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Archive for December, 2012

Four months after I left:

I had a man from my former church walk into my office today and ask to talk to me. He seemed a bit nervous. I told him that I would gladly talk to him and started to walk out with him since my office is not private. He asked if I was busy and I told him no but that I was headed to another area and he could come along. He started to follow and then glanced around and said he’d have called me but didn’t have my number. I gave it to him. As I walked out with him, he glanced around nervously and said he’d see me later.

It wasn’t until he had taken off that I realized I wasn’t afraid who would see me talking to someone, wasn’t afraid that someone would think badly of me standing in a wide open space talking to a man alone, and wasn’t afraid of what anyone would think if I was talking to a member of the church. And it wasn’t until he’d left that I realized that he WASafraid, that I would have been too just a few months ago, or just how much I’ve grown past that fear.

I hope that he does try to contact me again. But if he does it will be a VERY interesting discussion.

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Speaking of the last topic, regarding sermons with text quoted at us faster than we could write or research, there is another part to the sermons that comes into play. Psychologists term it “group think”. It’s the tendency of people to go along with what others seem to agree with. It’s what happens when you walk up to a group and see them all staring up at nothing, but you catch yourself staring up, too, and when you ask someone else what they are looking at, they admit they don’t know but there must be something because everyone else is. It’s what makes teens say “But everybody’s doing it!” And what makes the parental response, “If everyone else jumped off a cliff, would you?” so dangerous. Because the honest answer for most people of any age is, “well, maybe so if I’m caught up in the moment.”

Group think can be good, but it can also be very, very dangerous. If the group is doing the right things, group think leads to more conformance. If the group does something stupid, it can and has often been fatal. For those who’ve heard sermons there, group think, coupled with intense fear, what made people get up and shout amen as others were blasted publicly. It’s what made people stay when they knew something was wrong. It’s what allowed wrong to go on for so long.

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As I’ve realized some things lately, I have begun thinking… from Into His Marvelous Light through most sermons, I think information overload and a little laziness on my part did a lot toward keeping me from realizing when scriptures were taken out of context. I think of how many verses were rapid-fired at us… especially in the church I just left, there was hardly time to write them down, much less read the surrounding text and get an understanding of how they related. But they were also taken out of context and tied to other scriptures they were not truly related to. When I did write verses down to look up later, I was exhausted by the time I got home and didn’t generally look any up. Or I felt guilty for questioning what had been preached. Besides, it was a daunting task to look at the notes I’d take and start looking everything up. Sometimes we were given the chapter and verse, and other times the verse was just quoted, so that made the task even more difficult. At those times, it is easier to say, “Oh, well, everyone agreed so it must be right,” or “I’m sure it’s in there somewhere; it sounded right.” And of course, the more often it was preached and the more often I heard it stated, the more right it sounded. Especially with three to four 2-3 hour services a week plus conferences and camps.

And then there was the problem that I would leave service and often wouldn’t be able to tell anyone what the message was about. I was embarrassed about that for a long time. The verse about the sower and the seed and the stony ground (where the birds came and plucked the seed up as soon as it was sown) was quoted to tell me I should remember the messages, but no matter how I focused, I couldn’t remember much of what was preached. Notes helped some, but not nearly enough.

Then a year or so ago I realized that even preachers couldn’t remember what someone (or sometimes even they, themselves) had preached just a few hours before.

Even knowing this I still have difficulty going back and looking up the text of a message or study and really digging into it. It’s easier-in the short term-to just take someone’s word for it. But in the long run, it’s much better to have studied it out ourselves. Not only do we give ourselves a chance to process what we heard and check to make sure it’s right, but we also have the opportunity to get it in our hearts, if it is right.

2 Tim 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God…

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From the Archives: Easter

I celebrated St. Patrick’s Day this year. People in church were always supposed to kind of ignore it because it was ‘Catholic’. *shrug*

Anyway, now I’m going to celebrate Easter!!! And for any of my former church family who may read these sometimes, YES I’m going to dye eggs, and NO there is nothing wrong with Easter eggs. Some of my former church family would say that Easter has pagan origins and won’t touch it, other than to have an attendance drive. But there are a lot of things that have pagan origins that aren’t considered pagan now. How ridiculous to refuse to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection because of the name of the holiday or someone’s statement that eggs were part of a fertility rite 2000+ years ago!

Anyway, I’m dying eggs, I’m eating easter eggs, and I’m having fun this Easter, celebrating Jesus’ resurrection!

Last year at Easter I studied a little on Passover and ate some of the traditional Passover foods. One of the things on the Seder plate is usually a boiled egg. I was fascinated. A Seder egg isn’t pagan!  So Passover starts with a Seder on March 29, and I will be enjoying some of the Seder foods again this year, too, and studying a little more about Passover. And then a full fledged Easter celebration!

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In my former church, the pastor emphasized that we can’t be “good enough” for God. I assume that what he meant was that we will never be able to “earn” salvation-it’s a gift. But his statement bothered me because of the way it was used. 

Last night I went to a Christian commedian “concert” (Ken Davis). He told a story that his young granddaughter (under 6) had gotten lost in the mountains while they were camping a few years ago. They searched for 3 1/2 hours, and couldn’t find her. Called in search and rescue. Nothing. A storm was coming in. He was in a panic, sure, after not finding her in all that time, that she would never be found alive. Then the call came-hikers found her over 2 miles from camp, sitting on a rock. When they brought her back to camp, someone snapped a picture of him talking to her. He was squatted down, holding both her hands, looking straight in her eyes. And he asked us what we thought he was telling her. “Don’t you ever do that again!” “How could you wander off like that!” “You know better!” No. All he could say, again and again, was “I love you, I love you, I love you.” And he asked how we could think God, who loves us so much more, could do any less.

On the way home, I kept thinking about that. There was very little ever said about the love of God in my former church. But His love is very real, and very near. We may not ever be “good enough” to earn salvation, but that’s because it’s free. And if that’s the case, none of us is “bad enough” to slip beyond God’s love and mercy either. We have more than a Savior. We have a Father who loves us more dearly than we can even understand. And I love Him, too.

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One of my Facebook connections posted today. She used to go to my former church, and in reading her post, I came across a list of names I’d forgotten… names from two, three, four, even five years ago.

After spending an hour flipping through names, seeing faces I hadn’t seen for years, discovering a bit of where they are now and what they thought of what happened at Faith Tabernacle… and even, perhaps, of this blog, I had to wonder why I was even interested. I suppose it’s a kind of morbid curiosity, in a way. The kind that brings a person back to their high school reunions, the kind  that brings them to reminisce with the people who you haven’t seen in years, even the one who stole your gym shorts or stuck awful notes to your locker. There’s a past connection there that creates a common bond even though you’ve long since parted ways, and gladly. And so you go to the reunion, you glance through their profiles on Facebook, you wonder… and then you get up and within hours you pretty much forget about them again and move on with your life. Except that you are left with a certain sense of nostalgia, and a sadness or gladness for your own situation, perhaps. If gladness, not out of pride, but just a fascination that “there but for the grace of God go I.”

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I went to a baby shower at a church I’ve been visiting this weekend. I’ve been to lots of baby showers in the church, hated them, and felt guilty for hating them. This one was totally different.

On Thursday, I e-mailed one of the ladies in charge and asked her if she’d like me to bring a tray of food. She replied they’d forgotten the food, and that would be wonderful, then asked what I would be bringing. I replied briefly a veggie tray and maybe a fruit tray. She said great.

In Pentecostal churches, I have been intimidated to bring food to anything for a long time. What I brought to carry ins was rarely eaten. Ladies would tell me how to improve it, or remind me that they preferred more spices or more meat, or less fat or higher quality ingredients. What I brought to bake sales was set aside on the back corner of the table. My things rarely sold. What a waste of time, effort, and money!

So I went and bought the food for the trays. She hadn’t put limitations or expectations on me, so I was able to be more creative, and wasn’t so worried about what I got. I don’t have to impress these people, after all. If they need impressing, I’ll go somewhere else. It was fun choosing items for the trays, for a change. No agonizing over what fruit would be perfect or whether Sis Snooty would think there was enough. Just fun, making choices and considering what they would enjoy most.

When I got home, I was surprised to realize I had enough for three trays. Crackers and cheese. Veggies. Fruit. Each tray was filled with the things that would keep over night. Then on Saturday I put the remaining foods in their proper slots-even a slot for marshmallows, just for fun, and because I knew any kids that came would enjoy them.

My former church ladies would have had a fit. The grapes weren’t the freshest. They weren’t the largest. There were marshmallows in the fruit tray, and some were quartered regular sized ones, so they were a little sticky. The apples hadn’t been treated with lemon juice. Etc.

The ladies yesterday were just happy to be there. They complimented the trays, and laughed about how much they enjoyed the marshmallows. They chose foods politely, rather than piling their plates high and hoping there would be enough left over for people at the end of the line. They ate everything they chose-nothing was shunned as not good enough once tasted. No one complained about anything at all. It was absolutely amazing, and it was wonderful.

Then came the gifts. Oh, I hated choosing gifts for events in my former church. Once, a lady stopped me in Walmart, looked in my cart, and asked if that was what I was taking to the shower. She asked what else I was buying. I told her that was it. She proceeded to tell me that I needed a pricier brand and bigger box of diapers, took mine away and put her choice in my cart! What an interesting way to be helpful… though I know that’s what…

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