Tag Archives: Faith

Five (A Five Minute Friday Post)

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tally_marks-five-bar_gate-svgWork, sleep, family, fitness, and friends.

Pick three.

Randy Zuckerburg’s famous tweet regarding the entrepreneur’s dilemma has been swirling my head like a ring of little blue birds.

Fitness got kicked to the curb some time ago.

But my mentor tells me that, “without being fit you’ll never have the energy to keep going.” So… maybe I need to rethink my choice.

Certainly can’t give up my family time.

Friends have carried me on their shoulders to the place where I am today.

Sleep… well… I’m sort of in love with sleep.

The result?

My plan?

I have no plan.

I have lists. Lots and lots of lists.

I have priorities. Writing will take precedence over washing dishes. If my filthy house offends you, please stay away until my success reaches the point where I can afford a maid. In fact, maybe you should stay away after that time, too. We clearly don’t have much in common.

I have values. My crying child gets my attention. Business can wait. Even the supposedly urgent stuff.

Most of all, I have a vision.

Not just a dream. Not a hope, or a wish, or even a goal.

I have a God-given vision and… you know… maybe, since I’m obviously just a limited, finite, flawed little creature, God will carry me forward to see it through as long as I don’t look away from where I’m going.

This post is part of Kate Montaung’s Five Minute Friday. For more, click here.

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Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?

Why not follow LazyHippieMama onTwitter or Facebook to get all the updates.

If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve!

Want to REALLY know what my busy typing fingers have been working on lately? Visit my author page for oodles of short stories and all the latest info on the Heaven And Earth Series!

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A Prayer on September, 11 – May We Never Forget

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Father God,

For the people in this nation, life changed fourteen years ago. Peace that we took for granted was stripped from us. People we loved and respected were suddenly gone. Where we had always perceived ourselves as strong, we suddenly felt weak and vulnerable and uncertain.

On that day we rallied. We showed the best of ourselves. So many of us fell before you and prayed. We prayed for the victims, for the rescuers, for those who lost loved ones and for the future. We checked on our neighbors and hugged our family a little tighter.

But then we let fear take over, though you have told us time and again to “fear not.”

We sought out vengeance, though you told us that such business was yours and not ours.

We decided that we could stop this from happening by stamping out a certain mindset. But how can we wage war against the thoughts of a man’s heart when only you know what those thoughts truly are?

In our thirst for justice without mercy we have hurt and killed the innocent.

Forgive us for our pride, our arrogance, and our failure to stand strong in faith, instead of being manipulated by the demons of fear.

Unite us again. Help us to, once again, comfort those who mourn, aid those who are hurting, and care for those who have suffered loss.

Help us to focus on loving our neighbor.

And our enemy.

Especially our enemy.

May we never forget that it was hatred and fear that provoked these attacks.

May we never forget how good it felt to join together in love.

May we never forget to pray every single day the way we prayed that day.

May we never forget to rejoice in the salvation of a single person the way we rejoiced when we saw just one person pulled from the rubble.

May we never forget that millions of people live in that kind of fear every day of their lives and it is our privilege and responsibility to help them through sharing our time, treasures, and talents, and surrounding them in prayer.

May we never forget that, even when things seem confusing and overwhelming, you are infinitely bigger than our biggest problem and your hand is always on us.

May we never forget that every human kingdom is temporary but the Kingdom Of God is eternal.

Let it be.

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Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?

Why not follow LazyHippieMama on Twitter or Facebook to get all the updates.

If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve!

Visit my author page for all the latest info on the Heaven And Earth Series!

 

 

God Prefers Fruit Over Leafy Green Vegetables (Nablopomo Day 5)

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*This post is Day Five of the January Nablopomo 30-day blogging challenge hosted by BlogHer.

God Prefers Fruit Over Leafy Green VegetablesI heard a statistic this week. It was along these lines: McDonald’s has grown to be so pervasive in our society that they actually need to check with the federal government before they add a menu item because the additional demand on ingredients will effect the entire national food supply. For example, adding fresh blueberries to their smoothies meant that 35% of the entire harvest of blueberries last year was purchased by McDonald’s.

I’m not sure I am remembering that exactly right and I’m not sure the person who said it had it exactly right, but it makes sense if you think about it.

I was pondering that in the spaghetti bowl of my mind, where noodles of thought often get tangled and entwined, and I ended up at the realization that God strongly prefers fruit over vegetables. Especially leafy green vegetables.

Whether you’re Christian or not, there’s no doubt you’re familiar with the idea of knowing a person “by the fruit they bear.” A person who is selfish and greedy in their heart will never create for themselves an environment that is generous and focused toward the well-being of others. Anyone can fake it for a while but, in the end, the “fruit” will always be a reflection of the “tree” upon which it grew.

In the Bible, Paul writes to the Galatians about bearing good fruit. “The fruit of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

This is why I cringe when someone screams, “God hates fags!” and calls themselves a Christian. Or when someone trumpets the glory of war, or makes a comment that the poor need to “get a job” and take care of themselves, or wallows in one addiction or another with no effort to overcome. Those things are not the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Now, the Bible also clearly says that we all fall short. Heaven certainly knows that my own personal tree has some branches in desperate need of pruning! But that’s not where I’m going with this today. Today I’m thinking like a homesteader.

On our tiny little chunk of land we have a few fruit-bearing plants and a garden. The garden is where vegetables grow. In the great scheme of things vegetables grow fast. We live in Michigan so our season is only from June-September, give or take a few weeks. In that time we can churn out all sorts of veggies. Some things grow SO fast that we can get in multiple harvests in a single summer. This is especially true of the leafy green stuff.

The man, I love. The kale I could do without.

The man, I love. The kale I could do without.

If McDonald’s decided to do a Kale smoothie (Now there’s an interesting idea!) it really wouldn’t be that big of a deal to increase our nation’s kale production. We could be churning out stinky, green, burnt-rubber-tasting plants in a month or two. One reason blueberries are a different story is that fruit takes a significantly longer time to grow. Many fruit trees (vines, shrubs, etc) take several years to mature. It is a long process to bring a plentiful harvest from a grape vine cutting. An apple seedling planted in celebration of a child’s birth MIGHT be able to help provide his lunch when he’s old enough to begin elementary school.

I don’t think that it is a mistake that our attitudes and life-circumstances are compared to fruit rather than vegetables.

As we head into the New Year we all consider changes in habit and lifestyle. I can think of several things I’ve pondered in the past weeks. They are common concerns. I need to be more punctual. I need to be wiser with my money. I REALLY need to eat better (and less) and exercise more. We are all aware of some improvements we could make in our fruit. But it’s really hard to change! Statistics show that after 6 months more than half of us have abandoned our New Year’s Resolutions. (source) I think that happens because we want quick results. We forget that good fruit is the work of years. You can change a fruit tree. You can prune it and shape it. You can even graft different types of fruit onto the existing trunk. But it is a lot of work. It must be done with great care and attention. It can’t be rushed. But the results… nothing in the whole world is better than sweet, fresh, fully mature fruit! It is totally worth every bit of effort.

There are areas of my life that need attention and the beginning of a new year seems like a great time to evaluate and take stock. I’m thinking, though, that my worst habits – from over-eating to gossiping to procrastinating – are going to take more than a single season to change. It took nearly 40 years for the tree of my life to bear its current fruit. I shouldn’t be too disappointed in myself if it takes more than a few weeks to change. I will be an attentive gardener, though, and I will move forward in the hopeful knowledge that success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal. (Thank you, Earl Nightingale, for that bit of wisdom!)

Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?

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If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve!

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What Do You Think Wednesday – Lying To Your Kids or Promoting Good Imagination?

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This time of year it’s always a hot topic:  do you tell your kids Santa is real?

On one side are the die-hard Santa-followers.  They will go to great lengths to maintain the illusion… often including mischievous elves or wandering wise-men in the Christmas festivities.

On the other side are those who believe that telling kids Santa is real (and I’m talking about the down-the-chimney/flying reindeer Santa here, not the actual guy who was sainted) is lying to them and it will destroy their trust when they are older and find out the truth.

It’s got me wondering where you all draw the line.  It’s not just Santa. This is an underlying parenting philosophy.

In our house we are all about believing in the impossible.  If my child asks me, “do you believe in Santa? The tooth fairy? Garden gnomes? Wandering nativity guys that come to life every night?”  My answer never waivers.

I believe.

People have asked, “How long will you keep up ‘the illusion?’ When will you tell about Santa, etc.?”Belive-in-Magic2

I will keep it up forever. I will always and forever maintain that I believe.  When my children are the age that I am now and they come to visit on Christmas all of the gifts will not be under the tree until  Santa comes and puts them there while everyone sleeps on Christmas Eve.

I want my children to grow up in a world where anything is possible.  There was a time when curing bubonic plague with a pill, sailing to the East by going West, taking someone’s heart out and replacing it with another, flying to the moon or traveling faster than the speed of sound would have been considered magic.   The people who made those things possible and understandable (at least in a rudimentary sort of way) to us all were people who believed, with great passion, in the absurd.

Then again…

Our family has some dear friends who strive to be unwaveringly realistic with their children.  They tell them, “No. There is no Santa. People work very hard to earn money and buy you gifts because we love you and want to give you something special.”

earn itThey will be quite firm. “You are not a princess. You are pretending to be a princess.”

Their philosophy is that kids need to grow up with a rock-solid foundation of understanding about how the world works in order to become successful adults. If a girl grows up believing she’s a princess what’s going to happen when she needs to get her first minimum wage job and take care of herself?

And you know… I think their logic makes good sense.

So my question to you is this:

Where do you draw the line between promoting imagination and outright lying with kids?

Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?

Why not follow LazyHippieMama  by email, Facebook or Twitter to get all the updates?

If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve! 

Hippies Letting Go in December

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MM910001158Welcome to 2013!

I’d like to start off the year by telling you the story of our December:

Somewhere near the end of November, Handsome Hippie Hubby came home from work acting squirrelly.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Nothing,” he said.

“Did you have a bad night?”

“No. It was fine.”

“You’re sure everything is OK?”

“Yes.  Everything is fine.”

Hmmm….

Finally, he worked himself up to it. “There’s something I need to talk to you about.”

Oh boy.  I never know what’s going to follow those words.

I never could have guessed.

“I think we should give away 50% of our income in December.”

Huh.

We had a day or two until rent was due and we weren’t going to make it.  Electricity, water and the car payment were all falling behind.  50%, eh?

We already gave 10% to the church. That was something we’d agreed on years ago.  But FIFTY?!

“Uhm.  Why?”

“I feel strongly that I’m being led to do this.  I think about money all the time.  I obsess over it.  I worry about it.  I lose sleep over it.  I need to let it go and feel good about it.  I can feel good about doing good things for people. I think it will help me.”

I knew this was one of those times I needed to be quiet and let him lead our household.  Giving so much seemed counter-intuitive in every way and in all honesty I was a little scared.  But who am I to question the still small voice, whispering in my husband’s ear?

So we embarked on 31 days of extreme (for us) giving.

We gave to the local food pantry and bought toys for Toys for Tots.  We gave to a young single mother we’d once seen give to someone else.  We gave to co workers and neighbors and the Salvation army.  Sweet Hippie Daughter helped us decide where we should give.  It’s sort of a lot of work to give so much!

We kept everything anonymous as much as possible.  It was important to both of us that people not feel “weird” about getting a gift from us and we weren’t doing it for the recognition.  We were just stepping out in faith.

It got really scary when we got shut off notices and demanding phone calls.

We kept reminding ourselves and each other that “today we have everything we need.  Tomorrow will work out.”

We kept giving.  We gave to United Way and we bought gas for strangers and we paid tuition for music students.

After a while it started to be more exciting than scary.

An odd thing happened.  HHH started earning more.  Not every night, but as Christmas approached and his restaurant got busier he would end up making so much, many nights, that “our half” would be as much as he would normally have made anyway.

We got $1,000 for food! That’s a lot of food!

We received a letter that our water bill and half of our electric bill had been paid!

We were able to make a payment on the van (only 4 more to go!).

Rent was late, but it did get paid.

Then the Free Stuff Train rolled into our world…

We got a new sofa and recliner  for free!  The young couple down the road had just purchased it a few months ago and they had split up and no one wanted it.   Would we like it?  Yes, please!

A friend said, “We upgraded our old-style flat screen to an LED.  Want it?  You can have the stand too.”  Yes, please!  (Our old TV was one step past the days of 2 knobs on the front and you had to use a special adapter to hook up the DVD player.  It was an OLD TV)

On Freecycle someone offered a ridiculously nice telescope, something that Sweet Hippie Daughter had been asking for.  Thanks to Freecycle we also found a Stitch doll she had asked for.  We found skis at a consignment shop for $7, and a snowboard for $12.  Santa’s work was done and he’d spent less than $20!  We’d saved so much, HHH couldn’t help but bring home a new bike for our slightly spoiled girl on Christmas Eve.  It was certainly her most “prosperous” Christmas morning ever!

There have been moments when we’ve wondered, “are we really doing the right thing?  Is this irresponsible? Was this really a prompting by God or just a random thought we followed?”

With one day left to go, we got the best possible answer to quiet any remaining doubt.  HHH said that he felt we should give to a family we know. They were having car trouble.  We had $215 to give so we handed it to them.  They were stunned. They had just gotten the estimate for the repairs.  It would be $200.

HHH and I just wept.  God had answered our question.  Yes, we were doing the right thing.  We were following His voice.

A former pastor of mine used to frequently remind us that, “your life may be the only gospel that some people ever hear.”  This is  a comment that has stuck with me in a very life changing way.

How can I tell the Good News of God’s love for us and of our redemption without using words?

Giving of our financial resources is certainly one way and we have been truly blessed beyond measure by having the opportunity to give radically this past month.  I’m not saying that everyone should do what we did, but I am suggesting that if you are clinging to something in the material world and you find a way to let go of it, God may bless you with something even better.  Have faith.  Your Father (or Mother, if you prefer) has promised to provide for you.

As the old saying goes, though, “money isn’t everything.”  What can I do to “be the Gospel?”  What else can I do to grow my faith and have a better relationship with my Creator?  What else can I do to bring glory to God?

Well…..

I’ve been thinking about ways I could refine and focus my blog this year, so when WordPress challenged bloggers to start a 52 week project in January these ideas all ran toward each other like the people in the old Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Commercials.

In 2013 I’ll be blogging about “52 Ways To Be A Better Christian.”

Each week I will do something (or refrain from doing something) in order to strengthen my faith.  Then I will share what I’ve done and, hopefully, start a discussion about how we who believe that Jesus’ message of faith and love and peace and redemption is truly the greatest Good News that has ever been given can help one another grow into the men and women God would have us be.

I invite you all to join me for this discussion and others at my new blog, “The Curious Theologian.”

Hope to see you there!

Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?  Why not follow LazyHippieMama on WordPress, by email or Facebook to get all the updates.  If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve!

Theological Thursday – Christians and Social Welfare

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Disclaimer: I’m sorry to be exclusionary, but this post is really for my Christian readers.  If you are Wiccan or Deist or atheist it won’t make sense and really doesn’t apply.

For quite a while now I’ve been hearing people say, “If you truly believe in God you will follow this or that political plan to help the poor.”

Here’s the thing….

Regardless of politics, if you call yourself a Christian, there is a certain standard that your Lord and Savior told you to live up to.

Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourslves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted…. for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

-Luke 12:33-34

Jesus said, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

-Matthew 10:21

And the Bible tells us this story:

As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasurey. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “I tell you the truth,” he said. “This poor widow has put in more than all the others.  All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

-Luke 21:1-4

This ideal is hard to accept!

I love Jesus and call myself a follower of his…. but am I really willing to give up all my possessions?  All?  My house? My computer? My car? The clothes off my back? Maybe… but it would be HARD for me to do.  Really hard.

Judging by the numbers, I’m not the only one who feels that way.

The Old Testament Law was to give 10% of your wealth back to God.  Not just any 10%, but the BEST 10%.  Most churches still encourage that practice (I guess telling people to give EVERYTHING is considered over the top.  See, “it would be HARD,” above.).  Yet, even 10% seems to be too much to ask.

Consider this math:

According to Wikkipedia, 73% of Americans consider themselves to be Christians.  That is 227,462,099 people. Assuming an average family size of 2.6 people, it’s 87,485,423 Christian households.  If the average household income is $50,054 that means there should be $437,864,542,115 each and every year flowing into the church coffers AND BACK OUT AGAIN in service to “the least of these.”

That’s right… if so-called Christians put their money where their mouth is, there would be HALF A TRILLION DOLLARS coming just from the USA to take care of those who are unable to take care of themselves.

I’m not talking about Christians giving up all of their worldly possessions, as that crazy radical named Jesus suggested.  I’m just talking about 10%.

The reality is, only a small percentage of people who call themselves “Christian” actually have any kind of active faith.  Those few give an average “tithe” of less than 3%.  Many churches are finding it’s barely enough to keep the lights on.

We (and please understand I am including myself in this) get so worried about keeping up with all of the material things that society says we need that we feel we can’t afford to give 10%.  But, seriously…  do you give 10% of your income to the cable company?  Do you give it to the bank to make the payment on your “extra” vehicle?  Do you give it to the stores at the mall to be sure that your clothing is stylish?

I suggest that we, the church in the prosperous (yes, even in these economic times we are prosperous compared to many) Western world, need to take a long hard look at our own practices before we start saying that God wants non-believers to pay 40% in taxes in order to care for the poor.

If you call yourself a Christian and you are living comfortably (or even just a tad uncomfortably) and failing to give at least 10% I suggest you examine your habits.  I know… believe me, I KNOW, it can be hard to give 10% when you feel like you can’t even live off of the 100%, but, as a Christian you are to have faith.  Take a look at “the lilies of the field who neither sow nor reap” and know that God isn’t going to leave you in need when you are being faithful to give to Him.

And if you are in a position of leadership in the church, I pray that you examine very closely what your church is doing with the precious, hard-earned tithes of the faithful.  Are we using that money to buy fancy buildings and cool electronics that make us seem “relevant?”  Or are we using it to serve the needy, as we would serve Christ himself.

I know… there is a time and a place to spend money on buildings and pretty things.  I’m just saying that we need to be sure our priorities are right.

As for social welfare… well, that’s a political issue, not a religious one.  Vote however your conscience leads you.  But don’t blame non-believers for not helping the poor when the church is setting such a dismal example.

Theological Thursday – Why Do You Fear?

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Is your fear consuming you?

I hear fear all around me.

We are afraid of financial struggles.

We are afraid of getting sick.

We are afraid of the policies of this or that politician.

We are afraid of being hurt by our loved ones.

We are afraid of being judged by others.

We are afraid of failing.

We are so very afraid.

But, if we call ourselves the children of God, fear has no place in our lives!

In energetic medicine fear is one of the lowest vibrations that exist.  Lower, even than hatred!

There are dozens of Bible verses about fear… or rather, verses instructing us not to fear.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. Psalm 23:4

The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?
Psalm 27:1

For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love and self-discipline. 

2 Timothy 1:7

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you.  He will never leave you nor forsake you.

Deuteronomy 31:6

And my personal favorite!

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

1 John 4:18

Do you see a pattern here?

The concept of, “fear not,” is not a suggestion or vague idea.  It is a command!  It’s no different from, “Thou shall not murder.”

FEAR NOT!

Do you believe that God is in control?

Do you believe that He (or She, if you prefer) sees what is happening in our lives? Our country? Our world?

Do you believe that He loves you?

Do you believe that He has a plan?

Do you believe that He has a better view of the big picture than you do?

Then fear not!

My daughter is wary about crossing the big highway near our house.  But if she’s holding hands with her Daddy or me she doesn’t even give a glance to the passing cars.  She knows that we will keep her safe.  In our care, she is fearless.

And that is why the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like children.

Because, they know complete trust in the arms of their Heavenly Father.

Think about those things you fear today.  Name them.  Face them.  Give them to God.  Ask Him to hold your hand and walk with you and keep you safe and you will see that, in your faith you have freedom.

Theological Thursday – Jesus and Mrs. Of-Nazareth

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Well, it’s been all over Facebook.

Good Morning America talked about it.

I’m sure it’s been discussed on the radio and in the newspapers and around water coolers everywhere.

Jesus had a wife.

Well….

Maybe.

According to one newly discovered source, dated some few hundred years after Jesus’ life on earth, and limited to a handful of fragmented sentences, it may be possible that he mentioned a wife.

As I understand it, this is a picture of that new source in its entirety.

Image from http://www.hds.harvard.edu credit Karen King 2012

It’s kind of small.

And it hasn’t been subjected to much testing, although their doesn’t seem to be any serious debate about the authenticity of its age.

Uhm.

My world is not rocked.

Here’s the thing…

Dan Brown wrote about this 10 years ago!

This is not a new debate.  It’s been a subject of discussion for pretty much as long as the Christian church has had any sort of official organization.  The Bible makes no mention of Jesus ever having been married or having a wife.  It also makes no mention of him NOT having a wife (which, frankly, in that time and place would probably have been worth mentioning as it was very uncommon for a man of his age).

Obviously, church tradition, over time, has favored the “no-wife” argument and there are some valid reasons for that.

But if, some day, we find irrefutable evidence that he did get married…  how does that change the fact that he was sent from God, lived a sinless life, died on the cross and rose again?

How does being married make the sermon on the mount any less extraordinary?

How does having a wife make his miracles less valid?

Over time, our understanding of things changes.  A thousand years ago breaking a piece of moldy bread over the body of a sick person while chanting would be called witchcraft.  Now, we understand that, while perhaps not the best way of doing things, it could heal someone… not because of any magic, but because bread mold has antibiotic properties.  Our understanding has changed.

Modern day Christians tend to say that they believe this or that because the Bible says it’s so…  but when we REALLY read the Bible, does it say what we think it does?  Or have we grown up in a powerful and well-ingrained tradition that interprets things a certain way?

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not knocking tradition.  I think that it’s important to embrace our history.  But, assuming you believe that the scripture is divinely inspired, nowhere does the Bible give church history an equal importance.  There are the words of God, given through the prophets and His own Son, and then there is everything else.

If, in time, all evidence shows that the earth is young or old, that dinosaurs (Leviathans) did or did not exist in the time of Job, that Mary (the mother of Jesus) did or did not have other children of her womb, or… yes… even that Jesus was or was not married….

well…

then that’s the truth.  And it doesn’t necessarily contradict the Bible.  Your faith needs to be strong enough to survive the misunderstandings of your intellect.

St. Augustine once said, “Miracles happen, not in opposition to nature, but in opposition to what we know of nature.”

Now, if, in time, all evidence shows that Jesus was NOT an actual person, that he never performed a single miracle, that he did NOT die on the cross or that (by far the most important thing of all) he did not rise again…

well…

THAT would rock my world and shake my faith.

The rest is just details.

Try not to get too worked up about it.

The world, time, all things, are delightfully mysterious.  Accept that humanity is young and sophomoric and that we still have an awful lot to learn, and go forward in faith that the Wonderful Creator, who is behind all of it, has your best interests well in hand.

Theological Thursday – Sink or Swim? Maybe You Should Just Build A Boat.

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Click the picture for the funniest telling of the story of Noah EVER!

First of all, I’d like to say that, yes.  I know it’s Friday.  It’s been that kind of week.  Better late than never, right?So…

The story of Noah’s Ark may be one of the most famous in the whole Bible.

Even children who have never been to church have seen movies that reference Noah (Ice Age, The Meltdown, anyone? How about Evan Almighty?).  Little animals march, 2 by 2, on countless crib mobiles and toy-shelves and right through the pages of story books.

Click this picture for more super-funny Noah humor.

I’m not sure why this particular story gets so much more attention than others.  Maybe it’s the idea of all those adorable animals (somehow there are never King Cobras or Mosquitoes pictured in the storybook versions) living in harmony.  Maybe it’s just that boats are cool and rainbows are pretty.

But here’s what I take away from the story of Noah….  that guy had FAITH!!!

If you haven’t read the real version of the story, you can find it in Genesis, Chapters 6-9.

Let me just take a moment to discuss the literal vs. metaphorical status of this story.  Many well-educated, intelligent people believe that this story literally happened exactly as it was written.  Many God-fearing, faithful people think that it is a story, meant to illustrate a point.  Many people believe that there was a catastrophic flood that happened and this is one story about it, that has been made legend over time.  There are volumes upon volumes written on whether or not it’s a “true” story.  Whatever you believe, don’t be too quick to talk down to folks who believe differently… each argument has valid evidence behind it.  When you cross to the other side you can ask God for yourself.

Today, for what I’m talking about, it really doesn’t matter.

To sum up the story, the world had become such a horrible place that the Bible tells us that ALL flesh was corrupted, and full of violence.

Do you think the world is bad today? Even so, I bet you could name 10 truly good, decent people right off the top of your head.

Can you imagine how bad it must have been if EVERY SINGLE PERSON had completely given in to their “dark” side?

Except one.

“Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation.  Noah walked with God.”

So God told Noah that he’d had enough.  He was going to wipe the slate clean and start over. There would be a flood, the likes of which was beyond all comprehension.   He gave Noah instructions to build a really crazy huge boat and said that he could take his wife and his 3 sons and their wives in addition to 2 of every kind of animal (except the “clean” animals.  There were seven pairs each of those.).  In this way, each kind of life on earth would be preserved.

I guess God had no beef with water creatures as the flood probably didn’t really bother them much.

Anyway…

Noah did this.

He built an ark.

No doubt, everyone who knew him thought he was nuts (click the pictures, above, for further consideration of this).

His wife probably rolled her eyes and sighed.

His children, no doubt, thought that, at 600 years old, he’d finally gone off the deep-end.

But then…

“all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened.”

I bet the family was pretty darn happy to climb aboard then!

So it rained for “40 days and 40 nights.”  Again, some people say this was a literal amount of time.  Others say that, in ancient Hebrew literature it’s a term used to mean, “a really really long time.”

Either way, it was a lot of rain.

It was so much rain that “all the high mountains were covered… (and) every living thing that was on the face of the ground… was blotted out.”

Seven months and 17 days later the boat got stuck on a mountain top.

Give that some thought…   7 and a half months trapped on board a ship with no company except a planet’s worth of stinky animals and your 7 closest relatives.

Eventually, after several more weeks in the ark, Noah sent out a bird that never came back, which he took to mean that the bird had found a dry place to nest.  So he opened up the doors and they all piled out to re-populate the earth.

At that point, God put a rainbow in the sky, and promised Noah that “I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done. As long as the earth endures, seed-time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”

There were some very important rules laid down regarding the sanctity of life.  The survivors were told to be fruitful and multiply.

So Noah went out, and, being an enterprising 600+ year-old man, was the first guy to think up the idea of planting a vineyard.

He then proceeded to get schnockered, which immediately resulted in a display of human depravity and subsequent cursing of the depraved.

God must have felt very frustrated.

Even so,  it’s been quite a long time and, so far, He has kept his promise.

So here’s (some of) what I get from all that:

1) Sometimes it seems like everyone around you is doing wrong.  Keep the faith.  Do what’s right.  It will be in your best interest in the long run.

2) Sometimes it seems you are being led to do something that seems utterly ridiculous.  Keep the faith. Do it anyway.  It’s in your best interest.

3) Sometimes it seems like the storm will never end.  Keep the faith.  Even the worst of storms are finite.

4) Sometimes, even the best of us mess up.  Keep the faith.  God won’t abandon you.

Are you seeing a theme here?

We all have stuff that we deal with.  Maybe one person’s stuff seems bigger, or more harsh, than another person’s stuff… but no one gets a perfect life.

Keep the faith.

God is with you.  “He will never leave you nor forsake you.”

The old quote, “It takes both sun and rain to make a rainbow,” is total Truth.  The rainbow is there as a promise.  God hasn’t forgotten you.  He never will.  God hasn’t forgotten us, as a species. He never will.  The storm WILL have an end.

Just keep the faith.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, don’t rely on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)

Theological Thursday – Christianity, Summed Up

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A dear friend, smarter by far than me, made a comment recently that my “Theological Thursday” posts are over her head.  She helped me remember that not everyone in the whole wide world grew up speaking “churcheeze,” as I did.

I truly love debating the minutia of scripture.  It’s like trying to solve a puzzle.  It’s exercise for the brain!  And I will, no doubt, pontificate on the proper translation of the original Greek of some obscure verse in the future.  I may do a whole blog post on exactly what I think about the term, “In the beginning,” just because it’s fun for me.

I’m a nerd.

I admit it.

But, today, I’m just going to sum it up.  The basics of what Christians believe.

There are a lot of points that Christians debate, but we all pretty much agree on the central stuff.  Don’t get all hung up on “literally” or “metaphorically.”  That’s for another day.  Just go with the central ideas.

Ready?

Here we go.

In the beginning, there was the Heavens and the Earth.  The Earth was formless and the Spirit of God hovered over it.  (I didn’t make that up.  That’s actually how the Bible starts).

God created everything and then created a man and a woman and breathed into them the very spirit of God.  He made everything (including the man and woman) able to reproduce.

He (or She, if you prefer) put them in a beautiful garden on Earth, full of every good thing that they could ever need and told them, “It’s all here for your use.  Take care of the animals. Eat the fruit.  All of the fruit.  Anything you want. As much as you want.  Except for the fruit on this ONE TREE.”  God and humans were in perfect communion with one another.  Life was good.

Of course, they immediately ate the forbidden fruit.

This created a rift between the people and God.

It created death and caused there to be great difficulties in life.

All humans, descended from those who were first created (and first disobeyed God), inherited their ancestor’s tendency to do what they ought not do (that’s what “sin” is).  The population continued to increase. People continued to sin in terrible ways.

A system was created.  Death was the consequence of sin, so if (when) a person sinned, something (a dove, a calf, etc) had to die to pay for that sin, in order that the balance be restored.

Lots of stuff happened in the history of the world.

God stepped in and said to Moses, “Spell it out for the people.  Tell them that they really need to follow these 10 rules:

1. You should not have any other Gods before me.

2. You should not make idols.

3. You should not misuse the name of God.

4. You should take one day a week to rest and commune with God.

5. People should show honor to their parents.

6. Don’t murder.

7. Don’t commit adultery.

8. Don’t steal.

9. Don’t lie.

10. Don’t covet what other people have.”

I paraphrased, but that was the general idea.

People, being people, turned this into thousands of rules about not making your bed on Saturday and not drawing pictures, as they may be considered idols.

No one could possibly keep it all straight.

People kept sinning.

Sacrifices had to be made over and over again.

A priesthood was established in order to try to set things right between man and God.

More stuff happened in the history of the world.

God said to Himself, “I really really love these people, darn it!  I created each and every one of them, special, and I want to have a good relationship with them.  I’m going to fix this mess, once and for all.”

So He  sent his son, Jesus.

Jesus was born to Mary, who was a virgin at the time of his conception.  I don’t know how that worked.  The Bible doesn’t give us the logistics.  That’s all we are told.  In this way he was the offspring of a human (a sinful creature, separated from the Creator) and God (the Creator).  He was 100% both.

Jesus lived a perfectly sinless life.

He was tempted. He loved. He got angry. He went to parties. He got hungry. He ate. He did miracles. He cried.

He never sinned.  Not even once.

And then he died.  Well, he was killed actually; executed on a cross by men who feared him.

The death of this one perfect man/God was such a huge sacrifice that no further sacrifice was ever needed again. Not ever.  No matter what.

And then he came back to life!

Because if sin = death and sin had been conquered, then death had been conquered as well.

Jesus said that the very most important thing was this:  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your mind and all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself.   If you do that, all of the commandments will be fulfilled.”

He said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple (student/follower) should pick up their cross and follow me.”

He said, “Whoever believes in me will not die, but have eternal life.”

And so (in theory), Christians try their best to live as Jesus lived – showing love in every moment.  We deal with what life throws at us (pick up our cross), knowing that it is all temporary and that we will live forever in perfect communion with God because Jesus restored that which was broken.

We are still human. We still mess up. We fall short. We sin.  And then we ask for forgiveness and we move on. The sacrifice has already been made. We don’t need to be stuck in our mistakes.

There are details… stuff about baptism and communion and all that.  I don’t want to say it isn’t important, because it is, but it is details.  The most important thing is that Jesus fixed what was broken because he (God) loved us (YOU!) so much.

There are people who call themselves “Christian” who make no attempt to be like Christ (Jesus).  I’ve heard it said that, “Being in a church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than being in a garage makes you a car.”  If you’ve met someone who says they are Christian, but they have no love…. well….  just don’t judge us all by that person.

Biblical Christianity is all about love.  God created the world and everything in it in love. God sent Jesus out of love. God tells us to love one another.  In love, there is life.  Life is (was meant to be) a gift of love.

So there it is.

Christianity summed up.

Now go out into the world and love and be loved and KNOW that you are loved and this Hippie Mama will see you tomorrow.