have to wonder, is there an act so vile and repugnant that it completely renders the person irredeemable?

And at what point does it then become okay to deny that person their humanity?

Because if that line exists, I believe there are so many more people who don’t belong in our communities, much less our graveyards. People you’ll never hear about, who carry out their atrocities in quiet and nearly invisible ways.

.

He’s here because no place else would have him.

The Christian woman who found the cemetery said, “Jesus tells us ‘love your enemies’, not to hate them even after they are dead.”

The Muslim organization that runs the cemetery released a statement that they condemn his actions but believe burying him was their duty. “To God belongs the soul, and He has the final judgment.”

There is a part of me that feels a bit contaminated when I think of this man being buried here. As irrational and unkind as that is.

And even though I’ve carried out atrocities of my own.

But at the same time, I’m glad he was taken in. I’m glad there were people with enough compassion and love and unclouded thinking to do what was morally and ethically right.

UNDEAD: Revived, Resuscitated, and Reborn by Clay Morgan

*Leave a comment to win a copy of Undead!

.

So, I’ve been talking about that Clay Morgan guy a lot recently; after all, October is UNDEAD month.  Maybe you’re wondering why I’d give a month of my space to Clay or his book.  And that’s a good question; thanks for asking.  Maybe you’re saying, “Why don’t you give up all of your space to someone who knows what they’re doing?”  But that’s not a good question, and I’m just going to pretend you didn’t say that.

Okay, so the short answer is that I believe in them.  I like both Clay and his book, and I believe in what they have to say.

Of course, the long answer is longer.

Here’s where I explain the book…sort of.

I’ve found it difficult to nutshell Undead; when people ask, my thoughts scatter in about ten directions at once.  In my defense, I’ve heard Clay Morgan himself explain the book in about five different ways.  The truth is that Undead covers a lot of territory, like doubt, the emotional tombs we crawl into, giving selflessly and how it’s not that easy to follow in Christ’s footsteps.  Here’s my try at a description:

In the beginning, Clay asks, “What if there isn’t just death and life, but death and undeath?”  From there, he leads us on a journey through a history of the undead, from ancient stories of the dead arising to why we’re still so fascinated with these creatures today.  Primarily, he recounts the six recorded incidents of the dead being brought back to life in the bible and uses those varied scenarios to discuss contemporary Christian life.  Pop culture references are effectively woven throughout the narrative as well, particularly the zombies that Clay employs so well to illustrate a shambling state of existence.

Above all, Undead asks the question, “Why isn’t this working?”  

“This is the thing I always believed was part of the answer to life, as in I just need this  to be happy and fulfilled.  We try all kinds of things in hopes of finding the right this.”  So why isn’t this  working?  Many of us are like spiritual zombies, shuffling through life, “unfulfilled by either pursuing or obtaining the objects of our desire.”  And “what happens when we have everything and still wake up feeling empty?”  Undead’s answer is that “God came to the land of the living dead so that the dead might live.”  We just have to choose life.

What I like about this book is that…

Undead offers me hope that I can be more than the zombie I sometimes act like, but never pretends that choosing life over death, choosing to be reborn, is easy.  Clay is very open and honest about his personal struggles and what he has viewed as his own spiritual shortcomings.  So instead of feeling my particular imperfections sharply contrasted against what I “should be”, I am shown that I’m actually a normal human being.  Yes, I can be more, I can strive to strengthen my relationship with God, to live more fully in my faith.  But questions, doubts and my internal struggling don’t make me a bad Christian.  Let me tell you, there’s something compelling about recognizing yourself on the page, being told that someone gets you, and feeling that they are speaking to you.  And beyond that, being told that you are okay, that you’re not alone – you’re not the only one, alone in this apocalypse.

Undead tells me something about myself. When I read a book like this, I ask, “Can I take a lesson from what I’m reading?  Does it make me ask questions about myself?  Does it challenge my viewpoint, my perspective, and offer me a different vantage from which to see?”  Undead fulfilled all of those needs for me. It reminded me about who I am and who I am striving to be.   It gave me new insight into my religion and my relationship with Christ.

About Clay Morgan…

The thing about Clay is he’s a nice guy.  I believe in the message of the book, and that the nature of the writing will help speak something wonderful into many ears that haven’t been listening.  But I know I wouldn’t put this much effort into promoting Undead if it weren’t for Clay.  I truly feel that his heart is in reaching out to people, particularly the youth community, and that he wants us to find what we’ve been looking for, to fill the emptiness of merely existing with the fullness of truly living.  I’m sure he wants to be successful for so many reasons, but if I thought his primary motivation was self, then you wouldn’t be reading this right now.

A couple of months ago, Clay helped me. I didn’t ask for help, he just offered it, in response to a simple, frustrated tweet.  And then he followed through.  I’m sure he doesn’t even remember it, and I imagine it wasn’t a big deal to him at all.  But it was a big deal to me.  Truthfully, I’m really spoiled.  I know that I can come here and find kindness and encouragement.  But this is my home, and you are my family.  As much as your support and caring are a continual wonder to me, I’m blown away when I find that kindness coming to me from the outside.  And I’m a sucker for people who are nice to me.

So there you go.

But wait, there’s more!

I’ve got a signed copy of Undead that I’d love to give to one of you!  Just include the word Undead  in your comment, and I’ll put you in the drawing.  I’d love to hear your thoughts either way.

Click here to visit Clay Morgan’s site and find out more about Undead:

Something Missing ad

I’d never seen a trailer for a book before, but this is cool, ya’ll:

.

.

My Mistake

So, the question is faith.  I read a post on claywrites.com last week that started with “faith is a weird thing.”  I commented that I have full confidence in God, but where my faith fails is with myself and how I participate in that relationship.  But I came to question the validity of that statement on Saturday morning.

What happened is I made a mistake.  I made a mistake, and it effected me and my boss and her boss.  It effected the store, the customers and the staff.  My small mistake, one miscommunication, became such a burden and resulted in so much upset.  I was on the phone two and a half hours, texting and calling pharmacists, asking for their help.  At intervals during that time I thought about God, but I never once asked him  for help.  I thought, “I can’t keep asking him to bail me out, I can’t be this burden on him again.”  Again.  But in not making the most important call for help, what was I really saying?  

Was it a test of faith?

It’s interesting, because last week, I had no problem sharing my burden with God.  It’s my job to find coverage for pharmacist’s vacations and emergencies and whatnot, and I had ten shifts to fill.  That’s a lot, and I was worried about it.  But I was also looking at it and saying, “You know, God always helps me, and my job is to do as much as I can, work as hard as I can, and leave the rest to him.”  To have faith.  And so, instead of being filled with anxiety and doubt, and doing it all on my own, I asked him for help.  I think it’s important to note that even when I ask for his help, I still feel that panic, that “it can’t be done!”  But I made a conscious effort to let go of that this time.

The thing about faith is it requires confidence. If I’m filled with anxiety, then what am I communicating?  It’s like saying, “I don’t trust you.”  I think I do, I think that’s in my heart, but maybe I’m not living that way.  I so often don’t look past the moment.  I know that whatever the outcome, it will be designed for my good in the long term, but I don’t act on that knowledge.  I act out of a place of fear.  I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24) I truly, truly in my heart have full faith in God.  But my actions show that I’m not living as though I believe, on a day-to-day, moment by moment basis.

I never really associated that with my faith before, because I saw my faith in a big way: FAITH.

At the end of those two and a half hours, I had to go to work.  I had to get in the shower; I needed to go to work and do my other job.  “God I hate to do this to you because I feel it’s trifling and beneath your notice, but I need help; can you please help me?  If you say no, that’s okay, too.  I’m not asking for me, but for my boss, because this makes her look bad.  And for the lead pharmacist, because it’ll reflect poorly on her if her store has to close and she refused to go in.  And also for your glory, even though I don’t know who would know about it except for me.”  I finally asked for help.

And then I started thinking about faith: what does it mean that I didn’t ask sooner?  I don’t know why I would ask him for help on Friday, but not on Saturday. When I finally reached out, I was at the end of my hope.  

As the water poured over me, I thought about faith, and I wondered what it says about me and our relationship.  Is that what some of the others who commented on that post were talking about?  Not the big FAITH, in capital letters, but the living your life and giving fully of yourself into that relationship kind of faith.  I thought about not wanting to “burden” him, even though he constantly tells me how important I am to him.  If I don’t trust in that, lean on that, and rely on that, is that a lack of faith?  I don’t know.

Anyway, I got out of the shower to find a text from my boss: “I covered it.”  12:09.  God had answered my prayer even as I was speaking it.

A few minutes later, a second text came in from the pharmacist who opened the store for us: “He’s here, I’m going.”  The man I’d crossed wires with had come in to finish the shift.  He drove an hour and a half to get there, and so the solution had been on its way long before I saw it coming.  God was answering my prayer even before it was spoken.  When I called to apologize and say thank you, the pharmacist said, “if it was anybody but you, Michelle, I wouldn’t have come.”  He said he had a lot to do that day, but I needed him, so he came.  “Because you’re so good to me, I wanted to help you.”  

Is that what faith looks like?  A pouring out of self on both sides?  And, perhaps, a taking in of what we need when it’s offered to us?

In response to my comment on his post, Clay said, “Faith is one of those mysteries that doesn’t fit into human understanding, so it often frustrates us.”  It’s interesting that maybe I’m struggling with things I don’t even know yet, that I don’t even realize.  Have I been holding out on my faith?  I have the big FAITH, that God can do all things.  But have I lacked faith in his words, “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.”  (Romans 8:28)  Or have I simply lacked the faith that he meant those words even for me?

Maybe my mistake was a lesson in faith.

Items of Interest:

Did God Give You Sucky Faith? by Clay Morgan

Livin’ On A Prayer by Larry the Deuce

.