Rechurching and Reconstructing

“A car is made to run on gasoline, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. . . .There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way. . . God cannot give us happiness and peace apart from himself, because it is not there. There us no such thing” (CS Lewis).

More and more these days I hear about people who have dechurched and are in the process of deconstructing their faith. There’s a fundamentalist part of me that recoils and says, “How dare you? How dare you leave Jesus?” But most of the time it’s not about that.

Mostly it’s people who have been hurt by those who are in positions of leadership within the Church and who practice a Phariseeical form of Christianity that puts rules over people. Some people have been through hurt and trauma and are processing honest doubt and need answers to real questions.

I learned tonight at Kairos that the opposite of doubt isn’t facts. The opposite of doubt is trust. The way to interact with people who are deconstructing is not to argue theology or question their motives but to listen and to love well. It’s to walk with people through their journeys.

Ultimately, we need to be as patient with others as God has been with us. We need to remember that it was the kindness of God that led us to repentance and relationship in the first place. You and I need to learn a word that has become one of my favorite words — hesed. As I learned, hesed is when the person from whom you have the right to expect nothing gives you everything.

When you understand that you can’t outgive or outlove God, then you can be much more patient and understanding with people who have doubts and struggles. And that just might be what they need most.

Thoughts

I was browsing YouTube recently, and for some unknown reason, I gravitated toward a 30-minute interview clip with Jane Marczewski, better known as Nightbirde. It was probably before her cancer returned for the third and final time. It’s an amazing and insightful interview filled with some profound statements and honest admissions.

One statement that arrested my attention was about how she controls her thoughts. She described her thoughts as birds flying over in the sky. You can’t really control those kinds of thoughts any more than you can control birds in flight. But you don’t have to let the bird land on your head and build a nest in your hair.

The Apostle Paul says essentially the same thing in a slightly different way. He says that we take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ. In other words, you don’t let certain negative thoughts linger in your mind until they become habits or mindsets. You bring up every thought, holding it up to the light of the truth of God’s word.

In the same way you doubt your doubts by telling yourself a competing narrative based on God’s truth, you defeat destructive and demeaning thoughts by holding them up against God’s promises and against all the verses about God’s lovingkindness.

You don’t beat yourself up for having angry, fearful, lustful, hateful thoughts that fly above your head, but you don’t have to let those thoughts settle down on you. You can choose to think on better things — noble, pure, right, lovely, admirable things (as Paul says in another of his letters).

If you have 30 minutes to spare, I highly recommend watching the entire interview here:

Annoyed at the End of the Weekend

It’s always annoying that the weekends always fly by while the weeks tend to creep. At least that’s the way it seems to me. It feels like it goes like Moooooooonday, Tuuuuuuuuuuuesday, Weeeeeeeendesday, Thuuuuuuuuuuursay, FridaySaturdaySunday.

Still, I’m thankful for the weekends. I’m thankful for my cat Peanut who likes to hang out with me, even if she does get annoyed when I wake her up to take her picture. After all, 20 hours a day is hardly enough sleep for a feline.

But I’ll take those weekends as long as I can get them. I’ll take all the days that I can get because there’s always something good in every day, even if it’s the fact that you woke up that morning and drew another breath.

Remember, in a few short weeks, we get one of those extended holiday weekends with Memorial Day. So there’s that to look forward to.

In God’s Hands

Ain’t that the truth. Living surrendered is the best way. God calls us to be living sacrifices, but the only issue is that those living sacrifices have a tendency to keep crawling off of the altar. In the same way, I keep surrendering all my stuff to God only to grab it back and try to handle it on my own. Typically, that hasn’t gone well for me.

I remember reading somewhere that anxiety is impatient. It says that everything you’re waiting for has to happen right now. If God doesn’t answer your prayer this instant, it won’t happen. If one of His promises doesn’t come to pass this very minute, that must mean that God lied to you. Anxiety is the opposite of patient waiting.

Patient waiting says that I can trust God. It says that I believe what God says, not what I feel or what I think or what I see or what I want. My own heart can deceive me, my thoughts can lie to me, and what I see is only a part of the whole picture, so the only one I can trust is the One who sees it all, knows it all, and has a 100% perfect track record.

If I truly leave everything in God’s hands, soon I really will see God’s hand in everything. If I spend time every day giving thanks for what God has already done for me and given to me, then I will see more and more of God’s goodness to me. I will see more of God in my world and in the world.

You Made It!

If you’re a glow worm, you’re all set. If not, then you’re probably glad that the week is over. I’ve yet to meet anyone who was sad that it was Friday. Mostly the sadness comes about three days from now, but Fridays usually mean smiles and relief.

My week wasn’t terrible, but it did seem to last quite a while. I read where a character in a book felt like he had his head opened and oatmeal poured in. I think I can relate. By 4 pm, my brains were mush. But tomorrow, I get to turn off the alarm and sleep in. Joy.

This is the part where I typically offer a meaningful insight, but not this time. I think my brains are still mushy and undercooked.

I Will Worship

I got this in an email this morning and thought it resonated with me deeply. I know of so many who are going through seasons where worship isn’t the natural first response. But I pray this will speak to you as it spoke to me:

“There are times and seasons when we feel stuck. We experience no forward motion and wonder if we should abort our dreams. Life is at a standstill, and our spiritual barrenness seems overwhelming. The more we focus on what isn’t happening, the greater the sense of heaviness we feel. Before we know it, we’ve lost our song. 

Worship isn’t contingent upon circumstances, but it does greatly affect them and gives proper perspective. It seems almost cruel to tell someone to rejoice when they are feeling the pain of barrenness. But faith knows how to find its song. Faith sees ahead and believes the seeds of his Word, implanted in the heart, will take root and produce fruit. So we sing. We rejoice in our glorious future and water the dry ground of past disappointments with tears of worship. Our time will come. 

Father, when things don’t happen the way I expect, I will worship. When doors of opportunity slam in my face, I will trust you to open a better door, and I will worship. When I feel like I’m being pulled back, I’ll remember it’s only because you’re stretching the slingshot closer to your heart before launching it. And I will worship.

Adding Not Taking

“When it comes to pain, God isn’t often in the business of taking it away. Instead, he adds to it. He is more of a giver than a taker. He doesn’t take away my darkness, he adds light. He doesn’t spare me of thirst, he brings water. He doesn’t cure my loneliness, he comes near. So why do we believe that when we are in pain, it must mean God is far?” (Jane Marcewski, 1990-2022).

I admit I don’t know much about Jane, known professionally as Nightbirde. I know she was on America’s Got Talent at one point and even got the golden buzzer from Simon Cowell. I know that she recently passed away after battling breast cancer on and off for a number of years. I know that her legacy will be her music and her faith.

I absolutely know that what she said is true. Pain isn’t so much God taking away as it is God adding. Often, pain makes us aware of and able to listen to God’s voice in a way that we wouldn’t be able to under normal circumstances. Suffering makes us more dependent on God than good health.

I always remember an old poem that speaks to how God is able to weave suffering into the fabric of our lives in such a way that it enriches our existence. Here’s the poem:

“My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.

Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.

Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned

He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him” (Grant Colfax Tullar)

A Liturgy for Those Flooded by Too Much Information

I ran across this liturgy from a book called Every Moment Holy by Douglas Kaine McKelvey and thought it fit perfectly for this age of constant and ceaseless information from all sides. May we learn how to cast every anxiety on the One whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light:

In a world so wired and interconnected,
our anxious hearts are pummeled by
an endless barrage of troubling news.
We are daily aware of more grief, O Lord,
than we can rightly consider,
of more suffering and scandal
than we can respond to, of more
hostility, hatred, horror, and injustice
than we can engage with compassion.

But you, O Jesus, are not disquieted
by such news of cruelty and terror and war.
You are neither anxious nor overwhelmed.
You carried the full weight of the suffering
of a broken world when you hung upon
the cross, and you carry it still.

When the cacophony of universal distress
unsettles us, remind us that we are but small
and finite creatures, never designed to carry
the vast abstractions of great burdens,
for our arms are too short and our strength
is too small. Justice and mercy, healing and
redemption, are your great labors.

And yes, it is your good pleasure to accomplish
such works through your people,
but you have never asked any one of us
to undertake more than your grace
will enable us to fulfill.

Guard us then from shutting down our empathy
or walling off our hearts because of the glut of
unactionable misery that floods our awareness.
You have many children in many places
around this globe. Move each of our hearts
to compassionately respond to those needs
that intersect our actual lives, that in all places
your body might be actively addressing
the pain and brokenness of this world,
each of us liberated and empowered by
your Spirit to fulfill the small part
of your redemptive work assigned to us.

Give us discernment
in the face of troubling news reports.
Give us discernment
to know when to pray,
when to speak out,
when to act,
and when to simply
shut off our screens
and our devices,
and to sit quietly
in your presence,

casting the burdens of this world
upon the strong shoulders
of the one who
alone
is able to bear them up.

Amen.

The Perfect Napping Spot

We’re not even out of Monday yet, and I already feel like I need a nap. Actually, I think what I need is a day of recovery between regular days to recuperate from the previous day and prepare for the next.

This picture looks like my idea of a perfect place to take a nap. Or read a book. Or most likely fall asleep while trying to read a book. Or just lie there and think about nothing and be still.

But in the mean time, at least there’s coffee. I truly believe that coffee exists for when naps aren’t an option. Or when one nap is just not enough.

Here’s to naps and coffee. And that bed, wherever it is.

Life Goals (But Not Really)

Even though I’m tempted to try something like this, I wouldn’t. First of all, I’d get caught way before 25 years had gone by. Second, I’m not smart enough to think of something like that. Third, I’d probably feel bad about taking people’s money under false pretenses and give it all back. To sum it all up, I’d make a horrible criminal.

But it’s still funny to read about.