Well you have heard it I am sure. I have personally heard it dozens of times usually in testimonials and from Christians who are in some type of vocational ministry. The comments usually go something like this, “I spent 25 years in a secular job but now I’m working for the Lord.” Or maybe it is a question to pastors and ministry types, “What was your secular job before you went into full time ministry?” Sometimes we divide entertainment into categories like sacred/ secular. We call some music sacred and some secular. (Okay full disclosure: as I write this I am listening to my Pink Floyd channel on Pandora®) There is only one source of creativity in the Cosmos- The Triune God. We might spoil our music with rotten lyrics but as adults we should be able to eat the meat and spit out the bones without relying on divisions and religiosity.
Well here’s the straight dope on these sorts of statements and questions- they come from the lie of separation. The lie that we are separated from God began in the Garden with Adam and Eve but the Greeks intellectualized it and then the Christians incorporated it into their teachings through people like St. Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas. The idea of being separated from God is fallen. You cannot possibly be separated from God… you have no power to be here… without a connection to a Sustainer you would simply cease to exist. Paul told a whole crowd on non-Christians that they live and move and have their being in Jesus and that Jesus gives life and breath and all things to all mortals. If you plan to die someday then Paul is referring to you!
One particular year at Higher Ground Summer Camp the Porta-Potty company forgot about us and we had a rather smelly camp by the end of the week because these 12 portable bathrooms on site were not cleaned and with 135 campers and 75 staff well… you get the idea. It was unpleasant to say the least. Well the following year I served as Chaplain and during the final message of the week I kept referring to the sacred ministry of sucking out the porta-potties and each time the teens would giggle. Of course that was the partly the point of it all to keep their interest and make it fun.
Well in conclusion I asked the campers in the Chapel a series of questions: “How many think Jesus created you?” Every hand went up. Then I asked, “How many believe Jesus created you with a need to go to the restroom?” Every hand went up. Then the final query: “How many of you believe that Jesus provides for all of your needs?” Every hand went up and many many lights went on. I could see on their young faces that they’d made the connection.
Now the man who drove the sewage truck and cleaned out the port-potties would likely not tell you that when he was 16 he had a vision from the Lord that his calling would be to clean out portable bathrooms. You see it does not matter why he is doing the job but while he is doing it he is participating in Jesus’ provision for his beloved humanity.
There is no secular only sacred. All is sacred. Yes admittedly we sometimes spoil the things Jesus made. Child abuse is certainly wrong but it is merely a spoiling of something God made that is very good- the relationship between a parent and child. C.S.Lewis wrote, “Goodness is, so to speak itself: badness is only spoiled goodness. And there must be something good first before it can be spoiled.” Do you see it? What you do every day is important in fact as important as what preachers do on Sunday mornings. (maybe more)
Could we travel safely to visit family or help a widow in need without reliable transportation? Thank you mechanics. Could we set bones and administer treatments without doctors and nusrses? Thank you medical professionals. Could we cross vast expanses without bridges? Thank you welders, masons, and construction engineers. Could we enjoy relationships over nice meals out without restaurants? Thank you chefs, wait-staff, and managers. Thank you farmers, receptionists, firefighters, police, and military. Thank you janitors, teachers, and factory workers. You get the idea. Let us put an end to the snobbery of sacred/ secular and recognize that Jesus is Emmanuel and he is with us no matter what our occupation.
“Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.” ~ Pema Chodron
When I first heard the above quote by author and Buddhist nun Pema Chodron, it didn’t make sense to me. As I thought more about her words, I realized I was putting them in the context of, “There’s a grizzly bear in front of me!” or some other situation where fear is a useful, maybe even a life-saving, emotion to have. But that’s not what Chodron was speaking about. Let me put it in the context of my recent venture back into the academic world, not as an instructor, but as a 52-year-old student.
I started my master’s degree in English and creative writing through an online program this past August. It has always been something I wanted to do, but up to this point, I had managed to make enough excuses to keep it on the back burner. Each time I thought about it, my heart would rise up in excitement, like an eternal “YES,” until my mind would fill with thoughts about time and money, or how I would juggle other competing responsibilities, and most of all, whether I could handle the work and do it well. Essentially, FEAR.
I wish I could say I had a formula worked out for overcoming this fear, but I think that what spurred me to act when I hadn’t in the past was that I told people (specifically, I told my boss) that I was going to do it. So when fear began to creep in, filling my mind with doubts, I had to follow through.
I can’t say that once I was accepted into the online program I wasn’t afraid. I was; in fact, I still am every time I sit down at my computer to type another assignment. At times, I don’t have a clue what I’m going to write, or any outline I have seems stupid and sketchy. Once again, FEAR.
Each time I feel this fear, this unworthiness, this feeling of “not good enough,” I press on, not because the fear goes away, but because I know I’m moving toward my truth, the person God created me to be. Fear is just an emotion, an ego-reaction that is seeking to undermine the Holy Spirit’s prompting to move toward joy.
What is your truth? What has the Father, Son, and Spirit given you to do that brings you joy and makes your heart leap? This fear we feel is not from God, but from ourselves. It is easier to play small and low-key than to rise up and be completely authentic from the inside out. By facing our fears and living in the truth of who we are created to be by God, we open ourselves to fully participating in whatever God is doing in the lives of those around us, and we become an encouragement to others to live authentically, too. The joy I have experienced as I’ve moved closer to my truth, the truth of who God created me to be, has far outweighed the uncomfortable feelings of fear that try to hold me back.
~by Nan Kuhlman
As I skimmed my Facebook newsfeed today, a quote from a homeschooling blog post caught my eye.
If our homeschool has any hope for success, I must maintain my heart for my children. ~ Jena Borah, At the Heart of Homeschooling.
This is wildly true of my relationship with each of my three children. While there are many things they need to learn during our years of schooling together, what they will take with them academically won’t impact their lives nearly so much as what they will take with them emotionally.
Like most parents, I find it fairly easy with intention to maintain my heart toward my children. I do not always find it as easy to do in my other relationships, with my spouse at times, certain family members, friends and acquaintances. Relationships can so easily become weighted down by disappointment, misunderstanding, and hurt.
Yet the quote could easily be rewritten to say that if my relationships are to have any hope of success, I must maintain my heart for the people in my life — even the difficult ones.
The Internet is full of advice about what to do when you discover someone in your life to be toxic or narcissistic — and the advice basically amounts to: RUN!
There may indeed be times when it is wise to run. But it’s difficult to maintain your heart for someone when you do.
Perhaps this is why the Father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son didn’t hide from the son who had brought such misery, worry and disappointment into his life — but ran toward him so the people of the community they shared might not shun him since they now saw not the son’s, but the father’s, shame.
Why the Shepherd in the Parable of the Lost Sheep didn’t stop searching for his renegade sheep.
Why Triune God birthed humanity permanently into its very heart and soul with full knowledge of all that it would entail.
Like the characters in the parables that paint pictures of them, they have never stopped maintaining their hearts for us. They never will. In so doing, they have not held our wrongs against us. They have never once turned their backs or waited for us to act correctly so they can act lovingly.
It’s a daunting example to follow because many of us have been seriously hurt by people in our lives and have learned to build barriers of self-protection. I don’t blame anyone for doing so.
But I have also seen cases where people who had every right to insulate themselves from individuals in their lives who caused them distress refused to do so because they truly loved them. The effects of their decisions may never be realised in this life, but I believe the ripples carry into eternity and will be realised there. May we all be so blessed as to be able to look back and see people in our lives who never gave up on us though we gave them every reason to.
Those are the people I aspire to be and while I would never downplay the pain endured by those who feel forced to keep a distance from those who have brought it into their lives, I also know how good it feels to let go of the garden variety grievances that most often plague my relationships and do the most harm.
The cross words. The criticisms. The failures to apologise. The over-stepping. The judgments. The not always being there.
These things sting, yes. But generally, if we’re honest, they don’t amount to much in the end. So often my interpretation of a series of events lacks critical information and my inability to read anyone’s mind.
It’s so much better to let them go and to grant a loved one a clean slate as often as necessary. Deserved by the individual in our human terms or not, it feels so good to do so because we were made for this. It’s in our DNA just as it is in the “DNA” of Triune God. When we refuse to forgive, we are fighting our God-given natures and this is why it burns us from the inside out.
Triune God has shown us through their actions that every human deserves a clean slate and a new beginning with no strings attached. They grant one to each of us with every sunrise, every heartbeat. By maintaining our hearts toward the people in our lives, we follow them in one of the best ways possible.
~ by Jeannine Buntrock
every little thing gonna be alright.
You’ve given me enough to eat,
and a place to sleep,
and people who love me.
And you’ve shown me how to follow you
and find the meaning of my life.
I’ve also had bad times,
and bad times
will come again,
but I won’t be afraid, just as long as you stand by me.
In the midst of all the anxiety and pain,
you give me bread and wine and oil,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
your life creating my life.
Surely, in light of all this,
I can believe that you are my everlasting home.
~ Jonathan Stepp
Are you wondering WHEN are you going to experience the treasures that come with knowing God?
In this Gospel Message entitled “Profit And Loss”, Pastor Richard Andrews of New Life Fellowship of Baltimore, Proclaims the Good News and gives encouragement through The Apostle Paul and by exploring Philippians 3:4-14 and also by reading the Lectionary, 17th Sunday after Pentecost: That our Profit and Losses are not Fiscal Profit and Losses but Profit in the context of our trials – Treasures in heaven. The kind that are measured in our Blood and Jesus’s Blood. The kind that are measured in sweat and tears.
In this message hear how to see our trials and ourselves differently by learning:
~We need to start seeing Jesus and what HE wants differently.
~We need to start seeing the acts and works of our hands differently.
~We need to start seeing the things that come out of our mouths differently as we grow in Christ.
~Our Prize is to move forward, to press on through trials, to see the heavenly calls. (Isaiah 55-1)
~To count it all as a period of cleansing – Our “Pressure Cooker Period”
~To ask ourselves: AM I READY TO LET GO OF ME? AM I TIRED OF WORKING THINGS MY WAY?
~To see trials as a way of melting/weakening of the flesh/ humbling us.
~To see trials as pointing us to THE ONE IN WHOM ALL ANSWERS ARE FOUND!
~To see trials not just as losing self but GAINING JESUS CHRIST, growing in his righteousness!
In this message we understand that:
~There is NO WAY to share in Jesus’s suffering without US SUFFERING! To know Christ is to know him in his suffering!
~Our Father is saying, STAND UP as a Community in the LOVE of God and WALK as a Community to help other Communities. We are never in a vacuum but rather, US TOGETHER with FATHER SON and SPIRIT embracing us all. We stand in the name and power of Jesus Christ who lives in and through us!
*photo compliments http://www.libertynews.com
Answer: The Bible is a conversation. But where THE VIEW has Barbara Walters and Whoopi Goldberg, the Bible has Father, Son, Spirit, and Every Human Who Has Ever Lived. Plus a donkey or two.
It makes sense that the Bible is a conversation. It comes, first of all, from an inherently relational God. However the “divine mind” works, we know it’s not about ideas forming inside an individual spiritual skull. The mind of God – also known as “Truth” – consists in the mutual knowing of Father, Son, and Spirit. A recent addition to that divine mind is you. And everybody else. That conversation of 3 voices has grown to, well, a lot more voices. And out of that human participation in the Triune Conversation has come the written artifacts we call the Holy Scriptures.
It used to annoy me that the Bible was not a single voice telling me what’s what. That’s the kind of Scripture you’d expect from an all-powerful individual Omni-God. A Single Booming Voice. In fact, we’re so fond of that idea, we spend a lot of energy trying to imagine that this is in fact what the Scriptures are. We pay our preachers to explain problematic verses away, to mimic for us that imagined solitary Voice – anything to aid our denial of the disturbingly multiple voices of Scripture.
We are quite determined to turn the Bible God gave us into the Bible he should have given us.
And what God gave us is a conversation.
And even more disturbingly, that conversation is sometimes an argument.
If you’re wondering what the point of this post is, it’s that. That the Bible consists of multiple voices that come from diverse minds that disagree on some things. And sometimes these arguments don’t get resolved. The whole Bible is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, and what God has breathed to us is not a list of truth statements for us to merely submit to, but a complicated and difficult conversation for us to participate in.
Let’s try this on for size…
First of all, there are different voices in different texts which live in tension with each other. A Jewish-trained mind has no problem with this. Us Greek-ish thinkers, not so much… Proverbs teaches us, among other things, that doing the right thing leads to success and good health. Job, on the other hand, is mainly a story about how Proverbs isn’t the full story. Some texts describe Yahweh as a typical violent tribal deity – the god who is for us and against them. Our Calvinist brothers and sisters have latched onto that God, to sad effect. But there are other texts depicting a very different kind of deity – One who is Lord of all people, all nations, who elects the few for the universal good of all. Some texts love sacrifices. For other texts, sacrifices make them want to puke. Some texts command us to kill our enemies. Others tell us to love them and lay down our lives for them.
Not only does the Bible argue with itself, but it also models for us a kind of piety that involves arguing with God. When Yahweh reveals his intentions to destroy Sodom, Abraham challenges the morality of that decision (Gen 18.20-33). Later, when Yahweh intends to annihilate the idolatrous Israelites, Moses goes so far as to call his plan “evil,” leading the Lord of All to “repent of the evil he had planned for his people” (Ex. 32.12-14). (And by the way, the word “evil” there is the same word used to describe Sodom’s behavior, so there’s no wiggling around that one, disturbing though it is). Even Jesus has his point of view challenged by a Canaanite woman, who eventually converts him to her way of thinking, resulting in him shifting his whole ministry focus from Jews to Gentiles (Matt. 15.22-28).
These are not “contradictions” of the sort that our atheist friends are so fond of pointing out. These are artifacts of a conversational God who reveals himself in conversations shared by disputatious and gloriously free-thinking human beings. A God who values our input surprisingly much.
I’ll end with what is a scary question for me, and will probably be scary for you too:
Does faithfulness to the Bible sometimes require us to argue with it?
In this Gospel Message entitled ” Partnering With Jesus In Planting Disciple-Making Communities!”, Pastor Timothy Brassell of New Life Fellowship of Baltimore, shares with us the Mission of GCI and NLF with Jesus which is: Living and Sharing the Gospel! Seeing Jesus revealed in Matt 9:27-38, He Proclaims The GOOD NEWS that we are called to be GOSPEL PROCLAIMERS who participate with Jesus and other disciples, forming disciple-making communities that also proclaim this GOOD NEWS!
In this message we learn that when we see Jesus we see the God, Father and Spirit acting as One in Jesus! What we see coming out of the heart of Jesus is the heart of the Father, Son and Spirit! In Christ God is active in our humanity, BEing, DOing, ACTing, and SPEAKing in Relationship as He saves, heals and redeems His fallen creation!
Listen in as Pastor Tim explores the following questions:
Do you see God, Father Son and Spirit in Jesus?
Do you see God, Father Son and Spirit Committed to His plan of Adoption?
Do you see the humbling of God in Jesus Christ?
Do you see the capability of man in Jesus Christ?
Can you feel the Fierce wrath and Fiery Love of God, Father Son and Spirit?
Do you see the faces of all of the Lord’s children?
Can you discern the whole God inside the whole man Jesus?
Can you see that God the Father desires to be known? Now!?
Can you look at Jesus and see how God deals with the confusion that has entered the human race and creation?
Can you see that Jesus calls disciples to participate with Him in the loving labor of prayer and disciple-making?
Recently my wife and I had the opportunity to take our daughters to see Disney’s Frozen on Ice. It was a marvelous experience. As a parent I can think of no greater joy that to see my children’s faces light up with wonder and amazement. My older daughter is in her first year of Middle School yet I saw resurrected in her the little girl that first captured my heart. My younger daughter was so overwhelmed by the show that several times she hugged my arm and looked at me as though I was the greatest dad in the world for taking her to see it.
So when we got there (one hour early) my wife and I gave each other a knowing look. A few minutes after we’d settled in our seats we both noticed something. There was plenty of noise in the arena and we were two seats apart because as most parents do we’d bracketed our kids in for safety. Though the place was awash in the noise of thousands of conversations taking place at once- even though we were too far apart to really talk about it- I knew what Davina was thinking or rather I knew what she had sensed in that arena.
Among the thousands of families, moms, dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and children there was a familiar spirit that could be felt. At times I almost thought I could have reached into the air and put some of it in my pocket… it was that tangible. The spirit was of love and joy, unbridled happiness and innocence. Little boys and little girls waited in anticipation for what would, for some, be the experience of a lifetime.
Disney’s Frozen is the old fairy tale The Ice Queen and it is a story about mutual other-centered love and I can tell you that in that arena the Holy Spirit was not only present but manifest in a very noticeable and powerful way.
In Acts 2:17 Peter told the assembly on Pentecost that the Holy Spirit had been poured out on all flesh. The Holy Spirit is present in and with every single human being. Paul the Apostle said that the Holy Spirit is in each of us calling out “Abba Father”. Abba Father! The love song of the Father and his eternal faithful Son that is held together in the communion of the Holy Spirit is being sung inside each of us.
Is it any wonder then that this song of mutual other-centered love would come to expression whether those through whom it is expressed know it or not?
And is it any wonder that the Holy Spirit would be noticeably manifest among thousands of families basking in the joy of it all? I’d venture a guess that the Father, Son, and Spirit, who have included humanity in their very circle of love and life, were glorified as we sang along with every song!
In this Gospel Message entitled ” Fresh Hot Soup,” visiting Pastor to New Life Fellowship of Baltimore, Pastor Joe Heilman, introduces us to his book “FRIAR TUCK’S TALES For The Common Outlaw,” a collection of stories meant to help people understand the Gospel better as they transition from one part of life to another.
By reading one of his stories, “Fresh Hot Soup” Pastor Heilman shows:
1) That people think the gospel is a spiritual equation where God will LOVE ME, FORGIVE ME, CLEANSE ME, HEAL ME…ETC…..IF I HAVE ENOUGH…….FAITH, REPENTANCE, BAPTISM,…ETC.
2) That the Gospel is NOT a Self Maledictory Oath signed sealed and delivered (Genesis 15:18).
3) By exploring Romans 5-8 he shows that God’s covenant is not a transaction between us and God but rather a RELATIONSHIP we are INCLUDED in with FATHER, SON and SPIRIT.
A new puppy has entered my world, thanks to my husband who cannot be trusted alone in a pet store. Luna Consuela Kuhlman, a fawn and white chihuahua, was his Father’s Day gift, he says, but in reality, my service of housebreaking and tending to the new pup are his real present.
Besides bringing extra work into my household, Luna has opened my eyes to the wonder and mystery of the world around me, much the same way a toddler would. When I take her out to potty, she stops to sniff a dandelion and to chase a moth. Observing her as she experiences this world helps me to see the beauty that I take for granted because I have labeled and categorized it, perhaps even read about it in a book. I know, for example, that moths have different antennae than butterflies, but having this knowledge doesn’t fill my heart with wonder and joy, perhaps even a lightness, as does watching a moth flit through my yard and garden.
When I feel I have learned everything there is to learn (or that I want to learn) about a topic, I’ve found that I start to take it for granted and stop noticing the subtle nuances. I think this premise can also pertain to our perception of God. When we begin to label and categorize God, we most likely feel that we are understanding the Father, Son, and Spirit better. But I believe we need to be watchful we don’t get to the place where we feel comfortable with our knowledge of God, believing we have everything figured out.
Poet Mary Oliver captures this in her poem “Mysteries, Yes,” where she begins, “Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous to be understood.” While it is important to know fully and deeply that we are loved and held by Someone greater than ourselves, the danger comes from resting our belief in what we have figured out or in what someone else has figured out for us. We forget how limited our human minds are, how incapable of comprehending spiritual truths that are outside our senses. We become comfortable with our limited view of God, and when that view is shaken, we feel uncertain and afraid. Even worse, we become immune to the miracles and beauty that surround us every day, constantly revealing the love of the Father, Son, and Spirit for all creation.
Our job is to become comfortable with mystery, living with the uncertainty joyfully by noticing the “I love yous” sprinkled throughout our everyday existence. As Oliver concludes her poem:
Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.
Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment
and bow their heads.
Our puppy Luna says to me, “Look!” in her own puppy way, showing me something old that I’m seeing as if for the first time, making me laugh and then bow my head, recognizing that God is greater and more wonderful than anything I could ever fathom.
~by Nan Kuhlman