If you keep my commandments

If you ever felt alone in the way you worship, if you think your theology is the only one, if you follow rules, if you don’t follow rules, you must read Paul’s post today. All are welcome. (Comments have been disabled, please comment on the original post).

Just me being curious

In just over four weeks’ time we have a glorious spiritual retreat.  A place of recharging our souls and each other.   A place much hotter than here.  A place to relax.  To slow down.  A place to have fun.  A place with new people. A place we have never been before.  A place without church or bible.

And without those two bits we name that “holiday”.  The unspoken teaching is that a holiday is of the flesh and indulgence (and a retreat is of the spirit and restoration).

I see no difference.

I wonder why the unspoken knowing is that God cannot (really) be found in a bar or a restaurant.  Nor (really) found on a beach by the sea.  Nor (really) in the laughter and bawdy banter around a table.  Not really in the quiet contemplation of a distant horizon … a small working boat … a passing beach…

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Unconditional Love – (never ends)

Good morning. This morning’s words need no snappy introduction from me.

I hope you also get “why” after this …

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We are geared for action, getting ahead, getting on with things, keeping on going, keeping up, being true to ourselves, being who we are, being free to be who we are, not having others tell us what to do, who to be, how to be and when to be, we don’t like being seen to waste time, not to fritter time away, not to let these precious seconds lip though our hands, we will never get that time back, we will never have those seconds again. We default to doing.

And if there is no reason for “doing” we default to “not doing”. We call that downtime. Down to “where” time? To switch off, to recharge, to reposition, to refocus …? Not doing is “not doing”. We all need to slow down from time to time. Just to do in it a way which is not wasting time. That is indulgent. And indulgence is a sin. The bible says so. So we say so. And we add another default to our living. Another filter we see others through.

I saw a Facebook post yesterday from a page I follow: “Clergy Coaching Network’s” (I am not quite sure “why” the apostrophe, but punch them into the search bar on your Facebook). This particular item was: “Three Consequences of a Busy Church Calendar”  (go ahead a have a look – it is a quick read – I will be here when you get back).

My whole life has been one of seeing diaries in church – more than making disciples, bibles, listening, being available, not “doing”.  My childhood was peppered with an absent church father.  My local church life was peppered with more diaries than a blue-chip exec boardroom.  And yet … like a voice crying in the wilderness (to go all dramatic for a moment)

No one seems to find anything odd about that.  Everyone accepts that is the way it is.  And gets on with it.  Not wasting time for God.  Double-booking for God.  Apologising for cancelling God.  Having personal preferences take precedence.  Finding the world keeps spinning when one is floored with a crisis or illness (and then forgetting as soon as the crisis or illness has passed).  Because – dammit! – God needs us. Every second He needs us!

I hear how we can fit all of this living in. How we are not letting people down. Just becoming more forgetful – finding we have to squeeze things in – arriving late (or early) – doing “back-to-back” with God stuff and family stuff and living stuff.   Because kingdom work comes with demands and obligation – God needs you – God needs me!  If we didn’t – just where would God be dammit!

And then He gave me these verses from my deconstructed bible today:
“As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.’ “ Luke 19:41-44

(and now why there is no usual “intro” at the top of this post … )

“Paul, doing is “doing”.  But where is change?  Where is the change I offer you to become “the you” that you never believe you can be?  Where is the change in you that means you believe in me? How does that happen in all this “doing”?  How does that happen in all this busyness?  How will that ever happen in all this diary management?

You look at all the diaries.  You see all the “let’s plan to be spontaneous”.  You wince at the “we are all fine and dandy – look – I have a few slots still available – honest.”  You hurt at the “I’m sorry but I will have to cancel that – a meeting came up I must attend” (and that is far more important than you?).  And you writhe with frustration at the “corporate” methodology used in Kingdom Work. The meetings, the networking, the face-fits, the style-fits, the who you know not what you know, the we have tried this before and it didn’t work then either, the church calendar that is as constructed as the constructed bible.  I get all that.  I lived all that.  I was all that in my Jesus days.

I have heard some say that I needed to become “human” in order to understand “human”.  That I had things to learn about you that I didn’t know before as “God” up in “heaven”.  I have lived with “my bible” being fought over and used as a battleground.  I live still with all the fractures and hypocrisy and in-fighting and corporate life of “church”.  And you know what … ?

Water off a duck’s back.

I don’t want you to change the world and all who are in it.  I don’t want to do that.  I never have.  Don’t you see the journeys?  Don’t you desire the journeys?  I do.  I love the journeys.  I love being part of each journey.  It starts before you are born and it doesn’t “end” after your body stops.  Each of you is a journey.  Your own journey.  And how your journey affects other’s journeys.  For better and for worse.  And guess what … ?  Journeys are always (and should only ever be) …

Change.

Personal change.  Whether “doing” or “not doing”.  Whether “using time wisely” or wasting time frivolously.  Whether in “church” or not.  Whether a full diary or no diary.  Whether a static bible or a journeying bible.  Whether a static me or a journeying me.

Some find me in “doing”.  Some find me in “not doing”.  But if you find me and are not changed – you have not found me at all.  And that is not journeying.  That is a building.  That is an institution.  That is a tradition.

This little “journey” (of the past ten chapters) has changed you.  If it changes no one else – why should it?

I invited you to take this journey and you accepted.  I will invite others to take their own journeys.  And they have the same choice of tagging along or not.  This journey has changed you more than you ever would have thought before the first step.  Your “job” as my disciple is not to change the world and all who are in it.  Your “job” (if you insist on having one) is to BECOME me. 

And as you have found time and time again, when you cannot convince others – I demand that YOU have NO right to change others.  That IS holy ground.

So in reading the words of “that book” you have taken your own “intuition” and tested something.  Let me help here …

You have disconnected “BUT” from “what if …?”  You have now fully and trustingly connected “AND” with “what if … ?”

You have embraced your own demolition of your taught bible, your “Christian Tradition” church bible.  And in doing so you have found … love and no fear.  In short you are finding “my place.”

But in your demolished bible you HAVE found journeys.

Individual journeys of those who wrote as you do now.  Journeys that were as subjective – that “created history” which is not history.  Writing that was not “reporting history” – that conflicted with other journeys and others writing – each as subjective as the other. 

And from that “a God to be feared” was created – they liked that back then.  And more weirdly – a God which the “Christian Tradition” seems to prefer even today.  As I say … water off a duck’s back.  Because today you see doing and busyness.  Do you not think that “back then” I saw doing and busyness?   Today you see resistance to change, to trust, to faith in its purest form – and you want change dammit!

Hello Paul … !

Look at the journeys!  Every journey in “my bible” has those two elements: doing AND busyness.  Every journey is one of fear.  The fear of change – the same fear of change today.  Personal change … Your very own PERSONAL change.

So please keep writing.  Please keep challenging.  Please keep loving.  The love that makes no sense until you find the freedom to change something really simple.  To change that “BUT” to an “AND” in front of the “what if … ?”

Because THAT is where “your journey” meets ME – in MY place – MY time. 

And until you do – I WILL meet you in YOUR place – YOUR time.  That is my “tradition”.  That is my “journey”.  That is my “bible”.  Because everything else is just … “pants”!

(does this mean … ?)

I know you have wondered when … so yes we can …

Now add the book that began this journey.  Now you can link the journeys of others.  And now we can find another stone to be turned.  Another bible to deconstruct.  Another tradition to unpick.  Another change you might like to embrace.

Just one word of warning Paul …

Do not demand change in others.  I have never demanded that of you.  I invite.  I journey.  I change (at least in your eyes).

I desire that you desire that WE meet in my place and my time.  That is THE relationship of unconditional love.”

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(hard to follow that really … )

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The book:
“The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable To Read It” by Peter Enns

These words:
My journey of change through reading that book.

My God:
Not the same God I have been taught nor the same God as in writing “Unconditional Love – (I)”

My journey:
I desire to meet my God in His place and His time. Where fear does not exist.  More and more I learn that I set conditions that keep me from meeting my God in His place. More and more I am finding those “conditions” to be my Christian Tradition – my Taught Bible – my institutions of Faith.

The connections:
Susan Irene Fox (susanirenefox.wordpress.com) who passed this book to me.  Mel Wild (melwild.wordpress.com) who passed the book to Susan (and I would love to know the chain of connection before that!)

The conclusion:
There never is. The journey continues. If we allow.

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Thank you

Paul

Finding God in Vegas

Welcome To Las Vegas, Las, Vegas, Sign, Las VegasI am almost settling into my new role as mommy. I find myself still uncomfortable, not yet there but joyous at the days that await me. As preparation, God sent me to Las Vegas. Shocking as it may seem, Vegas seems to be the very place that has given me the foretaste of the promised land. Vegas is the place where my sister is, where I left my heart.

It has been nearly a year and a half since I have seen her. I thought all was hopeless until my parents swooped in like God’s angels and announced we were all going to Vegas to be together. I wasn’t sure what to make of God in that moment.

Sometimes God grants the prayers that you never pray.

In a city known for its sinfulness, I was staring at God’s love. I didn’t know what awaited me there, but I knew that He was there already, preparing the way for me. You see, we limit God to people and places when in fact God cannot be limited. We don’t allow Him His fullness, His space, His Holy Spirit to work wherever we are. I knew I wasn’t leaving God behind, I was finding God in Vegas.

It didn’t take long to see why God had me here. My sister, who decided to leave her career behind as a professional dancer, opened up her home to all of us . It was soothing and comfortable to be able to roll my bags and three children into my sister’s home- no elevators or stuffy hotel rooms, no overpriced food or the hustle bustle of a hotel lobby. She had the coffee machine ready, blankets and gifts for the kids, and my kids were reunited with their cousin. And I could breathe.

But it was seeing my sister’s face that changed me. She was relaxed and smiling, hospitable, not worried about messes. The only remnant I saw of her career was the picture of the cast of her last show framed in the garage.

And as I woke up in the morning and looked out to the mountains, I too could breathe. And God’s gentle voice came to me in the stillness of the hot desert air,

“You must learn to change your perspective, change your view”

The words were so quiet, but real. My sister had made a life out here knowing nobody. She left everything at the very height of her career to have my niece, to have a family. And motherhood was looking so very radiant on her.

I knew God had to bring me out here to give me a foretaste in accepting my vocation. I had to see the mountains, had to know there was life outside of lawyering, had to see my sister’s face, had to change my perspective.