Blog Archives

A Hunger for God

Pretty much all my life I have hungered for God except for a time when personal losses and the suffering in the world overwhelmed me and I sought escape in the diversions the world offers. But they did not satisfy that longing and I began to seek Him in most of the main religions, both Christian and others. But did not find Him. Finally He found me through friends who not only witnessed verbally to the love of God expressed in Jesus, but literally gave up all they had to follow him. I returned with great joy to a Christianity that included people from many denominations who had found a life changing relationship with God through Jesus. As I grew in my relationship with Him, it changed and I found Her in even more and sometimes unexpected places and people who were on the same journey, but a different path. God was bigger than any of our “breadboxes.” I struggled with the differences I found even within denominations between those who had a vibrant obviously growing personal relationship with God and those that seemed to just cling to a spiritual tradition, a spiritual club, a spiritual insurance policy, or a set of rules or formulas that made them feel spiritually superior. (To be continued in: Which of These Is Not Like the Others?  Which of These Doesn’t Belong? Child of God, Loved Unconditionally, Born again, Personal Relationship with God,  Personal Relationship with Jesus, On a Spiritual Journey, Spiritual Seeker, In a Dance of Grace and Response, Process of Sanctification, Saved, Law Abiding, Righteous, Finished?)

The Heart of True Religion

The heart of true religion is spirituality. Then and only then can it become communal. If our faith communities are not made up of people with a humble personal relationship with God based on our own ongoing needing and receiving forgiveness, our faith communities will become legalistic, judgmental, unforgiving, about pride and power, and ultimately conflict ridden.

The heart of the spiritual life is a personal journey from recognizing our human weakness and failures, then experiencing forgiveness and unconditional love, to an ongoing response to this grace of becoming more and more able to love others in the same way. It’s an ongoing cycle of repentance and grace and growth in the freedom to love.

The heart of unconditional love is forgiveness. No one is perfect. We all need forgiveness and new beginnings throughout our lives. Truly accepting forgiveness and forgiving others are interdependent. And forgiveness and love are inseparable. We can’t accept or give one without the other.

Each day we are called to open our hearts and minds to God, to find God’s grace in: a first cup of coffee, morning birdsong and sunlight, star filled darkness, storms, fear, difficult people, beauty, a tearful child, a faithful pet, sharing our daily bread, our own and others’ brokenness, sorrow, joy, forgiving, laughter, loss, love, every moment, every human experience, every human relationship, and every human being. When we have “God” eyes, we see God and God’s love everywhere. When we are filled to overflowing, God’s love can pour out for everyone, even those who need our forgiveness.

Reflections on Addiction, Divorce, and Homosexuality

Most of us agree that having an addiction is a bad thing.  An addiction is an idol, because it means something controls us. It becomes our God. The tricky part about addictions is that many are not only accepted, but even highly valued in our society. Addictions to work, to religion, to image, to power, to independence, and to self expression are just a few. It may take a lifetime for us to recognize or admit to some addictions, never-the-less get free of them. Spending time visiting at nursing homes has made me wonder if that particular stripping experience is the last part of the journey to freedom for some.  Perfectly good things, like self reliance, can become addictions. Those are actually the hardest to escape, because they are so difficult to recognize as addictions/idols.

Pretty much everyone admits that loving is a good thing, and many of us consider learning to truly love, as the most important thing in life. But truly loving is a bigger challenge than most of us want to admit. Personally, I consider the core challenge in life to be learning to love another specific human being, up close and personal, and on past the point when the scales fall from our eyes and we see that they are not the person we imagined them to be. Sadly this usually happens before we realize that we too are not who we imagined ourselves to be. We may bail out before that reality can level the playing field. Or we may stick it out for less than loving reasons without ever becoming self-aware and make someone else’s life a living hell.

Ideally, we would manage to make it all the way past delusion and self honesty in our first commitment relationship. In an imperfect world populated by imperfect people, that doesn’t always happen. Somewhere along the way, between the second or sixth or ? try, hopefully, we finally figure out that we are part of the problem and get around to asking God to show us how to change.

But if, as Christians, we interpret the bible strictly, literally, legalistically, we don’t get second chances on marriage. We either stick it out or live alone the rest of our life, because Jesus was pretty outspoken about divorce in a society where women were treated as a piece of property without rights or means to live independently. But in our times, I’m pretty sure sticking with an abuser or addict seldom teaches us about loving adult relationships, and quite likely neither will living alone all our life. I’m even more certain that only God knows enough to judge people, relationships, and how many chances any particular person needs to get it right.

One of the few sermons I remember from my teen years is one a priest gave pointing out that all sins can be forgiven, but not divorce if you remarry, because you are just keeping on sinning every day you are living with a second spouse. This was in the early nineteen-fifties in Texas, where any woman who shot her husband for abusing her or cheating on her usually got off scot free. So, in my mind, I heard the priest saying, “If you make a mistake and marry a son of a biscuit, just kill him. God will forgive murder.” Seemed logical to me, but not very spiritual.

In a Barbie and Ken world, we would all marry a person of the opposite gender and have two and one half children, who would give us an accelerated course in learning to love. In the real world some people cannot have children, and quite a few others definitely should not. Some people also don’t seem called to marriage, but often they are called to be there for people in need,  for elderly family members, or as caregivers to people with handicaps.  I really believe all of us are called to relationships or ministry that teaches us to love as Jesus loved us.

In the real world some people’s only chance of learning to love up close and personal and past the experience of disillusionment may be with someone of their own gender. Jesus didn’t say anything about this, though Paul did, but like with divorce, only God knows whom someone can love up close and personal and past the part of the scales falling from their eyes.  However many tries it takes us, whatever gender we marry, the purpose is to learn to love someone as Jesus loves you and that is a major struggle that involves a lifetime of failing, repentance, and new beginnings through the grace of God.

Sarah Young in her powerful little book, Jesus Calling, hears God saying: ” Each of My children is a unique blend of temperament, giftedness, and life experiences.  Something that is a baby step for you may be a giant step for another person, and vice versa.”

Humility is admitting we are simply not capable of knowing the will of God for someone else. Paul says “We see through the glass darkly.” It’s a full time job just trying to understand what God is teaching us through prayer, study, mistakes, repentance, forgiveness, and new beginnings. It takes an ever growing openness to grace to keep our relationship with God and those He gave us alive and growing.

Judging others is one of the ways we use to escape focusing on what God is trying to teach us in our own relationship with Him and with those He is using to teach us how to love. That’s why Jesus said so vehemently, “Cast the log out of your own eye first.”

At the age of seventy-six I’ve figured out that takes at least a lifetime.