Monday, September 26, 2005

A Tad Judgmental

For me the week is over, but my mind is constantly racing. I have been holding back on this post for a number of reasons, the first being I said I would wait until Monday. So here it is…
Leaders are always challenged and criticized for decisions that they make. I, personally, can handle people not accepting my way of doing things, however…is there not a place where people can do/say/practice/read/listen to/watch/etc without others feeling the need to cast judgment? At the start of this week, in many different types of words I was told that I was going to Hell. Let me clarify that this revelation was not from GOD, although the person spoke as if they were the gate keeper of the big pearlies themselves. WHY? Does it really matter WHY? Is not the accusation itself abhorrent?

What is in a person that causes condemnation of fellow human beings? Better yet, why must people (need I add here…Christians) make choices of right and wrong for everybody else? Why does human nature search so hard to label something WRONG if nothing is immediately apparent? Why are people so judgmental? What it is about the human nature that causes one to judge others based on one’s own notions of how things should be. The Christian culture is the best example: As if all that will be played in heaven is Gospel music…COME ON…(sorry…I don’t know where that came from.)
WAIT, was I just judgmental? (No, just speaking truth…but for argument sake…)
C.S. Lewis said in his book The Case for Christianity “This year, or this month, or, more likely, this very day, we have failed to practice ourselves the kind of behavior we expect from other people.”

How true. How easy it is for me to cut off and want to give a ‘one digit wave’ at people who drive like “idiots,” or get terse with the store clerks, or angry with the drive thru employees because they screwed up another order or simply POed with those who don’t listen to the instructions or directions, or snippy with the waitress who bring me cold food or coffee?

C. J. Jung said "We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses." I wonder if people judge others and attempt to force others into conformity out of a basic sense of fear; fear of their own shadows; the fear that they are, deep inside, just like the person they are condemning. How many Christians operate in this mode? Better yet, how many Christian leaders operate in this mode? Not only that, have you noticed that being judgmental is also contagious? It is, after all, much easier to condemn than to look within and see the ugliness that lurks there.

Imagine for a moment, a world wherein everyone faces the shadows in their hearts. A place where everyone has contemplated the truth of their own darkness, where no one must fear themselves, because they have faced the worst in themselves and emerged victorious (Alas, only a dream). In this dream world, our fears and petty judgments of others would lose meaning. Just like when you were a child: How do you get rid of the monster under the bed? You turned on the light.

Is it time that we took time with people before judging? Walk with them and turn some lights on? One common problem with being too eager to judge others is that we often conclude too quickly and fail to understand the other person from their perspective. It is this failing to consider another person and their life, experience, knowledge etc. that makes judgmentalism so disastrous in the realm of Christian community. Rob Bell in his book 'Velvet Elvis' talks about Christians, who when reading the Bible, must come to grip with the reality that their interpretations are essentially opinions and that nobody is really objective. Oh Boy…that should send some fundies off with their underwear in a knot!

But I wonder, if we don't attempt to understand other's lives then, are we then unable to appreciate them as they are? The way that GOD created them?

I close with this quote from Thomas à Kempis:
Those things that one cannot improve in himself or in others, he ought to endure patiently, until God arranges things otherwise. Nevertheless when you have such impediments, you ought to pray that God would help you, and that you may bear them kindly. Endeavor to be patient in bearing with the defects of others, whatever they are; for you also have many failings which must be borne by others. If you cannot make yourself be as you would like to be, how can you expect to have another person be to your liking in every way? We desire to have others perfect, and yet we do not correct our own faults. We would allow others to be severely corrected, and will not be corrected ourselves. We will have others kept under by strict laws, but in no case do we want to be restrained. And so it appears that we seldom weigh our neighbor in the same balance with ourselves.

Now go and practice love this week…

Friday, September 23, 2005

A Great Read for Tough Times

OK, Listen...this book is a must read! If you have ever owned a dog this book will resonate with your funny bone. I didn't even know that it is a best seller!

This book will appeal to four distinct groups of people: pull-my-finger dads, dog owners, people called Walter, and friends of people called Walter.

Walter is based on a real-life dog who lived in Fredericton years ago and was renowned throughout the New Brunswick capital for his room-clearing abilities.

I have a "must read" book list below, and this one was just added.

In our world of seriousness, we need to lighten up a bit...this book is a sure fire way to do it.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Monday, September 19, 2005

Don't Touch?

Has church leadership ever demanded that you consult with them before making a major decision or any decisions at all? Have you ever had extra biblical rules equated as coming from GOD, with your salvation or spirituality linked closely behind them? Have you ever felt that you just can’t do enough for the system or the leadership and that you are not good enough and just can’t live up to what is expected? Has church leadership forbidden you to go on vacation or spend time with certain people or in certain places? When in a church service do you feel beaten down and depressed afterwards? Do you find that leadership often discourages questioning and interprets it as being spiritually immature, or rebellious? Have you even found yourself in the position of being removed from a church, shunned, labeled or even excommunicated because you did not follow the rules?

Not too long along a friend of mine was sitting in his church {which according to him is going through a bit of a struggle} and the pastor began to speak on a passage, that I must confess is really easy for all leaders to use when are facing conflict or opposition:
I Chronicles 16:22 "Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm."(NIV)
It is interesting to note that many [of us] leaders when approached personally, regarding something questionable that [we] have shared {preached on} with the community can and usually is perceived as a challenge to authority. It is important to note that Jesus did allow his disciples to question what he taught. He even allowed those who were against him to question him.

I can honestly say that I am not shocked by any pastor’s response ( I heard it all) and many times, leaders obviously feel the need to either defend their actions, statements or whatever. How is it that when one calls something into question regarding something previously said or done, that one is touching GOD'S anointed? How is it that in the asking of a simple question, one can become GOD’S enemy? How is it that a leader can see himself as the recipient of an anointing that sets him apart from the rest of the community? How is it that these ‘anointed ones’ come to be defined by having a special anointing, one that makes them incapable of making mistakes?

Is it acceptable to question? And when does the questioning end? Someone once attributed this entire concept of “not touching” back to when the papacy was loosing power and would not go down without a fight. As I understand, it was Pius IX who declared an edict stating that, as GOD’S delegated authority, he cannot be wrong, and he also declared that much of the ceremonies of the papal church could not be called into question. The records of history are filled with the dirty narratives of leaders who dominated and controlled people through their rants and word twisting.

Johnson and VanVonderen in their book The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse state: “It’s possible to become so determined to defend a spiritual place of authority, a doctrine or a way of doing things that you wound and abuse anyone who questions, or disagrees, or doesn’t ‘behave’ spiritually the way that you want them to. When your words and actions tear down another, or attack or weaken a person’s standing as a Christian – to gratify you, your position or your beliefs while at the same time weakening or harming another- that is spiritual abuse.”

So in a world, where spiritual manipulation, even spiritual abuse is common, who are the anointed ones? In the Old Testament, were not the anointed the Priests, leaders, kings and even the Israelites? In the New Testament is it possible that the “anointed ones” are the entire community of Christ? Did GOD pour out His Spirit upon all flesh and not just a select social order of Ministers, Pastors, Elders, etc? Peter wrote. "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." (NIV) (1 Peter 2:9). Scripture tells us that as followers of Jesus Christ, there is now a new priesthood, the priesthood of all believers, and this priesthood represents a better covenant. Under this covenant, GOD puts His laws into our minds, and writes them in our hearts. So as believers are we all not priests? Are we all not His anointed? Or does GOD have special followers or are those in leadership more special to GOD than the average person? Are there some people who are more important than others? If that is true than one must examine what is written in 1 Corinthians 12 which enforces the idea that each individual is needed and has a specific work to do, and each person is equally important, but with different responsibilities.


Monday, September 12, 2005

Putting it all together

After reading many other blogs and wondering why in the world I would spend precious time writting out my thoughts...I have broken down. I will be writing every day off? Here it goes...

I am part of a new church experience. This experience is fantastic, overwhelming and terrifying all at the same time. But here is my ramble...

Is the church to be looked at as a hospital or a hospice? People become part of a church for a variety of reasons. People leave churches for a variety of reasons. The one thing that I see in common is that people will come into a church setting with hurt and pain, and others will leave a church setting with hurt or pain.

Now, it doesn't take a brain surgeon to acknowledge that churches are not perfect places because they are made up of people. BUT....The way I see it is that people have a choice. People have a choice to work at getting better and healthier, or people can sit in thier muck and filth and not do anything about it.

At our church we talk very openly about refuge, repair and rejuvenation. The problem with a motto such as this is that many people what to stay in “Refuge.” They want to hide. It is sort of like the difference between a hospital and a hospice.

Let me say that I believe that it is ok to hide for a period of time...that is what Refuge is all about, but when do people start the process of healing? Of repair? Is there a starting time?

When you get sick what happens? First our bodies tell us that something is wrong. We usually get a confirmation of that when we go to the doctor. But if we are seriously ill, what do most people do? They go to the hospital. When at a hospital, you are there for a reason. But as soon as you walk in through the door, you begin to start the process of healing. The nurse takes your vitals, checks your history and depending what your injuries are, they may have to hook you up to an IV, give you a shot, clean and bandage, even stich a wound. As you stay there longer, they will have you eating properly, walking after surgery, using the washroom and even doing physio therapy…but you are in the process of repair, of getting healthy. You do not intend to go to a hospital to stay sick!

But if you look at the idea of "Refuge" as a hospice, that means you will lie there until you die. You assume that there is no hope to your condition, that it is terminal. If you seen refuge as a place where you can sit in your stink...then what is the point of getting better. Why wash and clean up if I can just sit down and rot. There is no point to eating properly, or of walking, there is no point to physio, it is just a matter of time…then one is gone.

Gone in more than one way. The first is that they leave the community, only to go to another place to soil it with their muck. Not concerned about cleaning up, rather only concerned about the fact that they have pain and are clear to let everybody know it. It is like the drunk in the emergency ward. He finds himself there because he got hurt falling down, but in his condition he believes that he is the only one in discomfort and that the staff should treat him as the highest priority.

Many of people fall into the lie that pain and suffering robs of us options. Yet, in the midst of hurt and pain we have options of 'how am I going to respond to my situation.' Then the classic question is "Am I going to be bitter or better?"

Any one can become bitter, it is easy to ripped apart everything and become apathetic, skeptical or cynical…anybody can do that! But it is a rare person who in the midst of hurt, pain and suffering responds to become a better person.
We have a choice to be bitter or better.