Posts Tagged ‘The Work of the Spirit’

On Why I Feel Free to Question God

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I’ve written before about the importance that asking questions has had in my faith-development. That post, The Ministry of Accepting Questions, made the case that God’s spirit worked through the people of faith who have accepted my questions.

I wanted to expand on this a bit because asking questions is still a big part of how I live out my faith. So, I wrote up a post for Life & Liberty, 5 Reasons I Feel Free to Question God. Click my questiony face in the photo above to see my reasons.

What Is She Doing Up There? -or- How I Use My Hands In Worship

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Last Sunday was our once-a-month praise service at my small-town Texas, Lutheran church. I recently joined the praise team for these services and I want to tell you why I felt really vulnerable up there this past Sunday.

Well, of course, as a pastor’s wife, there’s always, always a sense of being in a fish bowl–like everyone is watching my family and me even when we’re minding our own business. Fortunately, most of the church members in the churches we have been in have been very respectful of and gracious toward us fish in the bowl. Our current church has been exceptionally warm to all three of us, so that was no more a factor than usual this past Sunday.

No, the reason why I felt vulnerable is because I use my hands a lot in church. And suddenly, being up front, facing the congregation, all of my gestures were on display.

Nobody said anything to me about it, but with my view facing them I kinda couldn’t help but notice that not many other people (if any) use their hands quite as much as I do.

And here’s the other thing…I have the propensity to offend people across the spectrum of Christian faith expressions because I’m as likely to make the sign of the cross as I am to raise my hands to praise the Lord. Some people might accuse me of being too “religious” or too “Catholic” for crossing myself whereas others might be put off by my charismatic tendencies when I raise my hands. I could face scrutiny for either one, but put them together and what will people say?

And maybe they won’t say anything. And maybe they didn’t think a thing of it. And it is quite possible that I’m overthinking the whole thing because I do that.

Then again, maybe, and this is a big maybe…but maybe somebody else out there has been worried about looking too religious or letting their charismatic spirituality show…As vulnerable as I feel up there doing the things I do with my hands, maybe it can help free up others to express their whole selves in worship?

It could happen.

~~~

This post has been added to Elizabeth Esther’s link-up: The Saturday Evening Blog Post, vol. 6, issue 2

Humorous video by Tim Hawkins about the different styles of hand raising: http://www.davidhousholder.com/raising-hands-in-church-0153-life-liberty/

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

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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

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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.

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.