Wednesday, August 26, 2009

how do you define christianity

I received an email from a guy I don't really know. We area associated thru Face Book. He said he was having trouble figuring out his role as "christian" and was dealing with some worldly issues and wanted to know what I meant by my term Protestant Postmodern Tradionalist... This was my response:

"well let me see. Its actually a combination of things I consider myself. Many folks consider themselves denominationally, like Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, whatever... even though I am a member of the United Methodist Church, it is still under the Christian religion and Protestant wing. So when asked "what religion are you" some reply Baptist, but thats a denomination affiliation. So Protestant. Postmodern is a relatively new term. For me it means that I am willing to accept or be open to the premise that we don't know everything there is to know about God, and that the Mystery and Nature of God is probably much bigger than we have given Him credit for. We have put God in such a nice tidy box of doctrines that we marry ourselves to, that we do not allow for the possibility that God could be something other than what we've learned. It is allowing people to keep searching and questioning and growing in their understanding and knowledge of God without all the associated "rules and procedures" that religion has imposed. So thats Postmodern for me.

Tradionalist is basically what is says. I haven't thrown the baby out with the bath water. I take all that I have learned from "the faith of our fathers living still" and apply it to my daily walk and understanding. However, I do not stop there. I do not believe that the final word has been spoken. I believe God speaks to us each and every moment and that creation is still occuring. Back to my "religion limiting God" stuff. Religion or Religious Doctrines dictate this or that and what you should do... I'm not sure that "religion" has it all figured out. So I take my traditional values, mix it with my Postmodern questioning, and try and find my place/relationship with God.

Christianity. In my walk I have been everything I describe in my teachings and conversations, so I speak from experience. I have been arrogant, evangelical, servant hearted, judgemental, confused, apathetic etc... Christianity used to be for me a set of rules and processes, church attendance and committee meetings. It wasn't personal, it was social. In our geographical region, many consider themselves "christian" because they attend church. I saw a saying once that stated "going to church no more makes you a christian that going to mcdonalds makes you a hamburger". funny but true. Max Lucado used the term "Churchianity" to describe this. Its a social norm for us in this area to go to church, but as you know we don't always practice Christianity. Which brings up the main point: What is Christianity anyway? What does it mean to you? In my old self, I used to think it was a set up behaviors: christians don't drink, smoke, curse, have lustful thoughts, vote democratic, etc. They go to church and do nice stuff in the community. I have found that none of this is true. Christianity is merely "practicing the teachings of Christ" or "Christ follower". hmmmm... so what DID Jesus say? Basically, it is Love One Another. Jesus is quoted as saying the greatest commandment is:"You must love God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. The second, like it, is this: 'You must love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments the whole Law hangs, and the Prophets." (Matt. 22:35-40) So basically love. Not too much judgement in there. Not to many rules. No doctrine. Just examples from his parables on how to treat people. Relationships. So Christianity has very little to do with church, or, uh, religion.
Now, we express ourselves thru worship and act together as the body of Christ through the organized church. Not bad. Good stuff if the focus is good. Build the kingdom but not the the empire so to speak. But you can be a Christian without going to church. Because Christianity and Religion are not the same. enough said on that.

So, do you beat yourself up as a Christian? Not good enough? Have too much baggage for God to use? The bible is full of stories of folks just like that who God used all the time. Point being Christians are not perfect and are spinning their wheels trying to be, or at least for beating themselves up over it. Michael Yacconelli wrote a book entitled "Messy Spirituality". It gives you permission to understand that you are only human, you will have issues, and that you will never be perfect. God loves you anyway. Heck, he created you, so he knows we are flawed and lacking. Doesn't mean he can't use us.

And for some reason, people think when they "accept Christ" its like a magic pill, and nothing bad will ever happen. Again, unbiblical. Life happens regardless if you are a Christian or not - its who you put your trust in to get you through that is the difference. If you rely solely on yourself, you'll fall flat on your face. If you trust in God, you may fall flat on your face, but He will help you up.
So yes, you will deal with worldly issues. I'm not sure in what respect your issues are, but it is Okay to have them. We all do. Its how you choose to deal with them that matters.
any of this helpful? continue the conversation?"

I hope the conversation continues.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Affirmation and Doubt

Recently, in the past month or so, I have been struggling with doubt. Doubting myself in teaching our adult christian education class. I keep thinking people will figure out I'm full of *** and call my bluff. I wonder to myself if I am teaching what I am supposed to be teaching and if anyone cares overall. I am very careful to check myself periodically to make sure some narcissism isn't seeping in, and instead of it being about the spiritual journey - it becomes all about me. I am wary of that. I "know" its not about me, but my personal ego and self gratification sometimes get the best of me, so I try to remember to be gracious and humble whenever possible.
A couple of weeks ago, while doing our current study over the book "I'm Fine With God... It's Christians I Can't Stand" one of the members who attends about once every other month shows up. We are talking about whatever and she asks "Why do we care?". I'm kind of taken aback. Why do we care? Well hell, why do we care about anything? I wanted to say "well I guess in your case you don't care"... but I didn't. I tried in my best political voice to articulate why we should care, because Christians doing stupid stuff gives us all a bad name and leads people off-course on their spiritual journey.
And I went home kind of ticked off. Questions like "why bother" and "am I getting through to these casual christians" bounced inside my heart and head until I couldn't stand it. Maybe I'm off base and someone else needs to take over teaching.
Yep. I was Eeyore. Woe is me. But hey, it was my pity party.
Someone else taught for me this past Sunday as I was out of town and I met that person for breakfast this morning. He related to me that they had a general open discussion of our past class topics and people really opened up. They discussed how a certain book or study resonated with them and how all of the studies seemed to come together. They shared personal stories about growing up, dysfunction, church, and tied it back to each thing we have talked about over the last year or so. There was even a first time visitor who shared that he was a recovering addict and dealer who has been clean for the past two years.
Affirmation. A little message from God?
Yes, they have been listening. growing. discerning. connecting. trusting. It was good to hear that. Relieved my doubts about what we have been doing. That it does make a difference, and yes, the answer to "why do we care?" was answered.

Friday, August 14, 2009

I bought a Harley Davidson motorcycle

I had no idea it had been this long since I blogged last. For some reason, life has seemed to fill itself with all sorts of distractions to keep me busy. From family to work to other pursuits, I am often amazed at how much I have to do and that thet end of the day comes so quickly. There are many times I have had GREAT THOUGHTS on things to blog about, and of course I am in the shower most of those times and can't write them down, so of course I loose the thought.
A week ago today I bought a Harley Davidson motorcycle. A big one. Lots of chrome and shine to it. I love riding motorcycles. I have owned and ridden one off and on since the age of fourteen. For the last eight years I have ridden a Kawasaki Vulcan Classic. A very eye catching and comfortable bike that has given me years of reliable service. But I have wanted a larger bike for about two years but couldn't bring myself to spend the money. Here are some of the reasons.
Yep, guilt. I felt guilty about it. They are quite a bit of money and in the realm of things are not a necessity. It is money I could spend elsewhere on the family. I had a bike that was paid for so I didn't really HAVE to have a bigger bike. I also wondered what Jesus would say about it. That is money that I could have used in tithing, or donating to non-profits, or whatever. Yes, guilt.
Okay, thats about it. Not many other reasons I put off buying one. But I absolutely love the feeling of riding a powerful machine down the roads with the wind greeting me and being at one with my surroundings. Its like therapy for me. I can clear my mind and just get lost and not worry about whatever. After a nice ride I have a better attitude and overall feeling of all is okay. It releases me from chains that ties me to life, and allows me to live.
It does my soul good.
So I will enjoy my new Harley. I will relish in the moments that God allows me to commune with him in this way. It is truly awesome.
Live to Ride - Ride to Live.