Meet Cleo…formerly called “Cinnabun” or “my little lion”.
She has decided after a couple of years of dining and dashing to take up residence here.
One night after dining, instead of dashing, she jumped up in my lap and went to sleep.
She had now moved in…and now she wanted to take over.
The first order of business was to get rid of Smokey, who has lived here for quite some time now.
The queen (Cleo is short for Cleopatra) finds his presence distasteful.
She growls and spits at him and demands he vacate his own premises.
So far, long discussions have failed to convince her that she has to share…beginning such discussions makes her spit at me.
Other things that make her spit and growl include any movement when she is on my lap and touching my phone when I should be petting her.
The phone has been pushed to the floor twice for violations of the code of conduct.
I can handle her many idiosyncrasies …but I won’t tolerate her lack of civility to Smokey.
When she decided she lived here, she also made a decision to become part of a family…and Smokey is a part of this family.
Even though I’ve hoped she would join the family for a long time, she still has to recognize and respect the rest of the clan.
I love them both…and my expectation is that eventually they will choose to love one another.
They have no option…if they want to stay here.
This is why heaven is going to be a challenge for many folks…
It is a traditional Christian assumption that once we receive out glorified minds and bodies that we’ll forget all our differences and prejudices and become perfect little versions of ourselves.
It is a traditional assumption, but not necessarily a biblical one.
I hope it’s true because it would save us all the hard work of trying to love as we have been loved in a fallen world.
What if…we actually have to acknowledge and resolve our differences in the new heavens and the new earth?
What if…the new creation is full of people that we had hoped would stay with the old one?
I know this…the Father that adopted us all expects us all to love and respect each other … in this age and the age to come.
We are one family, with one Savior, and one Father.
Cleo didn’t come in last night…perhaps she’s reconsidering whether this is really the family she wants to be a part of.
I’ll love her anyway…but it’s cold out there…
Make your own application…
Then there’s the old joke about Gabriel showing a new arrival around heaven and saying “shhh..” as they go by the Baptists because they think they have the whole place to themselves!
I don’t know what heaven will be like…Revelation does say that God will wipe every tear from our eyes (Rev. 21), so maybe the fighting will be done by then. In the meantime, we can certainly do better here. When I was a missionary in Colombia, i arrived with all of my doctrinal i’s and t’s properly dotted and crossed. Then, I met all of these wonderful Christians from different traditions that weren’t mine, and whom I was supposed to be leery of. But, after you have prayed together with someone and spent a few days at a retreat, they aren’t so scary. And then you giggle because they thought YOU were scary. I learned a lot more about sibling love as a believer when I went to a place where evangelicals were a minority (and, yes, I recognize there are Catholic believers. I met many with whom I experienced wonderful fellowship).
However it works out in heaven, we’ll have to get along. We’ll be so focused on Jesus, that it won’t take long! As for Empress Cleo, she may get a clue if she decides it’s warmer indoors for the winter.
I don’t think I have a clue why Heaven ill be like!!
it’s snowing in Jacksonville, Oregon where I live!! My grandson is coming this afternoon—hopefully they can make it over the Siskyou pass safely. Maybe we can make a snow man. He’s only 5!
It sure seemed like Cleo was itching to be featured in a TGIF. 🙂
She came in this morning…a little better attitude…a little..
She’s angling for the Monday slot…
Good! Ally, my rescue cat, refused my advances for three months until I bought the slurpy tube treats. Now, she is my BFF!
Officerhoppy, I’ve been pondering what we’re gonna look like while we wait for our glorified bodies….
We haven’t really got a clue – only that
God IS good, eh?
Cleo is the image of my daughter’s cat – she’s been spooky all her life here
Then your daughter has a beautiful cat…that you should love… 🙂
Michael, I tell her that she is sooo pretty and I hope that counts for something…
I’ve only loved one cat – a Burmese that we named ghillie. It was stolen by a neighbor who kept it indoors. I thought someone had driven off with it. Never suspected that it was imprisoned just down the road. One of my children spotted it about a t year later sitting in a window…
Lots of good stories about that creature….
I think like this with my mother, who accused me of all sorts of elder abuse and called the cops on me. Adult Protective Services investigated my supposed financial abuse (cleared by the bank). After age forgot who I was, the last visit, I wasn’t able to visit her to transition due to covid. She had covid though that wasn’t what killed her, it was her time.
I only hope to reunite with her in heaven and that she’s healed of her life long mental illnesses and pain.
Do any of you who have been Christian’s for awhile—or are pastors struggle with your belief? Do you ever consider quietly or overtly walking away from
God? What are your struggles (be honest) and why do you stay?
One pastor I read about walked away from his faith saying, “ …when a mother-to-be, bolstered by (my) sermons that anything is possible with God if you have enough faith, believed her unborn child with a fatal disorder could survive. The infant died soon after birth, and the mother blamed herself”. ‘How can I preach this stuff?'” He said. “Beneath the appearance and the surfaces of people’s lives there was a level of suffering and brokenness for which my theology did not touch.”
I’ll comment on my struggle (a retired pastor and church leader) after you guys comment.
One thought, officerhoppy. One 70 years now as a “born-again” soul, one strong thing stands out: If God gives you a trial, He WILL also give you the strength to go through it.
I know I’ve mentioned the loss of our son here . The pastor asked me to give a “testimony” as he’d observed our conduct. I began by telling the congregation that had anyone said to me, “you going to lose your son to encephalitis.” I would have said, “God would never do that as I could not survive the loss.”
I hadn’t taken into consideration His compassion. On the way to his funeral service in the limo, my Mother said to me, “You didn’t love that child!” Her words should have cut me deeply, but they didn’t as she had never trusted God with her life. I replied, “You underestimate the grace and power of God!”
If that says anything to anyone, I don’t know.
God keep us all
Thanks for your story. I’ll comment but after others post.
BTW, my first name is Steve 🙂
You’re welcome, Steve
I’m in my 86th year, so I may not remember your first name even though it is a very nice one, but I’ll try.
No worries friend. I like “officer hoppy” 🙂
I struggled with doubts and faith for most of my ministry.
I no longer do…or the doubts are inconsequential.
I do not doubt Jesus at all…He is the only way life makes sense.
I have made significant theological changes…changes about theology…but I’ve never been this secure, thank God.
This is not to say that I’ve arrived…but I know the road a lot better…
AMEN, AMEN….. IF I may opine. 🙆
I am always puzzled by folk who say that a Creator God makes no sense…. ? ? ?
No we don’t believe we KNOW
To know him and be known of him.
” And I know yes I know… Jesus’ blood can make the vile st sinner CLEAN..”
Precious, precious TRUTH
course, I’m sitting here with old Jimmy Swaggert on the TV – can’t live on emotion, but once in awhile, it’s encouraging to watch a burst of emotional praise..m.
Ir I am honest, and I hope that Iam, I struggle with God.Years ago, I drifted into the arena of Calvinism. I determined while I liked the fact that it outlined salvation in an orderly fashion, and placed the issue in his hands, I couldn’t avoid, the concept of fatalism. I also wrestled with the concept for responsibility. If He determines before the foundations of the earth who will be saved, then how can he hold those not chosen responsible? It seems God’s love is conditional—conditioned on those he has chosen.
I didn’t like that God.
Experiential, it seems to me that God’s marketing is in the hands of the uneducated. Little memes and “Hallmark” card theology really bugs me. It’s shallow and misleading.,
When I was pastoring I ahead to talk myself into believing God was good. Truth be told, I felt God abandoned me, at my church. I did all the heavy lifting.
Prayers went unanswered and I figured I really couldn’t pray with belief that God would answer. And because he was sovereign, he was unaccountable, and could do what ever he wanted.
To me God is often times the product of bad marketing.
Truth is after 52 years of doing my best to serve him, I am disappointed with him.
Just being honest. It’s been aid that “If you feel far from god, guess who moved”. The reality for me is I have had conjur him up.
He is more silent than actively involved.
I don’t y want yo deny him, I just don’t want to give him anymore of my times. I dedicated my life to him, but for the most part he has been a no show.
Officerhoppy et al:
I’ve been on a 10+ year slow “deconstruction to reconstruction” phase. God did not “deliver” me from a sin like so many of my fellow believes said he would (you know…just read your Bible more and pray harder), and that left me bitter for many many years. So what to do? Wandering in the desert for a a long time, all the while grumbling that most of my Christian friends either lied to me or just don’t get it. Or thinking that God just doesn’t give a rats behind about me, or that God has got it in for me.
Anyways, I believe now that I am reconstructing my faith. Much of it had to be done by realizing that some of what I experienced at the hands of other believers was spiritually abusive. Also had to jettison much of the ugly trappings of evangelicalism and also the ugly side of some of my fellow believers beliefs and practices.
One thing that has helped me maintain sanity has been…wait for it…finding this community at Phxp. Not just saying that, but it’s true because I have found some others here that said it’s ok to struggle with the faith and it’s workings. It’s ok to jettison long-held, but unhealthy, beliefs and practices. And it’s ok not to have all the answers.
…appreciate your honesty Officerhoppy (just got done reading your last post).
Hey Dan “the Man”. Thanks for your honest and helpful interaction on this subject.
I don’t want to declare there is not God and be an atheist. I think I am agnostic when it comes to that. I just want to go on and live the rest of my life without the pursuit or awareness of God, or church involvement. The fact his is compassionate seems an over statement to me. He’s very confusing. Any experience with him seems the result of psychological efforts to make him in my life. 52 years a of church, and study have been the seed of any optimism I made have had toward him
My experience with God doesn’t match all the memes and sentimental things people say about him. The bottom line is I don’t feel he is as involved with his creation as it’s made out to be.At least that’s my conclusion after yeas of doing my best to follow him and experience him.
These are tough things to admit.
Over the past few years I’ve walked away from fundamentalists evangelical church life, but even in times of silence I know that I know He is with me. Even in times of horrible discouragement, my heart cries out “ Lord, to whom would I go? You alone have the words of eternal life. I am consoled by the belief that we don’t have to hold on to God, but He holds on to us and He can handle our questions and doubts. We are safe in Him. Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.
Since we do not draw our faith from the world’s chaos it’s convulsions cannot undo it. The historic faith is Christocentric. It is drawn from his suffering death and resurrection. This is why the historic church remains rooted in the sacrament. Jesus must be received and we must commune with him at the place of his anguish and torment.
Our faith is drawn from his having overcome the world. In this world we are tossed and torn. We ultimately lose everything but him.
God did not bring us an explanation of the world’s pain. He brought us to the one in whom that pain is destroyed. But we dare not imagine that coming to him is the end of it.
The gift of Holy Spirit – in a way that brings constant immanent awareness of him — that is our portion. That is our answered prayer.
When we talk about “God” apart from Jesus we will fall into the weeds of determinism or some crazy form of spiritual warfare talk. All to “explain” the messes we’re in. No explanations suffice. We do not have one. We only have Jesus — in his anguish and victory.
I cannot hear him very well lately. I cannot trace his steps. Neither can I be torn from his hand. I can him at the table. There he is tangible — there he speaks.
*I can ‘meet’ him at the table.
As evidenced by some of my writings here along with my writings on Facebook for those who see them there, I am quite cognizant of much of the crap that goes on in Christian circles, particularly Evangelical circles, in the name of God. In fact, I am personally going through such a situation right now. Now, while these are acts done by people and not God, Himself, it sure can have a cumulative wearing down effect and help lead to doubts and discontent with God when seeing all these people who are supposed to be transformed by God acting wickedly, sometimes even worse than those who do not claim to follow God.
I also am not a person who is generally emotionally driven or “in touch” with my emotions and so it often makes it difficult for me to feel or sense God. It’s hard for me to feel the “Spirit moving” or to feel the personal presence of God as many claim to feel.
Additionally, I have for many years gone through painful struggles close to and within me and have made many pleas to God to bring changes and relief with seeming little being made better.
Despite all these things, I rarely have ever doubted God. I say this not to brag as I am not better than anyone else who has doubts and I can certainly understand many reasons for their doubts. But I can only chalk this up to God, Himself, and a gift that He has given me. I am a very logically-oriented, fact-based, pragmatic person and I would have many evidences and experiences to doubt God, and yet I don’t. This makes my confidence in Him all the more because it must be of His doing that I don’t doubt, as my own doing would certainly bring about doubts.
One thing that has always substantiated my faith, and probably only more so as I have grown older, is the realization of what Jesus did. I could doubt God and His goodness, yet when I look at what God did by sending His Son to leave his comfort and majesty in heaven to live on this earth and experience all the same struggling and painful crap that we do, and ultimately to die a horrific death for us, I just can no longer doubt. For as much as God appears at times to not make sense (or that I can’t make sense of Him) and/or appears to not care or have bad intentions or attitudes Himself, I look at what Jesus did and recognize that a bad God or one that doesn’t care would never have done what Jesus did.
BD is correct…you can meet Him at the table…but your theology must allow that…
For me, disappointment with God was because of false expectations based on a false understanding of the mission of Jesus.
I expected blessings…”all the promises of God” were mine.
Blessings were few and far between, but the ones that came did indeed have Gods fingerprints on them.
The suffering far exceeded my expectations…and still does.
What I did not understand was that evangelicalism oversells promises and blessings to put tails in the seats.
The truth is, that suffering is the gasoline that powers the engine of the kingdom.
If you are following Jesus, you are following Him to a cross, over and over again.
All my questions and doubts follow Him there as well.
Behold! Your answers…
It was through a life of suffering ending in death that God Incarnate set the world free and started the process of re-creation over again.
We participate in that re-creation the same way.
Perhaps we should have told you in the beginning…
Almost every big petition of my heart has been denied…the things I wanted for most of my life I have had to live without.
To be more specific, I have often been given a choice…to have what I longed for or follow the calling that was right in front of me.
Marriage, financial security, and temporal comfort have all been within my grasp…if I chose to walk away from the works set before me.
This has at times, seemed a cruel choice to have to make.
My loved ones have often wanted me to walk…I had “earned the right to happiness”…
Those moments are when I realize I love the hope of the kingdom more than anything here…
I appreciate all of your input and perspective. I will take every thing you’ve said and think about it. This is not a new thing for me as pastor Mike knows. Been here for a long time.
It’s a big decision. Not going to make it quickly or rashly. But for the most part god has been a no show. At least that’s how it seems. I wonder if the spiritual realm is real.
Thanks for your patience with me and your kindness
It’s my hope that all who are in the process that you are in can find rest and space to think here.
That opens to “deconstruction” offends some, but they end up leaving …one way or another…
It seems the essence of Jesus’ teaching and the entire OT is in Luke 10:27–Love God and to love people. I can do the last part without God’s help. It’s the first part that is difficult for me. Is it enough to acknowledge him —even tolerate him and love people?
What does “loving him” look like—constant prayer, reading his word and having all these new and wonderful revelations—like so many suggest, going to church, serving, displaying a bumper sticker on my car?
I’m not being flippant. I just have 0 feelings toward God. I feel no emotional connection to him at all. I enjoy talking theology, but please don’t ask me (a pastor!) to pray for you because I can’t do it with any type of conviction or certainty.
It’s a long story—too long to explain or talk about on a blog.But again, I feel safe enough here (as per Michael) to lay it all out here.
The last piece of my reshaped faith was loving God instead of considering Him an adversary.
I was trying to love people and He was sitting on His holy hands…
I’m not all the way there yet…but now I believe Him when he speaks of His love for all of us…the cross is the proof and the body and blood made available to me keep me going…
“The last piece of my reshaped faith was loving God instead of considering Him an adversary.”
So how did you make the shift?
“So how did you make the shift?”
By making everything I believe center on the person and work of Jesus Christ.
God Himself suffered unfairly and died for us…because He knew that the power was in that suffering and He defeated death by doing so.
I spent a lot of time next to Him in the garden of Gethsemane.
By understanding that my suffering somehow contributed to the coming of the kingdom in fullness.
By understanding that my heartbreak for myself and others was the heartbreak of God and finding communion with Him in that.
To be blunt…by rejecting all the baggage of evangelicalism and the Reformed and allowing place to experience the Word and Spirit anew.
I’m not there yet completely…but I have no doubts about Jesus at all…
I would add that I no longer need to be sure about some things.
I cannot define for you my position on the Scriptures.
I cannot define for you my beliefs on the afterlife, except that I welcome a new creation where heaven and earth become one place.
I am free to listen to aberrant thinkers as long as they confess the creeds.
There is much I don’t give a rip about…but Jesus is Lord…
This has been a good conversation.
I couldn’t love people without some type of grace from God. As one pastor once said, “people are no damn good!” (Nice paraphrase of Romans 3)
I think there are many of us here who don’t fit the mold. But in reality, I think the mold of American Evangelical Christian culture only exists in our collective minds, and often it is not helpful for those who live outside the margins.
I’ve been slowly working through The Ragamuffin Gospel that has been helpful in affirming to me that all I need to do is show up. I practice spiritual disciplines, have a Rule of Life, but even those things are not the means to the end. Showing up is. Being attentive, aware, looking for God in all things and places is lifegiving to me at a time when it seems that the days are racing by, that I have not accomplished nearly as much as I would like, and I fear that so much will be left undone. I’ve had to work the idea into my life that God is more interested in my being than my doing.
Yeah. Jesus is Lord. Says it all.
I think this statement from was from a blog interview with Stanley Hauerwas:
“Jesus is Lord. Everything else is bull—t”
A long time ago when I finally confessed to my discipler that God felt like my boss-work hard for Him and avoid His disapproval at all times-the discipler suggested I focus more on a study of Jesus and His characteristics. I then lined those up with God’s characteristics. The characteristics match up, but Jesus embodies them. The study totally changed my outlook on God and how I continue to relate to .Him. Hebrews 4:-4-16 and John 1:1-17 are verses I continually return to when I fall back into God is my CEO mode. He is my Father, Creator, and Lord.
I would be remiss if I didn’t add something here.
My advantage is that I had an experience with Jesus at a very young age..about five years old.
It did not involve the church, but He came to me when I was alone and very ill.
I have spent the rest of my life seeking that Person….who actually sought out me…
My theology professor spoke of that as the flight of the alone to the alone. He considered it the unshakable power of being held by a love that does not relent.
I don’t think I’ve read that part of your story before.
Yes this is why I wrote. “I know” — a person with such an encounter is not at the mercy of doubts and criticism.
Michael’s last few posts were very poignant responses to your concerns. They were Christ shaped responses.
Saying the name of Jesus when we talk about God is very revealing. Speak of him. Sometimes when my experience of Hod is waning I simply tell my Jesus story again. There is something to the idea of saying his name when we speak of our faith.
Find someone and get face to face with them speaking his grace that drove you to those years of service and pastoring. No
Just tell someone how Jesus reached you. It’s rejuvenating.
I have been loathe to talk about it because it is deeply personal and there is no chapter and verse that I can bring on demand to validate it for those who need such.
Find those who speak of Jesus…yes and amen…
***Experience of God is waning
🤦♂️🤦♂️🤦♂️ How many times have my fat thumbs typed that mistake. Didn’t catch this one.
I can’t explain myself and what I think and feel. I stopped taking communion months ago because the table has no meaning for me (that’s a hard thing for me to say). The fact Jesus died for me was ruined by Calvinistic thinking. He died for his elect not the entire world. His love seemed to be conditional toward those he chose. Again, if he is the first cause of salvation, then how can he hold the non elect responsible? They were never given the opportunity to repent like the elect?
I am tired of trying to figure him out. The mystery of God that so many are attracted to disturbs me. He seems so arbitrary and…unaccountable because he’s god and above criticism.
FYI, I am just trying as best I can in this format to articulate some of my thoughts. I’m nit doing a very good job!
Would love to see God as real, fair and loving. But I am stuck and after years of study and trying to put all the pieces together I just can’t. He doesn’t make sense.
Michael and Dread—I’d like to cross the bridge from adversary to friend and focus soley on Jesus, but the truth is it does nothing for me at this point. I need a new paradigm but don’t know how to break the cycle of distrusts and unbelief.
I’m really screwed up!
You’re in a great space that Jesus can be real in.
It’s really uncomfortable, but it will end in your favor.
I left the Reformed and their theology because when you read it like it’s written…it is clear that the atonement was universal and the purpose of the Incarnation was to redeem the entire creation, not just a few folks who enjoy Calvin.
If you feel like reading…I suggest Michael Ramsey…”The Gospel and The Catholic Church”…small c catholic…it’s a different paradigm…
I see Jesus as the very definition of real and loving.
Fairness has been delegated to the consummation of all things…
Honest words in this thread, reminding me that Jesus said that in this world we’ll have tribulation, but cheer up as I have overcome the world!
70 years a Christian, I’m willing to admit that there are more tests than blessings. If not, one might ask, “Am I taking my redemption seriously?”
Its 3 degrees in the carport right now…. My daughter thinks 24 inches of snow and blue sky is beautiful. I call it a test. 🙆
Just a clarification on my post above…my mentioning “trappings of Evangelicalism” may sound like yet another criticism of Evangelicalism, but I am in that camp and not planning on leaving. I bring that up because that is the camp I was in and continue to be in.
How I see it is this: most/all of us have rough spots, some more rough than others. A person who is a “speak-first/think last” person before salvation can still be a “speak-first/think last” person after salvation, regardless of theological bent. A jerk before salvation can be a jerk after salvation. God needs to work on us all.
Although I can make a list of the harmful ways I have been treated, I would be mistaken to think that I was not at fault for much of the pain in my life, nor was I innocent of hurting others.
If I know one thing though, is that I won’t go back to the kind of Christian I was 15-25 years ago. I think God is leading me still.
24 inches of snow and a bright blue sky in Minnesota usually meant that the air was very cold.
It can be beautiful in it’s own way, but frankly, when it’s -10F on a blue sky day, the sun is more there to mock that provide warmth.
I think God is doing a good work in you…we enjoy your company…
I won’t allow myself to say the things hoppy is saying just yet, but only because I’m a coward. So much of what he is saying is all to familiar.
I’d love to compare notes with you
I can relate so much to what Hoppy says.
If it wasn’t for certain people who lurk here and still occasionally comment — and the potential pile-on from some long-time regulars — I would tell you most of my story. Maybe someday I can.
One comment on Calvinism: I adopted it as THE way to view Christianity, first because it seemed to assure eternal salvation, but it also offered an alleged sensible, structured theological framework that could be backed by Scripture, as opposed to the tradition I rejected that was backed by feelings, intuition and supposed leadings from the Holy Spirit (who apparently dropped His commands at the last second and at the most inopportune times).
Calvinism wasn’t freeing. It was an instruction manual for making a yoke that put a heavy burden on those it was imposed on.
I’m looking for new ways to view God and live the Christian faith, without going into something completely unrecognizable to Christianity. If I wanted another religion, I’d follow that religion.
I appreciate your comments. I probably should be a bit fearful of sharing openly my feelings, but at this point, I really don’t care.
I think a lot of people feel the way I, and others, do, but are afraid to be open about it for fear of reprisal. But I think it would be a healthy conversation. Better than just pushing it down and pretending the feelings and thoughts aren’t there.By not speaking openly, who do we thing we are fooling? God? Who supposedly knows our every thought?
This has been a very good conversation. I appreciate everyone’s heartfelt comments.
I can’t bring myself to believe there is no god. But the God I have followed and been disappointed by, for the past 52 years, may be more a product of Christian cultural influences. I think the Jesus I have learned about in church never really existed. In my world he has been more of a self help—self improvement guru than a savior.
I think the God I have served all these years may have been the product of evangelical marketing. The real Jesus was in the fine print, but we never talked about that.
As I asked Michael in a previous post, the challenge now is to erase the white board and start over. How do you do that?!?
That’s a question only I can answer
Officer Hoppy, I think one way to start is to get yourself a copy of the Bible that has no notes whatsoever. (Don’t even get an Orthodox Study Bible!)
Then just read the Gospels as plainly as you can, trying to discard most of what you’ve been taught your whole life, some of which was true, but the sorting can come later. When Jesus is preaching, put yourself in the crowd and try to receive His words as plainly as you can, without applying anybody’s systematic theology to explain away His words.
That’s just my advice; it may be bad advice.
And for prayers, I’d just pray the Jesus prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.
I believe He will have mercy on you.
That’s really good advice…
parts unknown, Officerhoppy…
History was my friend…realizing that the most ancient expressions of Christianity bore little resemblance to what is practiced today.
Expose yourselves to other traditions and other times…always looking for Jesus.
Modern evangelicalism is very Pauline…and for me, Paul wasn’t really helpful.
I’m reincorporating him now…but only after building my foundation on Jesus.
I love the story. That God love us so much, that he gave it all up to come and save us. Beautiful story, and that beauty in itself is worth our meditation and imitation.
Historically, I am convinced that Jesus (though that’s not what he was called then) did live and die, and after his death something world-shaking amazing happened.
Other than that, it is various levels of less and less sure. I like Xenia’s idea of a renewed focus on the plain words of the Gospels. That’s where a lot of my discomfort comes from right now. Christianity, en large, has not taken the shape of the Jesus in the Gospels.
How does that historic Jesus interact with my life today? Don’t know. Haven’t seen him around lately. I am afraid to admit a lot of what I am thinking, because of retribution from church, but also because some strange part of me holds out hope that god cares about what I think, and if he does, he’ll surely condemn me for these thoughts.
I may have forgotten how to be honest in this whole charade.
God does care about what you think…but not so He can condemn you.
If we could get our arms around what he went through to save us, we would know how difficult it is to be condemned…the whole point of coming was the redemption of all the creation, including you.
Read Psalm 95 this morning
One thing is sure, God wants us to take him seriously. He doesn’t play games…..
Anyone who doubts the existence of our Creator has – IMO – been very poorly taught in their place of worship
God keep the peeps. 😇
And again, that is beautiful, and worthy of our thought and ambition. (Even if it weren’t “true” in a historic sense.)
When I was little, I was 100% convinced that my dad drank because god was mad at me. Maybe I said a bad word, or told a lie…next thing you know, dad’s drunk or grandma’s beating me. It all made so much sense. I’m not sure I’ve ever let go that view of God. I’ve earnestly asked him to reveal himself to me everyday for at least the last 15 years. Crickets. Sometimes I want to cuss god out, just to see if I can get a response.
I think we have been conditioned to be dishonest, not only with ourselves but with others.
We are expected tell (testify) our exciting conversion dramas, even if our stories are simple.
We are expected to be “doing well” and cheerful, even if we are miserable.
We are expected to smile during a loved-one’s funeral, as proof we believe they are in heaven. No tears, that’s a sign of unbelief.
We are expected to be holy, when we are taught that actually trying to be holy is legalism.
We are expected to believe “Every promise in the Bible is mine,” even when they don’t apply.
We are taught the whole point of Christianity is to live a “good life” when Christ tells us to expect suffering.
We are expected to believe whackadoodle prophesies that never come true.
It’s hard to be honest in some churches, that’s for sure. It takes some practice to learn how to be honest again.
Conflating my earthly fathers abuse and neglect with God is an issue I still wrestle with…very difficult to overcome…
Well said Xenia. I am still in the process of deprogramming myself from that paradigm.
If you keep using the same e-mail, all one needs to do is click on your gravitar to see who you are. God often speaks the loudest in the crickets……
” the challenge now is to erase the white board and start over. How do you do that?!? That’s a question only I can answer.”
My white board is still in the process of being erased, and I’ve had to discern what still needs to be left on the board. Your mileage will vary. I imagine I will be working my white board up to the day I die. I don’t think we can ever start over with a “blank slate.”
No, no, no!
I was an abused child. My mother disliked me – have some memorable beatings with wooden coathangers. If they broke, she went and got another.
Thankfully I had God fearing, loving grandparents. Good contrast….
The biggest testimony to my “new birth” at age 15 was that my terrible temper just disappeared. Yes, it did! ! !
Another thought, I am not too sure that “sprinkling” as I was in order to join the Presbyterians is an acceptable baptism. I married a Baptist and at age 24 was immersed so that we could join a Southern Baptist congregation. It IS very humbling and I noticed my prayers were stronger and more efficacious following my “humbling.”
pstrmike, I started using my real name here years ago when I was named in a lawsuit between a friend and a mega-church. The charge was made that I was hiding behind a username, and so I stopped that. I’m aware that my gravitar is still there. Just if the wrong person is scrolling through the comments and sees my full name…too easy.
“God often speaks the loudest in the crickets……”
Yeah. Its like he’s playing hide and seek. And he’s hidden himself pretty well. Come out, come out, wherever you are. I give up. You win.
I know you believe it, and mean no harm, but even that statement is infuriating: God often speaks the loudest in the crickets.
I say, I beg god to speak to me and all I hear is nothing. You (generic you) say, that is the most you will ever hear.
Why bother? I have devoted my entire life to seeking this god and the most I’ll get in return is silence?
Does the emperor have any clothes?
Honesty would be a terribly disruptive force in church.
Think about that for a minute.
That’s pretty much true
There are a lot of trite little sayings to “excuse” God but they are always pretty lame.
I think it’s best just to accept Him as He is without expecting Him to behave like a cross-stitch motto like you’d find at Hobby Lobby.
We do not know each other’s story, so all I will tell you is that I have been where you’re at more times than I even want to admit. I have been a Christian for a very long time, most of that time has been an incredible struggle. I tried being an atheist, an agnostic, and even an anti-theist for a period of time. None of that shit worked for me. This is what I’m left with, I decided sometime ago to do the very best I can with it. Having spent enough time in Alcoholics Anonymous, all I can do is share my experience, strength, and hope and it either works for you and others, or it doesn’t. Peace.
Man, that’s a hard pill to swallow! Is he trustworthy?good? Loving? Bad? Uninvolved with his creation? How can I know? Can I not trust the scriptures? He says one thing and does another. For instance James says to pray for the sick and they will recover. I prayed for a young man in his 30’s to recover from cancer. He died and left his young wife a widow. What about God can I trust?
Because tone is often misinterpreted, I agree with your statement to, basically, let god be god. But what can I expect from him and how to navigate it?
Pstrmike has been a help to me over the years.
I think that’s a legit question.
I wrestled with the same passages…here, on more than one occasion.
Then it dawned on me that I had been taught to equate God with the Scriptures…and they are not the same .
I completely believe the whole meta -narrative of the Bible…it’s the story of creation, fall, and re-creation.
Re-creation solely because God loves what He created.
That includes me and my cats…and the people I’ve loved and lost along the way.
What I don’t believe anymore are the “absolute” temporal “promises”.
I’ve prayed for too many, too long, without effect.
I still pray…because sometimes He answers in the affirmative.
If God is unpredictable and doesn’t always answer our prayers…as in the case of James 5, then why pray at all? Is God, in his sovereignty, unpredictable and untrustworthy? Why did James, if inspired, write that?
I am not challenging you just trying to put the pieces together. These are the questions I ask myself as a pastor.
I get the meta narrative thing
If God were predictable and we could change all outcomes by praying, we would be God and he would be our servant.
I believe God is God indeed and I pray because I hope in Him and because He commands me to do so.
I don’t know what inspired really means or what moved James to write that…I will assume it was true at the time.
The assumption behind the question is that if God were good, God would heal all our infirmities and keep us from all harm.
We assume this of a God who became one of us and suffered before being murdered…and told us to follow Him…
If temporal blessing is the key, Christianity is the wrong religion…
IF God could subject Himself to hanging naked on a cross as a sacrifice to give us a way out of our old sin natures’ condemnation….. [not sure my preceding sentence is logical, but I hope]……
I have NO reasonable question as to His love….
Even Jesus. in the garden had to pray, “not my will, but Thine be done!”
Michael’s last sentence @ 1:15
AMEN, AMEN, AMEN! ! !
pstrmike – I trust that you have been through it. I believe you. I believe your good intentions. I am not trying to fight you or argue with you. I am seeing this thread as an honest place for hashing things out.
“God often speaks the loudest in the crickets……”
What am I supposed to do with that? Just going by the crickets, what god is saying loud and clear is one of two things:
1.) He doesn’t care one bit about my life (or any human life that I can see.)
2.) He’s not there. Behold I stand at the door and knock, but he ain’t answering.
So my biggest fear is exactly what you said. He is speaking loud and clear in those times of silence. As of now, I want to continue the charade that it is not true. That there is a benevolent father on the other end of the line. That Aslan is one the move, and though we haven’t personally seen him, we see him slip in and out of the forest in shadows and winds.
What a waste of life.
I can’t remember to change my name consistently 🙂
“If temporal blessing is the key, Christianity is the wrong religion…”
Does this mean Christianity is only about the pie-in-the-sky, blessed afterlife? Maybe I’m missing you.
Josh, Officerhoppy, & others,
Showing your doubts and disbelief here in such a manner takes great courage. Let it be known that you are loved and cared for here (no matter how messy it sometimes gets here).
And Josh – if you would just get back to that trophy gravatar I had given you years ago, I’m sure you’d feel at least a bit better. 🙂
Or be that MYB or Gotta or whatever. 🙂
“Does this mean Christianity is only about the pie-in-the-sky, blessed afterlife? ”
I think that we are all working as ambassadors of Christ in His re-creation project that ends in heaven and earth becoming one place.
That process involves the same things it involved Jesus in…suffering and death…and that suffering is the power that fuels new creation.
So the answer is yes, much of the time.
Still ,there are so many hints of what is coming that we bear up under it…
I think I lost it with my school email address 🙂
I believe I received that honor for a comment on the first Bob Coy scandal.
If your 11:40am was directed at me, you should know me better than that. Of all people you should recognize at least the possibility of something rooted in apophatic theology when you see it.
“ambassadors of Christ”
I don’t know why anyone would want to join this club.
I sometimes get PHXP fan mail. A few months ago I got a message from someone I had interacted with a few times here in the past, but now this person apparently just lurks. He was writing to let me know that I worship a false Jesus, and that I am far from the Kingdom of God. I told him buzz off, and I’m sure he went back to his crew with a solemn testimony, about the unrepentant minister who didn’t accept his “loving” correction, and then I’m sure he shook the dust from his sandals and moved on.
And that’s the basic history of my whole Christian existence, from one clique to the next, not getting one phrase exactly right, or not saying a specific word at the right time. Hell is waiting. Satisfy this group’s requirements, and the next group is already making up stricter requirements to make sure I’m not in. Why do I want to be a part of this? It is all so stupid. I feel like I made a deal with the mafia or something and I can’t get out.
But hey, at least I’ve got this great, vast, silence to comfort me in the meantime. Along with the possibility that my next life might not suck as bad.
“I don’t know why anyone would want to join this club.”
I was drafted… 🙂
Me too, but I was sold a faulty bill of goods on my draft day. Over-promised, under-fulfilled.
Pie in the sky bye and bye… an old saw that mocks God
One of things that made it easier for me is that I joined a group that allows for a big diversity of opinion with a generous orthodoxy.
I can pick what I like from the buffet table and no one throws food at me…
I find the mission of being part of the re-creation process thrilling…and because Jesus displayed his love for me through suffering and death, I can follow Him because I know where the road ends…and it’s a glorious ending…
Sweet Jesus, I’m dangerous again.
PrMike, it wasn’t directed at anyone. I was just thinking about the lameness of trite sayings I’ve heard over the years (and especially recently) and how they don’t really help anything.
Obviously, I don’t find questions dangerous.
Certainty scares the hell out of me…
But… listening for God in the silence is not really trite, so I mispoke.
The other thrilling thing to me is that every Jesus shaped thing we do in some way furthers the kingdom…all those prayers somehow do matter, answered in the affirmative or not.
We have the privilege of being extensions of the Incarnation…
For me, it is often silence. I still believe. Sometimes it is despite the silence, sometimes it is because of the silence.
At least once a week, however, I do hear Christ speaking… “This is my Body… This is my Blood…” When those words are spoken, for me at least, there is a sacramental presence.
God does speak to me in other ways… through Athanasius, through Francis of Assisi and a myriad of others. He also speaks through my friend, Michael… and Josh … and Alan and so many others.
I know this idea of sacraments and community (Church) may not appeal to others or answer all the questions, but it has always seemed to me to be the heart of the faith…
Seeing or hearing God has a degree of subjectivity to it.
I have trained myself to see God in some odd places…I may be missing Him in others.
When this last cat adopted me out of the blue, I praised God because He knew I needed a little companion.
When I got a new electric blanket and it got really cold here, I thanked Him for the comfort.
I have a hard time drawing from others experiences…the mystics often leave me mystified.
So God speaks in a way I can hear…and it usually sounds like purring…
Michael, BB King said it best for me, “The Thrill is Gone”.
I’ve been there.
My counsel to you would be to walk away until you get lonely for Him.
Leave it all behind until His love compels you back.
It may take years.
It may not happen.
I believe you’ll still be overwhelmed with joy when you meet Him…whenever and wherever that is.
A couple of good points there.
I believe that the people God places in our lives are put there intentionally…some to bless us, some to sanctify us… 🙂
We need to get a bunch of “The Gospel and the Catholic Church” to give away…
I’m too scared to walk away. I basically just sit here and hope the thrill will return. I am going to privately take up a study of the Gospels again, like Xenia mentioned. Maybe I’ll have some new insight at the end of that.
About five years ago, God answered a very strange prayer in a very particular way. An addict friend of mine, after 20+ years in and out of rehab and jail, finally landed in this Independent Baptist homeless shelter. He was radically saved, and started obnoxiously sharing the gospel everywhere, loudly, with everyone. I was so happy, because I was sure he’d die, and for the first time since high school, he was clean.
After about 2 years of sobriety he started pastoring this small IFB church. I was terrified for him and committed to pray for him daily. I did pray fervently for him for about a year. One Friday, I was very concerned for some reason about him and his ministry. I prayed that God would send him a wife. Someone to help him carry the load.
That Sunday evening, my youth group had a visitor. I asked the group if anyone had a praise to share, this young lady was eager to let us know that morning her pastor had gotten engaged. When she said that, blood rushed to my face. It was like the very hand of God had just reached down and touched me personally. I asked her pastor’s name and she told me. The rest of the lesson was confusing for the kids because their teacher was sobbing.
This is just a reminder for myself. Its been a rough few years. It will be ok.
You well know the things I write about here and on Facebook. It causes me to catch quite a bit of flak both online and even real life by those who disagree with what I write. It is no fun to write such things and then have to deal with conflict, especially for someone who is conflict averse. It often feels like it’s a pretty crappy and unfair burden that I’ve been given by God. On top of all that, I am not an emotional person so I rarely can ever “feel” that God is with me as I belabor through this burden.
Just recently, someone reached out to me on Facebook because they had seen some of the things I wrote and appreciated them. We did not know each other but shared some social circles.
This person has been struggling with the church and Christianity over the past couple years as they endured some personal struggles and saw much hypocrisy in the church. They ended up sharing with me about an ongoing circumstance going on in some of our shared circles, where he/she saw some of his/her Christian friends and acquaintances saying some pretty nasty things and laying great blame on an anonymous person on social media he/she thought was meant to be his/her self. He/she was very disturbed and upset by this.
It turns out that I knew some details about this situation that they didn’t and that the things being said were not about him/her but rather about some other deceptive and fictional persona that was created by an authorative entity so that blame could be shifted onto it rather than on the authority where the real blame laid. And all the other people were taking out their wrath on a person who didn’t even exist and had nothing to do with him/her.
While what these other people did, most especially the authority, was pretty crappy, this person ended up feeling a great relief from their burden and was so glad I was able to share what I knew with them. This never would have happened if I didn’t write what I do out of obedience to God, even as I find little joy in it and rarely can “feel” God with me when doing it. And I also believe this great relief of burden for this person would have never happened without God caring and moving to make it happen, even as I couldn’t feel Him doing it.
All the more, I soon then found out that this person has been a lurker here for the past year or two, although they didn’t know that I had any connection to the blog when they reached out to me on Facebook. Either these things are all just one big crazy coincidence, or else God has been at work.
We’re beginning our third decade online.
We have failed at every attempt to bring accountability to anyone.
Trying to do so has left my health broken and I live near the poverty line.
It seems pointless…and alternately sadistic and masochistic.
Yet…it’s always been a calling and God has used it in ways I surely didn’t intend.
It doesn’t make any sense when I think about it…so I try not to think about it much…
More fanmail. They needed to take a victory lap and dance on my grave.
An forget changing my screen name. I’ll just be Josh and people will have to deal with it.
I came late to the discussion today, but while you are reading the Gospels, may I suggest that you write down your thoughts and questions as well. I did that years ago on the beginnings of my faith journey back in the 70s). I have been a Christian ever since, with very little deviation from the path, but I believe only God had kept me on that path due to my tendency to go off course. You also might want to check out a couple of books-“Where Is God When It Hurts” by Philip Yancey and “The Problems of Pain” by CS Lewis.
I can’t find anywhere in the entirety of Scripture that Christians are guaranteed a pain-free life on this earth. I think that’s for the future. What we do get is God’s presence, his help, the church (that I know so often can fail us), and positive personal change if we embrace the growth process.
I haven’t had a hassle-free existence; like most here (although I’m not recovering from a Calvary Chapel experience) I’ve had my own share of problems. God has never failed me in any of them. Sometimes my prayers have been answered, sometimes answered in a different way, and some probably won’t be answered until heaven. I haven’t found God unfaithful, although I don’t always understand his ways. But, he always gives me hope.
THanks linn 🙂
I’m actually very spoiled. I just remembered another powerful encounter from just July 2019. Its been very rough serving in white, conservative churches during the Trump years, Q,anon, and the pandemic. 2020 was rough on us all, and it was the most trying year of my life. I hoped 21 would be better, and it has been slightly better. Maybe I’m depressed.
That might be God speaking…
He keeps telling me to get help and I keep telling Him how tough I am…
Linen, Xena and all
It seems most the greats of the Bible had a radical—god initiated— encounter with God. All the things mentioned in previous posts, while good, are all initiated by me.
Remember Tony the Beat Poet in the book, Blue Like Jazz? A couple years ago Tony (Kriz) met up for dinner, some brown water and conversation.
He was at a place spiritually where some of us are. At the advice of a pastor, he was admonished to “spend time with Jesus” which he interpreted to mean, read scripture, meditate, pray and maybe fast. The pastor said “no”, that’s not what I meant. He said again, “spend time with Jesus”. So, Tony went into his room, sat on his bed and as he did, Jesus showed up on the bed with him. The bed actually sank where Jesus sat. He told me it’s weird and he doesn’t tell people about it because it’s hard to believe. He doesn’t know if it was a vision or the actual presence of Christ. But when it all started, it was morning. When the session ended it was night time.
Why do we have to do all the work of prayer, reading,etc? Why doesn’t he do something?
Michael had a life changing encounter that radically affected his life? He’s been thru some rough patches but remains firmly committed.
My Palestinian pastor friend in Jerusalem was a Muslim and body guard for Yassar Arafat. He came to Christ because Jesus actually came to him up a vision and dream. It was radical enough he gave his life to Christ and entered the ministry.
Why can’t/doesn’t he do something like that?
It seems god places all the onus upon us.
“God speaking”. That’s a tough one. It’s a euphemism, that may need to be unpacked a bit. I doubt very few, if anyone, hears the actual voice of God. It’s something, a notion, unction, a thought, or chance encounter, or what ever that we deduce is god speaking to us. How can I trust that “voice”? How do I determine if it’s God speaking or my own flesh?
I can’t remember if I shared it hear but I taught at the Calvary Chapel Bible school in Maui. Kids from all over the west coast fell “called” to study in Hawaii. Several had opportunities to study in Sitka Alaska, California and Washington state. They had choices but they all felt “called “ to study in Hawaii.
None of them went on to do anything significant like pastor, or serve somewhere. But I am sure they had fun following God’s calling.
Cynical Hoppy here
God took the onus off us at the the cross.
The miracles of Christ didn’t seem to have much of an effect in His earthly ministry.
I would say the same thing to you I said to Josh…leave it all until you get lonely for Him…
it’s subjective and deeply personal.
I don’t communicate here as I would with close family and friends, nor do I communicate with each one of them the same.
If someone thinks they have heard from God I don’t argue with them unless it is in conflict with the narratives of Scripture and tradition.
I can usually tell when He’s speaking, but not always…and sometimes I’m wrong…
My mission board back in the 80s had lots of farm kids called to rural areas, but with over 60% of the population in the cities, that’s where most were assigned. It was a challenge to keep them urban.
To expect God to speak to us is, in my view, a bit self centered. Years ago a little girl that I didn’t know very well gave me a refrigerator magnet with the motto, “ENJOY CHRIST.” Another banner used to hang over my wash’ machine, “Bloom where you are planted.”
We can’t all be Christian big shots – I’m not, that’s for certain… BUT I did learn to bloom where I was planted, cleaning bathrooms, cooking meals, celebrating family events, etc. AND I did learn to enjoy explore, inquire and appreciate ALL the wonders of our Faith.
Sadly, very sadly, the wonders of the Creator will be seen by most folk in this world too late.
God keep all here. God keep us learning – growing
After Jesus did all his miracles, the Pharisees still demanded a sign. Jesus replied they would get their next sign, the sign of Jonah, when he rose from the dead. He didn’t offer anything else.
I’ve never had a vision or a sign in almost 40+ years as a Christian, but I have had many answers to prayer, protection in some very dangerous circumstances, and not being a rerun of some of my family members rather distrust lives. God had been at work quite dramatically in my life.
I’ve been there.
My counsel to you would be to walk away until you get lonely for Him.
Leave it all behind until His love compels you back.”
That happened to me…and honestly He intimidates me a bit.
He is an enigma…and demands far, far more that we are taught in the traditions I was raised in and have passed through. I almost take ‘give everything away and come follow Me’ quite literally; the literal meaning scares me off. And I don’t feel that if He still exists, He would want me anyway.
On the other hand, Fundamentalist Jesus, Prejudiced Jesus, Jackpot Jesus and East End Jesus repulse me.
Your influence is on individuals who have passed through your life at various times everywhere you’ve been.
You may never influence a Courson or Heitzig to change for the better…but you undoubtedly have influenced many pastors within their movement.
Your ministry and your blog influenced my own life for the better, at a time when I needed it. You were kind to me when I didn’t reciprocate and when I didn’t deserve it and I will always remember that. You have been a pastor to me and one of less than a handful of men who actually have been a pastor to me. There are other things best said one-on-one but I don’t have a problem saying that to the world.
What you have done here matters a lot, and it sucks that you have paid a heavy price for it. Despite the haters you have been richly blessed in some areas of your life…you deserve the same type of blessing in all of the others.
thank you for the kind words.
You are one of the folks that make me “people rich”…and that’s the best kind of rich there is…
Linn @ 5:33
Those are some insightful, wise words…. IMHO. 🙆
” honestly He intimidates me a bit”
It is a sad truth that those who should be intimidated aren’t and those who shouldn’t be, are.
I’m never scared of Him unless I am being intentionally defiant in a way that misrepresents Him…that is scary territory.
He is demanding… following Him has usually meant not doing something for myself…sometimes those were good things I was called away from.
He loves you, Brian…I’d like to see Him be more overt about it too…
We’ll kind folks, I’ve said all that I need to say. I truly appreciate the dialogue. For me to press further would probably be a bit obnoxious.
So, I’ll take all you’ve said and think
Grateful too for those who shared their heart. As Kevin said, it takes courage.