Posts Tagged ‘spirituality’

Life in the Spirit is Not a Game

“It can’t mean anything: going back to the selling game? It doesn’t mean anything. It can’t be the reason you’re here,” Mike says.

Ruby scoffs, “It’s a game whose rules I understand. And for a while at least, that’s just gonna have to be enough…It’s better than having no game at all.”

–Ruby in Paradise (R), 1993, Victor Nunez

A Game Whose Rules I Understand

I like to play games, lots of games. And I’m a bit of a strategist. I kind-of hate this about myself even while secretly plotting how I’m going to beat your pants off. I like to learn a game and study its rules so I can exploit weaknesses in the way the game is set up. By finding this advantage I can prevail against my opponent. Often times it gets chalked up to luck–everyone else thinks they played their best too, so I must’ve gotten lucky. But I know I found a way to gain the upper hand.

A game whose rules I understand is a game I can use to my own advantage.

In the same way, I think sometimes I have played at the 10 Commandments like they’re a game whose rules I understand. And if I can understand those rules, I can exploit even those.

The game I’ve played with God’s Law is the one where the rules are all very clear. So clear, in fact that I could do whatever I pleased and justify it on a technicality. Meanwhile I watched other players like a hawk, making sure they stayed in bounds.

No Game at All

The truth is, the commandments are just a glimpse, as in a mirror dimly, of what God wants for His people. I believe the commandments are worthwhile to teach and study. And I believe that the “spirit” of the commandments is so that all may go well with us (Deuteronomy 6:3).

But the commandments are not God. And following (or exploiting) them is not a game that we can ever, ever win. In fact, living out our faith is not a game at all.

Life in the Spirit is much better than a game.

Better than a Game

My husband has a way of playing games like there is actually something more important than the game itself. It drives me crazy really. He’ll get off on a tangent of conversation with other players just as I’m about to make a brilliant play!

He said once, “I don’t play games to beat people, I play games to be with people.”

And that’s just the thing–we don’t just play at life like its a cosmic game of winners and losers. Life in God’s created world is so much more than that.

In this life, we get to be in fellowship with the God who created us! We get to be in solidarity with all our neighbors on this planet! If commandments help us love and honor God and neighbor, then that is the most important thing. But when we become more worried about beating others or beating the game, then it’s time for a ‘Game Over.’

God With Us

It’s easy to say and harder to do to live like people matter more than rules. I mean, I still get caught up in trivialities of board game strategies! So to think of people in day-to-day life as being more important than whatever other ‘game’ I’ve got going is also a challenge.

And since rules only tell us so much, God did something radical. God came to us, to be one of us, to be with us in Jesus. God in Christ showed us what it really means to “be with” rather than “beat.”

And Jesus, he’s a God whose love I can understand. And it his Spirit in me that empowers me to live in love with my neighbors. And love rules!

The Ministry of Accepting Questions


I was in elementary school before my family began attending church on a regular basis. Whereas Lutherans ordinarily baptize infants, I wasn’t baptized until the age of 9, the summer after my third grade year. As a school-aged kid who hadn’t been in church my whole life, I felt like I had a lot of catching up to do to learn about the faith. The attention given to me in my childhood that enabled me to learn more and grow in the Lord, I attribute to the Spirit of God at work.

My usual mode of processing the world is to ask questions, lots of questions. And I’ve been that way since I was a child. So, as I tried to catch up with my peers, I asked a lot of questions about all this God and Jesus stuff.

I am deeply grateful to the Sunday school teachers who fielded these questions. To be honest with you, I don’t remember anymore exactly what questions I asked. What stuck with me though was the sense that it was okay to ask questions.

I mean, if you think about it, there is something rather bold about some kid questioning the very existence of the God of the universe. But one Sunday school teacher after another stuck with me as I tried to get my mind around it all.

One year in particular I remember asking my usual million questions, but it seemed that my questions were beginning to annoy my fellow students. I began to feel self-conscious when I had a question to ask and wondered whether it was worth asking knowing that I was irritating the other kids.

But I asked anyway. And when the other students groaned and begged to get on with class, the teacher, Mrs. Johnson, patiently entertained yet another question from me. I saved a couple of less pressing questions for after class, after the other students had left. Mrs. Johnson gave me the extra time I needed.

When I then apologized to Mrs. Johnson for asking so many questions and for holding up the class, first she told me not to worry about holding up the class. But then she said, “Keep asking questions! That is how you learn!”

When the world might otherwise dismiss a pesky kid, when other kids would rather get on with the lesson, Sunday school teachers like Mrs. Johnson saw me and my questions as valuable. And I just know the hand of God was in that. The love and patience that my teachers showed me were evidence of God at work in their lives.

In turn, the faith that took hold in me is evidence of God at work in my life. My friend, Clint Schnekloth just posted on his blog today about a conversation he had with a mentor about different ways of being in the world. It was an interesting post, but it was something Clint said in the comments that really struck me as I prepared to write this post:

One thing another mentor told me one time: “For some people, there is a division between heart and mind. For you, your mind and heart are the same thing.”

For me, thinking through issues, asking questions and processing things in my head is inextricably linked with what stirs in my heart. So, when I asked questions in Sunday school as a kid and tried to get my mind around who exactly God is, the answers I got and the care I received sparked my life-long and heartfelt journey of living faith.

We All Know What Cheaters Deserve

spelling testI cheated on a test in the third grade and my teacher believed the lie I told her about what I had done. When my conscience got the better of me I braced myself to accept the consequences of my actions. Because we all know what cheaters deserve, right?

But some stories don’t end how you think they will end…

>>>Please click to listen to the rest of this story called “Making the Grade”<<<

This story is part of my monthly(ish) spoken-audio recordings over at David Housholder’s Life & Liberty. His site is my online home away from the blog where I am a Spirituality Editor. If you haven’t heard my other audio there, please visit my archives.

Storage & Spirituality Sermon Podcast

Storage & Spirituality Sermon Podcast

My recent sermon based on Luke 12:13-21 about storing up treasures is now featured at Life & Liberty with David Housholder. This passage was a little tricky until I decided to identify with the “fool.”

>>>Please click to listen to the sermon “Storage & Spirituality”<<<

To hear all my audio, you can check the audio page right here on my blog.

You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter.

The Work of the Spirit

The Work of the SpiritSo, um…last week on the blog was a little out of control. I mean, speaking in tongues? Who talks about that in Lutheran circles? Well, apparently, a lot of somebodies were interested in hearing about it because my “Confessions of a Lutheran Charismatic” post in which I admitted to singing/praying in tongues quickly became the single most-viewed item on this blog. The post was written as a reaction to reading my friend, David Housholder’s book, “Light Your Church on Fire Without Burning it Down.”

I quickly became pretty self-conscious about what I had written. David Housholder even warned me that it was “very transparent.” And I, of course, assured him that I had anticipated whatever consequences I could. Except, the consequences I anticipated were more along the lines of being dismissed as a crazy person. I’ve gotten that before for doing things that seem more normal to me than that tongues stuff.

But to be listened to about crazy-sounding things as if they might have some merit? I was not prepared for that.

And as someone who is always trying to figure things out, I am trying to understand what exactly it means that people are listening to me about all this.

I got comments and messages from other Lutherans who have had similar experiences and thanked me for letting them know they were not alone. It was as if my writing about it had given them a similar gift to what Housholder’s book had given me.

Is there something stirring among my Lutheran tribe to which I can give voice?

If there is, then it may not be as radical as you think, for sometimes the work of the Spirit is very, very quiet. Oh, of course there are the spectacular and rather weird things–you would really think I was crazy if you saw the way I’ve been praying since my last post! But sometimes the most out-of-control thing the Holy Spirit can do is to whisper words of encouragement and calm our hearts in the midst turmoil or uncertainty.

I feel the Holy Spirit powerfully at work in my life. And I can see the movement of the Holy Spirit in my life since my childhood in everything from seemingly mundane things to the absolutely inexplicable.

And I want to say more about all of that.

I can see the Holy Spirit powerfully at work in the church. I’ve been watching the church very closely since my childhood, since I became a pastor’s wife at the age of 19, and since my education and formation as a Deaconess in my 20s.

And I want to say more about that.

I had planned to tell more of my story tonight. But there is too much to tell in one night. And it is already past time for me to post for the week.

And while I can’t say it all tonight, I am prepared to say more about what I see as the work of the Spirit.