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Paths January 29, 2008

Posted by amybeth in Christianity.
4 comments

The following is from a e-letter a musician, John Fischer sends out called Catch of the Day. Someone sent it to me and I thought it was a really neat perspective.

True or false:
All paths lead to God. False.
All paths can lead to God. True.
It all depends on which end of the path you are looking from.

True or false:
All paths that lead to God have to go through Jesus. True.
Therefore, there is only one path to God. False.
There are as many paths to God as there are people who find Jesus.

Everybody’s path is different. Some paths go through fundamentalism and end up with Jesus. Some paths go through Catholicism and end up with Jesus. Some paths go through Islam and end up finding Jesus. Some paths go through Buddhism and end up finding Jesus. Some paths go through atheism and end up with Jesus. Some paths go through Mormonism and end up with Jesus. All paths that get to God go through Jesus, but you can start from anywhere. God is fully capable of drawing those who are His from anywhere. And He does.

It isn’t necessary to convince someone to change paths. We don’t have to carry around WRONG WAY signs to flash in front of people.

There is no such thing as a wrong path; there is only the path you are on, and it is not necessary to get someone off the path they are on, and onto the “right” one. It’s only necessary to point people to Jesus. Anyone should be able to see Jesus from just about anywhere. Especially if they are truly looking for God. The point is to point people in the direction of Christ from wherever they are.

Christians as well as people from other religions, cults, or no religion, who are truly seeking God, will find Jesus. Christians and people from other religions, cults, or no religion, who are not really seeking God, will not find Jesus. They will just be distracted by religion.

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Identity Multitasking January 29, 2008

Posted by amybeth in Deep, Life.
1 comment so far

I was trying to do some homework for a class I’m in on prayer. We were to take one of Paul’s prayers, study it and write a one page summary of what we found…both academically and through revelation. So…I took the passage, looked at it in several versions, read some commentaries, looked up some words in the concordance…and ended up with multiple possible meanings for every phrase…aargh! If it was a ‘choose your own adventure’ storybook, it’d be volumes thick.So I bring in my father, seeming expert on studying the Scriptures and getting lots out of them and connecting them to every other Scripture under the sun. And he tells me that’s normal. That each of those possible meanings are a trail to follow to deeper truth and understanding. And they say it’s the young people who have a postmodern, relativistic viewpoint on things. Okay…I do get his point…sort of. And he did clarify that only those trails that are still within the overall scope of Scripture are okay. But it all seems rather overwhelming to me. Analyzing all the potential themes in a piece of literature, often going far beyond what the author could have possibly been thinking when they wrote it, is what always drove me nuts about English class.

I guess it’s the kind of thinking that goes from the details and builds up an overall image. But I think I’m more a big picture person. I want to grasp the overall idea first and then I’m great at sorting out how the details fit. But it seems awfully hard to get a big picture view of Scripture. There doesn’t actually seem to be one. Sure, there are lots of attempts at presenting what the overall scheme of God was and is within creation, but those attempts are all disputed. Problem is that the big pictures people claim for Scripture have all come from examining the details and trying to build a framework. It’s like being given a basket of fabric pieces, stuffing, buttons, etc. and trying to recreate the doll they came from without ever having seen it. No two groups are going to put together one that looks the same. You can’t even use the puzzle pieces without the box analogy here because the shapes of puzzle pieces give clues to how they fit together that can help one reach the correct result eventually, even without the picture.

So…is building up from the pieces the only way to go about studying Scripture? Does that mean I’m going to forever be frustrated? Is there something wrong with me or are only certain people suited to get insight from the pages of the Bible through systematic study like that?

One interesting extension of this analogy is the question of how can we even know that our pieces, our details, are the right ones if we don’t know what picture we are fitting them into. That’s a whole ‘nother topic.

Anyways, the next day I was thinking about all this stuff and realized that this big picture mentality is the cause of other frustrations in my life. For instance, I don’t do well identity multitasking. I can do lots of things at the same time. What I mean is, I have a hard time being a student, a youth pastor, a daughter, a friend of God, etc. all at once. I do much better focusing on one thing at a time. I struggle to integrate the roles I play. My dad encourages me to remember to take time to spend with God without any particular agenda, just Him and me. But I find now that I’m working with the youth, my relationship with God is centered around how to help them. Or when I’m doing my schoolwork, its hard to just relax and enjoy learning because I’m always searching for what God might be wanting me to do with the knowledge. When I find myself with time on my hands that doesn’t need to be allotted to one of the above roles, I feel lost, unsure of what I should be doing, who I am. I feel fractured, in pieces. I want a big picture for my life, a why I’m here that I can orientate all these other ‘identities’ around. I want to have an overarching purpose that enables me to prioritize the various aspects of my life.

Is that wrong? Is that weird? Is that possible?

Interesting Quotes January 19, 2008

Posted by amybeth in Deep.
3 comments

For the past little while I’ve been getting these Henri Nouwen quotes sent to me in my inbox. A few of them have stood out and got me thinking. I thought I’d share those with you.

THE FREEDOM TO REFUSE LOVE

“Often hell is portrayed as a place of punishment and heaven as a place of reward. But this concept easily leads us to think about God as either a policeman, who tries to catch us when we make a mistake and send us to prison when our mistakes become too big, or a Santa Claus, who counts up all our good deeds and puts a reward in our stocking at the end of the year.God, however, is neither a policeman nor a Santa Claus. God does not send us to heaven or hell depending on how often we obey or disobey. God is love and only love. In God there is no hatred, desire for revenge, or pleasure in seeing us punished. God wants to forgive, heal, restore, show us endless mercy, and see us come home. But just as the father of the prodigal son let his son make his own decision God gives us the freedom to move away from God’s love even at the risk of destroying ourselves. Hell is not God’s choice. It is ours.”

I thought this was interesting. So many people that hell and a good God are incompatible concepts. Have you ever tried to help someone who had been really hurt? No matter how much you offered, were patient, and simply loved them, they chose to remain miserable. Their misery was a consequence of their choices, but you couldn’t be blamed for that. In the very presence of love, we can choose hell. Its not a punishment put on us, but a consequence we choose for ourselves. I know this may not be theologically correct…but it struck me as an interesting way to look at things.

FRUITS THAT GROW IN VULNERABILITY

“There is a great difference between successfulness and fruitfulness. Success comes from strength, control, and respectability. A successful person has the energy to create something, to keep control over its development, and to make it available in large quantities. Success brings many rewards and often fame. Fruits, however, come from weakness and vulnerability. And fruits are unique. A child is the fruit conceived in vulnerability, community is the fruit born through shared brokenness, and intimacy is the fruit that grows through touching one another’s wounds. Let’s remind one another that what brings us true joy is not successfulness but fruitfulness.”

Its so often not about the result…the result can be the same. Its about the process…how we get there, whether in our own strength and wisdom or by doing it God’s way. This quote helped me see what it is that can drive me to pursue success instead of working for fruit – its a fear of being vulnerable.

LIVING THE MOMENT TO THE FULLEST

“Patience is a hard discipline. It is not just waiting until something happens over which we have no control: the arrival of the bus, the end of the rain, the return of a friend, the resolution of a conflict. Patience is not a waiting passivity until someone else does something. Patience asks us to live the moment to the fullest, to be completely present to the moment, to taste the here and now, to be where we are. When we are impatient we try to get away from where we are. We behave as if the real thing will happen tomorrow, later and somewhere else. Let’s be patient and trust that the treasure we look for is hidden in the ground on which we stand.”

I would say this is one of my greatest personal struggles. I keep looking ahead and forget to live now, to savor now.

BUILDING INNER BRIDGES

“Prayer is the bridge between our conscious and unconscious lives. Often there is a large abyss between our thoughts, words, and actions, and the many images that emerge in our daydreams and night dreams. To pray is to connect these two sides of our lives by going to the place where God dwells. Prayer is “soul work” because our souls are those sacred centers where all is one and where God is with us in the most intimate way.Thus, we must pray without ceasing so that we can become truly whole and holy.”I just thought this was a really interesting way to view prayer. I can definitely see how prayer can be portrayed this way…I can be all anxious and thinking about decisions and then when I take time to pray, the truths of God’s Word that I’ve stored in my heart come to the surface and connect with the worries of my day bringing God’s kingdom to reign in the reality of my daily life.

CREATING SPACE TO DANCE TOGETHER

“All human beings are alone. No other person will completely feel like we do, think like we do, act like we do. Each of us is unique, and our aloneness is the other side of our uniqueness. The question is whether we let our aloneness become loneliness or whether we allow it to lead us into solitude. Loneliness is painful; solitude is peaceful. Loneliness makes us cling to others in desperation; solitude allows us to respect others in their uniqueness and create community.Letting our aloneness grow into solitude and not into loneliness is a lifelong struggle. It requires conscious choices about whom to be with, what to study, how to pray, and when to ask for counsel. But wise choices will help us to find the solitude where our hearts can grow in love.When we feel lonely we keep looking for a person or persons who can take our loneliness away. Our lonely hearts cry out, “Please hold me, touch me, speak to me, pay attention to me.” But soon we discover that the person we expect to take our loneliness away cannot give us what we ask for. Often that person feels oppressed by our demands and runs away, leaving us in despair. As long as we approach another person from our loneliness, no mature human relationship can develop. Clinging to one another in loneliness is suffocating and eventually becomes destructive. For love to be possible we need the courage to create space between us and to trust that this space allows us to dance together.”

Ouch. This is another area of struggle for me. I find it hard to both acknowledge that we as humans are built for relationship and thus accept my desire for companionship without becoming cynical and self-isolating while at the same time not giving into the loneliness that would drive me to put pressure on others to meet my needs. Its a tough balance.

God’s Favor January 19, 2008

Posted by amybeth in God, Life.
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Its been a long time since I’ve had the time and the brain space to post on here. Doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking, but its all kind of jumbled up. I’ve actually decided to take a year off before graduate school specifically to give myself time to sort through all that I’ve learned and thought about and to catch up on a very long (and growing) reading list.

But…for the present. Some of you have heard stories about the awesome favor that God has given me while I’ve been in school the last three or four years. I’ve connected with the right professors, been given amazing research opportunities, been published as first author in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, had numberous ‘exceptions to the rule’ in terms of classes and scheduling, been awarded some prestigious scholarships and been hired for more teaching assistant positions than I think any single student has held before. The only explanation is that God has paved the way for me.

And now I have yet another story of favor to add to the collection. I’ve been frustrated in trying to settle on courses for this, my last semester in school. Due to a professor going on medical leave, some of my options changed and everything was up in the air. I had already, amazingly, gotten a professor who was on research leave agree to supervise me in and independent library study course which solved one of the issues, but I was still stuck on what to take as my final elective. When I went to the first actual full class of the one I had chosen I realized I had made a very bad choice and that the course was going to drive me nuts. Problem was that the drop and add period was technically over.

So…I went in to talk to my undergraduate advisor who said if I went to the faculty office that afternoon before they closed, they might make an exception and let me switch into something else. Meanwhile, I had emailed the Associate Dean to ask if there was any chance that they’d accept some of my Bible school courses as transfer credit eliminating the need for me to take an elective course at all. Three years ago when I returned to university they had told me they didn’t accept Bible school transfers but were reviewing the policy. My undergraduate adviser said this was a long shot and even if they did agree, the paperwork would be complex and would take a couple of weeks. I needed to choose a backup course just in case. So…we found a possibility that was actually in session 15 minutes from then. So, the plan was I was going to go check the class out for a few minutes and then dash to the faculty office before they closed at 4 to make my request for a course change.

Just before I left, I checked my email and had a reply from the Associate Dean saying that yes, they now accepted Bible school courses in some cases and that I should make an appointment with her. I sent a reply asking her if she thought I should make a course change just in case and when could we meet. I then went off to the class, deemed it sufficiently okay (at least in the 10 minutes I gave it) and dashed off to the faculty office. On my way I stopped at the library to check my email one more time and found an automated reply from the Assistant Dean that she would be out of the office for a few days.

Well, I arrived at the faculty office 5 or 10 minutes before they closed and asked the secretary if by any chance the Assistant Dean was still there. She was and I went in and explained where I was at. After asking me a few questions about accreditation and the nature of my classes, she agreed to make the transfer. All I had to do was drop my transcript off at the beginning of the next week. She was certain enough that she didn’t advise doing a backup course change – in fact she had me drop my elective right then and there.

So, a half hour after having been told by my adviser that this was farfetched or at the very least time consuming, I had a guaranteed answer. I don’t have to take any elective course this semester which frees me up time-wise and puts approximately $500 back in my pocket. Sweet!!!

I laughed when I told my parents. There have been so many small instances over the last couple of years where I’ve had to push for things and have found amazing favor. It makes me wonder what big thing is ahead of me in life where I’m going to be told ‘it can’t be done’ and my natural response due to experience will be ‘you wanna bet!?’