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Month: October 2014 (page 1 of 4)

The Best of the Month: October 2014

 

My favorite Instagram picture from this month

 

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”

Even though it is overused, I love that quote from Anne-girl.  My littlest sister and I secretly (not so secretly, now) think that we’re in a sort of esoteric Anne club.  Sure, everyone says that they love Anne of Green Gables.  But, but!  How many of them have read all the books?  And quote the characters?  And really get the essence of Anne?  Not many!  (We like to think we’re among that small number)

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When the Church Discourages You From Following the Greatest Commandment

 

When the Church Discourages You From Following the Greatest Commandment

 

In Matthew 22 Jesus is asked which of the commandments is the greatest.  He responds: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’”

Jesus calls this “the first and greatest commandment.”

But if this is the greatest commandment, why do Christians seem so afraid of it?

After years in the Church I’ve heard endless exhortations to love God with my heart and my soul.  But I’ve never been told to love God with my mind.

And yet, there it is in Scripture: “Love the Lord your God…with all your mind.”

I want to believe that loving God can encompass using my full mental capabilities.  Yet for so long being a Christian meant turning off my brain.  It meant leaving my logic and rationality at the church doors and accepting the answers that were given within.  It meant that a few hesitant, tentative questions would be tolerated, but I needed to quickly return to the “correct” view.

Love the Lord With All Your Mind

Can it actually be that God is not only okay with my questioning, but that he actually commands it?  Can this scrutinizing and investigating of Scripture be a way I can love God, instead of being something I’m ashamed of?

In The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, a parenting book based on Jewish teachings, Dr. Wendy Mogel writes:

“…struggling with God does not diminish my commitment because in Judaism struggle is built into the theology.  Look at Moses, who spent his entire career in a lively debate with God!  Just as we are never to stop studying Torah, we are never supposed to stop questioning it, either.” (emphasis mine)

It seems like heresy to say aloud that you question the Bible.  But I’m beginning to believe that it is not so heretical after all.

Loving God with all my mind means that I don’t have to shut down a line of reasoning because I’m afraid it will lead to the “wrong” answer.  Loving God with all my mind means that I believe he will guide me to the truth.  Loving God with all my mind means that I believe in a God who is big enough to handle my questions and my disappointments.

Christians are afraid of too many questions.  We’re afraid of sending their children away to secular universities because of what they might learn there.  But it seems to me that we’re really just afraid that our god won’t be able to withstand our questioning.

Questioning and Faith

We must, of course, balance this questioning with faith.  At some point, we must set aside our desire to know “for certain” and just believe.  But Christians are far too quick to jump to faith as the final answer.

In some circles of Christianity you’ll hear people proudly proclaim, “God said it, I believe it and that settles it.”  This might be said, for instance, about I Timothy 2:12 where Paul says that he “does not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man.”

People say that since God is “clear” in this passage, they must not question, but simply obey.  Yet in the surrounding verses we see other things that God is “clear” about other things that we don’t follow today (e.g. men should pray with raised hands; women should not wear gold or pearls; women are saved through childbearing).

We need to stop using faith as a cop-out for poor reasoning.  We must learn to ask questions without being afraid that our precarious faith is going to tumble.  Our faith will become more robust when we’re brave enough to ask (and answer) the questions we’ve been afraid of.

There is an uncomfortable, yet necessary tension between faith and questioning that we must embrace.  This, I believe, gets to the core of loving God with our hearts, souls AND our minds.

The Balance: Humility

How can we balance these paradoxical ideas of questioning and faith?  The answer is humility.

We must be bold in our questioning and thorough as we look for answers.  We must exercise our faith when the answers don’t lead to where we wanted, believing that God has a plan.  But we must be desperate for humility, covering our search for answers in prayers and always, always being open to the fact that we could be wrong.

Accepting Those Who Question

As Christians we must stop being threatened by questions.  Rather than silencing those who disagree with our interpretation of the Bible, we can welcome their questions and guide them to resources to assist their search.  We can recognize that they are trying to love God with their whole mind and that this act of searching, questioning can be a spiritual discipline.  Mostly, we can believe that God’s truth will stand up to the scrutiny because our God is bigger than our questions.

 

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Balancing Faith and Fear in a World of ISIS and Ebola

For the past few months my Facebook feed has been flooded with stories about Ebola and ISIS.  And it hasn’t been pretty.

While most Americans are worried about the Ebola virus spreading through our country, military families are concerned about a second threat.  Sources in the US and Canada suggest that ISIS may be targeting service members and their families.

Both Ebola and ISIS are serious issues that shouldn’t be taken lightly.  Yet much of what I’ve seen on the internet has been fear mongering, turning a few stories into the worst case scenarios.

I have a vested interest in both Ebola and ISIS.  We live in a suburb of Omaha, where multiple Ebola patients have been treated.  Had there been a breach in health care protocols, our surrounding area could have been infected.  And my husband serves in the military, which means we’ve had to weigh the risks for  our own family.

In these past few weeks I keep returning to the same question: how can I balance a healthy fear with a life of faith?

Balancing Faith and Fear in a World of ISIS and Ebola

Three Thoughts

1.  We let terrorists win when we live in terror

If I’m not careful, I am prone to be consumed and paralyzed by fear.  And this is exactly what terrorists want.  Instead of cowering in fear, we can choose to carry on with normal life.  I don’t want to live controlled by fear.

2.  We minimize the suffering of others when we’re so focused on ourselves

I’ve been privy to long, passionate conversations between military spouses who are trying to protect themselves and their families from ISIS.  I don’t fault them for this as, of course, they must do what they feel right for their families.  Yet not once in the course of these conversations did I hear someone express concern for those currently being oppressed by ISIS.

Similarly, when Americans panic about patients with Ebola entering our country, we’re  only concerned that we might be infected.  Meanwhile, Ebola is ravaging other countries.

In both situations, we become so concerned with the very possibility of our suffering that we ignore the fact that people are actually suffering.

3.  We demonstrate our lack of trust in God

When we panic over these situations, we’re showing a lack of faith that God will take care of us and that he might have a plan even in our suffering.

Three Ways to Respond

1.  Act with wisdom

I’m not suggesting to be flippant about threats or foolish in regards to your safety.  We must balance fear with appropriate concern.  By staying informed and weighing the risks, we can resist acting out of fear.

2.  Speak against fear

No matter how calm we choose to be in the midst of these threats, others will be fear mongering.  We must have the courage to kindly speak up and prevent the spread of unnecessary fear.  We participate in terrorism when we repeat messages of terror without a clear threat.

3.  Pray.

Sometimes prayer doesn’t seem like enough.  It seems like a very passive response to active situations.  But I think we should do it nonetheless.  Pray for yourself and for your attitude in these situations.  Pray for those who want to spread terror.  Pray also for those fighting, whether it be doctors battling a disease or soldiers battling an enemy.  Mostly though, concentrate your prayers on those who are actively suffering and need strength to endure.

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