Snowed In

We are part of the midwestern region in the U.S. that is currently recovering and digging out from our blizzard this week. Our kids have been out of school for three days with little hope of going back even tomorrow.
So I’ve been busy trying to keep everyone entertained while cooped up in the house. I’m running out of ideas! It’s way too cold to even play outside in the snow today at -5 actual temperature, so it’s another day of too many cartoons and toys strewn all over the house.

I’ve also been finishing up that book by Marcus Borg, which I really liked. I looked him up. He’s old:) I don’t know why as I was reading this book I was picturing a younger man, but it turns out he looks a little bit like a thin Santa Claus. I found myself nodding in agreement with so many parts of the book. Borg blogs on The Washington Post website, and he frequently raises quite an ire from some of my fundamentalist friends for his ideas about things like the insignificance of whether or not the Easter story involved an actual reanimated corpse of Jesus or the his displeasure with the fact that so much emphasis in Christianity is placed on a nebulous afterlife. He’s an Episcopal priest, and I’m learning too that the fundamentalists really don’t like the Episcopals because of their liberal leanings. Interesting though, that their beloved C.S. Lewis was a card-carrying Episcopal who viewed Genesis as “true myth” and who believed in the salvation of Christ-like non-Christians.

Our family has been looking for a new church now for about four months. It’s getting exhausting. Every week in a new place, we’ve shaken enough hands to leave a germaphobe ready to swear off ever leaving the house again. With our two small children, church “shopping” is an unpleasant task. Especially for our chromosome-enhanced youngest, who has trouble remaining quiet during church service and can’t easily be dropped off in children’s classes without assistance due to his tendency to run away and his desire to practice his ninja moves on the other children. There is a statistic that floats around out there about a huge majority of families who have a child with special needs who stop attending church because of the inability or unwillingness of the church to make accommodations necessary for the family to participate. Anyway, the more we visit, the more I can see how that happens. It’s far easier to stay home.

I’ve taken a break from this blog for a few days because of my tendency to hyper focus on things. My husband finds this quirk of mine simultaneously annoying and endearing. I have this deep need to get a hold of something, some topic or problem, and wrestle it to the ground by the end of the day. Seeking spiritual truth, whether it be the “one” truth that I’ve been taught my whole life, or whether there is a universal truth with many paths leading to it, is a lifelong journey. I’ll die someday still thinking about it. I don’t like jigsaw puzzles or mystery novels; I like more immediate gratification, so it’s frustrating to not be able to readily find answers that satisfy. I am tempted often to just throw in the towel, which might mean one of two things.
Either I give up searching and join the “spiritual but not religious” crowd who don’t need a church…a beach or a meadow or a forest will do just fine. Or I just go back to the type of church we left which is familiar and comfortable and which doesn’t ruffle any feathers of my family or friends. Going back to that church would not mean accepting the beliefs of that church, however. Both of these options feel wrong for me.

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Another Book I’m Reading

The Heart of Christianity by Marcus Borg. It’s a different way of thinking about being a Christian that doesn’t involve the necessity of believing in a bunch of things like a god-inspired, perfect Bible, the virgin birth and resurrection and atonement theology and the exclusivity of Christianity. I like it.
He says in the preface that it is a book for “lovers of faith looking for a faith to love.” That’s me, I think in a nutshell.

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Call off the dogs, the search is over!

I’ve found the antichrist!
It was under our noses all along.

WALLPAPER is the devil.

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That’s right. Zombies.

But before we get to that, I haven’t forgotten about this blog. I’m grateful to have a way to hash out all of my thoughts and feelings about faith, and I’m enjoying all of the feedback, too. I’ve been very busy the last few days. My family has lived in our current home for nearly 8 years, and I’ve little by little been stripping all the ugly wallpaper room by room. I started with the kitchen. It was these little clusters of grapes. Purple grapes, green grapes. So many grapes. Next it’s been each of the bathrooms. I’m currently working in the upstairs kids’ bathroom and if I was ever teetering on the edge of “losing my religion”, stripping wallpaper would be enough to send me into the abyss. Mercy!
Also, I’m reading Jack Spong’s book Eternal Life: A New Vision.I really like parts of it. It’s a lot to think about, and maybe after I’m done I’ll write about it here.

For now, though, zombies.

So I’m reading along in this book yesterday, and Spong was listing some of the truly unbelievable stories in the Bible that make it impossible for some of us to understand how anyone could believe that each word is to be taken literally. You know, stuff like a six-day creation or walking on water. Anyway, I’m reading along when I encounter one of the book’s examples of unbelievable Bible stories. It’s right there in the gospel of Matthew. How have I never noticed it before?

“At the moment (immediately after Jesus’ death on the cross) the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.”
Matthew 27:51-53

Zombies. Huh. I had no idea.

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More on God’s Character

The gospel message in the New Testament is based upon the idea that Jesus sacrificed himself for the sake of every person. The price of sin is death; death is the consequence that sin deserves. Because God is holy and can only do what is just, he has to punish sinful people with what they deserve: death. Because God loves us, he sent Jesus to die in our place, as our substitute, so that we could be redeemed in the eyes of God.

I have so many problems with this idea, it’s hard to know where to start, but I’ll try.
Blood sacrifice to God is an ancient Jewish concept. This story of Jesus spilling his blood as the sacrifice for all the sins of people everywhere for all of time must have made sense to ancient people. It makes no sense at all to me.
God, as loving creator of the entire universe, could have set things up and ordered everything any way that he wanted. Why would he require blood to be shed in order for him to forgive transgressions? Why does some innocent goat have to pay because someone lied or stole or cheated? It just seems crazy.

Why is God unable or unwilling to forgive people of their sins without death? I’ve been taught that this fallen world full of sin and death was never God’s intention for us, but that we brought it upon ourselves with “the fall” in the garden. That moment in Eden when Adam and Eve disobeyed God by tasting of the fruit of the forbidden tree of knowledge of good and evil was the moment that changed everything. Why did God even put that tree there in the first place if he didn’t want them to eat from it? According to what I learned in Sunday school, God already knew they’d fail his test anyway, so it kinda looks like he set them up.

I don’t believe in a literal Adam and Eve. I don’t believe in a literal Jonah or a literal Job. But I do think those stories are there to try and teach us something of the nature of God. They are there to show us how things work between us and our creator.
But they don’t make sense. God set Adam and Eve up. He gave them a test he knew they’d fail, and now he’s punishing all of us forever over it by kicking us out of his perfect world with no pain and no death.

We are supposed to be free to choose God or not choose him, obey him or not obey him. Otherwise our worship and adoration would be empty for him if he required it of us. It has to come as a result of our own choosing. Okay. Well then why when God told Jonah to go to Ninevah to preach and Jonah said no, God made him get swallowed by a “big fish” for 3 days until he finally cried uncle and agreed to go to Ninevah. That story doesn’t make it seem like Jonah had much of a choice.

God sometimes punishes people because they are sinful and he wants to teach them a lesson or draw them closer to himself (what would you think of a real life father who caused his child pain on purpose just so the child might draw closer to him? That would be called “abusive” in most circles, I think), but in Job, Satan appears before God and asks God’s permission to torture Job so they can both sit back and see if Job will still remain faithful to God when his life turns shitty.
Job was righteous before God. He didn’t need a lesson taught to him. He was already seeking God and didn’t need to be brought nearer. It was all just on a bet.
What is this story supposed to reveal to us about God’s character? And in the end when God finally speaks to Job, he just says in essence, I am God. I do what I want. What do you know about anything, anyway?

If what Rick Warren wrote in “A Purpose Driven Life” is true, and our main purpose in life is to worship and praise God, I wish he’d made that easier to do. Based on the Bible, all I can really do is cower in fear.

If I think about all the beauty of the world and all the people in it or who have passed through it that I love, then I start to get a clearer picture of a loving God.

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Good God, Bad Things

I’m reading a book called How Can a Good God Let Bad Things Happen? It’s by Mark Tabb, who I know a little bit. We used to go to the same church. He’s calls himself an “internationally unknown author”. He’s written a stack of his own books, and he’s also collaborated on best-selling books with Josh Bleill, Stephen Baldwin, and Alec Baldwin. He’s a former pastor turned full-time writer/part time volunteer firefighter and chaplain. He is a good writer with an easy-to-read, conversational tone. I’ve heard him speak at least once at church, too. I enjoy his writing more. He seems uncomfortable in front of a crowd.

After our son died, I began writing at a feverish pace trying to record every memory that I could and every feeling that I had and wishing only that I could somehow bottle his smell which still remained on the things in his bedroom. I knew all of it would fade all too quickly.

My imagined audience for my “book” was to church people. I desperately needed to make sense of Seth’s death and I was, in effect, defending God for being both all knowing and powerful and loving and yet remaining uninvolved in so much pain in the world. I needed to cling to my faith. I believed that God “had” Seth, up in heaven with him, and that in order to be reunited with him someday, I would need to remain faithful.
Anyway, I wrote this book. It told our story, it wrapped everything up with a bow. I gave it to Mark to read and tell me what he thought. I waited anxiously for a couple of weeks. Secretly I thought Mark would think it was the greatest treatise on suffering that had ever been written in the history of mankind…or at least that he would really, really like it. When he got back to me, his comments were sparse and to the point. He said the good news: he thinks I am a good writer. The bad news: the book was a mess. I would need to rewrite the whole thing. I was kind of devastated. I couldn’t even look at it again for years.

Here’s the other good news. I literally cringe now when I think about some of the garbage I wrote back then. I am so, so very glad that only a few sets of eyes ever saw it.

Mark’s book about good things and bad things is really pretty good. Mark is no nonsense kind of guy. He’s no Max Lucado, trying to make everything sound so pretty. He doesn’t defend God, but instead agrees that he has no idea what God is up to. I’m not far into it, but so far I like it. I don’t believe it, but I like it.

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What do we tell the kids?

I thought this was a really great article about how to teach kids about faith, hope, and morality, even if you’re not too sure about anything else.

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