Friday, August 24, 2012

Heaven is for Real

I regret reading the book Heaven is for Real.  The positive thing I can say about it is that it only took about four hours to read, so I didn't waste too much time.

I started reading the book with a very open mind.  I wanted to lay back into something soft and warm and hopeful and just embrace the simple reality of it all.  So I read it and allowed myself to be moved by the story.  I've had two miscarriages, so the part of the story about the woman's unborn daughter being in heaven gave me a moment of hope and peace and a few tears.

But then I slept, and when I woke up in the morning all I could think was how I had been had.  I let this story enter me, and it is obviously a load of crap.  I felt like I let my guard down, my intellectual guard, and I had been taken for a ride.

My issue with the story is that I've been around 3 and 4 year olds, and they have wonderful imaginations.  The father said again and again that they didn't want to lead him in any direction or prompt him.  He said he believed what he had to say because his son answered so quickly and without hesitation.  I don't buy it.  Any question is prompting, especially since they kept asking and got excited about what he said.  He was simply fulfilling their wish.  Did he believe it?  The line between fantasy and reality at that age is so thin he probably did believe it.  He probably didn't even know where he collected all those bits of information.  Also, the kid is really into super heros, so it is no wonder that his trip to heaven included a battle with swords.  That is what he likes to pretend.

It is amazing that all those little bits, all those details are so accurate with a literal view of the bible.  The parents underestimate his ability to glene information from around him.  There are so many reasons not to take the book of Revelation as literal. It limits the breathe and depth of the message, but that seems like it should be addressed in a different post.

Some of his details are just wrong.  Jesus was Middle Eastern, not white.  The holes would not have been in his hand but his wrist.  So if he had actually seen Jesus, those details would have been correct.  But the information he gathered in his little mind didn't have accurate information, so neither did his "vision".

Did the kid experience something? Maybe.  He was near death, never dead.  At least we never know if he was actually dead, the family never checks with the doctor.  He may have experienced an intense feeling of being surrounded by God.  We will never know.  Accurate information from a four year old is hard to get, and now it has been drilled into him as reality for so long it is his reality, memory, accurate or not.

So I regret reading this book because I gave money to an idea, a belief system, that I believe is harmful. I also felt taken for a ride.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Barely, Passionately Christian

That is how I describe myself.

Barely - I reject much of what "mainstream" and conservative Christian believe. When people say Christian, I often don't have myself in mind.  I even stumble over using the word at times because of the images and ideas that are associated with it.

Here are a few examples: I reject hell.  Well, I think hell is real.  Many people live in hell everyday.  I believe those people have hope, so I guess that isn't true hell.  But if they don't know there is hope or at least can't imagine it, then it is hell.  The hell I reject is some sort of place of torment in the afterlife.  The afterlife is also something that I have questions about.  Not sure if I reject it, but I'm very skeptical about it.

Was Mary a virgin? I don't know and frankly that's between her and Joseph.  Why is the church so hung up on sex anyway?  I really don't want to hear about your sex life or lack there of.

The bible is an interesting book.  I think we misuse it.  Just because God said something to David doesn't mean it is also for me.  We can start to understand the nature of God through these stories, but we also need to loosen up a little.  Sometimes they are just good stories and certainly written by the winning side.  Also, if it doesn't ring true or make sense in "real life", then maybe we aren't understanding what it is talking about and need to set it aside for now.

So, here is what I do believe.  I'm very passionate about these things.

We are all created in the image of God in our own unique and wonderful way.  We are gifted and are called to use our gifts to bring about the Kingdom of God.  The Kingdom of God is when the idea of Love manifest is realized whether it is in the sharing of a meal or the helping of a friend or stranger when we experience true love and acceptance that is the Kingdom breaking in.  Each of us has the capacity to create that.  Jesus showed us the way.  Jesus even showed us that hope doesn't die with death. I don't really understand that last part, but I believe it.

There is more to be passionate about, but that is the basic.  And well, my computer battery is going to die and it certainly doesn't have an afterlife.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Power and perception

Many pastors wear a white robe during worship. It is suppose to symbolize they are servants of God and it isn't about them. But I didn't learn this until, confirmation, maybe, seminary, not sure. I had to relearn it as an adult and felt like it wasn't new information, but certainly not something I remembered. When I've done informal surveys others seem to also be in the dark on what it means or suppose to mean.

What that white robe for me symbolized and still often does, is this person is standing out as a person of power. They conduct the service and orchestrate all that happens. They say the words at communion. It might symbolize servanthood to them, but its just an illusion.

Robes are not symbols of servants in our culture. It would be more symbolic to wear jeans and a work shirt. Robes are what you wear at graduation not what you would wear if you were to really out there serving people, especially white. Can you imagine wearing one of those pastor robes while working on a farm, serving soup, mopping a floor - ridiculous.

To all my pastor friends out there - thank you for your service, but ditch the robe.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Moms get grace too

A few Sundays ago my toddler fell asleep during worship. She was out hard and laying across me, so I stayed in that position for the rest of the service. I knew we had a busy afternoon, and I knew if I woke her the nap would be over with no return later. I needed her to sleep, so I sat. People around us stood up to sing and to pray and to pass the peace, I sat there, and she slept. It was time for communion, and the very kind people in our row went the other way out the pew so not to disturb us. The usher asked if I would like communion to be brought to me. I gave a very non-committal response something like "don't worry about it, we're fine". Communion is taken to those how can't make it to the front, so this is a normal practice but usually for the elderly with walkers not a mom of a toddler who just doesn't want to move. I wasn't sure if anyone would come to us or not. I felt kinda silly. And then down the aisle it came. There was nothing left for me to do but receive.

In that moment, I realized something: moms get grace too. As I sat there "not needing help" or wanting to bother anyone because I have it under control, someone came to me with the message of love and forgiveness and a reminder that it isn't about getting it right and being it all. Sometimes I can have a break or a moment or just mess up and the world will not end because of it. I too can have a moment of grace.

Now if someone just felt inspired to clean the kitchen.

This post partly bothers me because it is so cliche. Oh the Gospel is for me?! Duh. But on the other hand, how much do we live like it is for us? When we are running around with our giant to do lists and apologizing for not getting something done we are not living from a place of "its going to be ok" or grace, but we are preaching grace and living works. Salvation, after all, isn't just about the future but the moment, and in this moment it isn't about your to do list or your work but about the fact that you are loved. What would it look like if you lived like that and really believed it? I certainly wouldn't feel sheepish that someone walked 50 feet to give me something because my kid was asleep. Sheepish is a feeling from the place of works not grace, of believing that I can do it all.
But I can't. And its ok.
I'm not loved by anyone because of the checks or not checks on my list.

Eat your vegetables

As a kid I didn't really like vegetables. Well, I'm not really sure what I thought. There was so much pressure and drama around eating them, that I never felt like I was left to my own to figure out what I liked or didn't. Kids don't like veggies, I was told. Eat your beans! I wish I could have just tried them without being watched or judged and with no preconceived idea about my opinion before I started.

When I see verses of the bible posted in various places, I have a similar reaction. It often feels like the poster is assuming I won't take the time to read the bible myself or that I won't like it, so here is one verse, just take a bite. If I felt they were posting because they were inspired and wanted to share I would feel less like I was being told to eat my vegetables, but that is rarely what it feels like. I rarely read them, just like I didn't eat many vegetables when I was a kid.

I also never click "like" on those posts that tell me I won't "have a heart" if I don't or "if I really was a Christian" or whatever the line is to try to guilt me into sharing or liking. Give me a break. Stop trying to guilt my faith. Those posts are not useful to sharing the Gospel. They are about who's in, really in, and who isn't. The Gospel is about everyone deserving Grace.

The bible is a crazy book full of wonder and power and grace. I feel inspired reading and studying it. I also really like vegetables now that there is no pressure involved. And I will "share" my faith when it matters and not when pressured by bored people online.