We’re Worshiping the Counterfeit Trinity

My Twitter acquaintance, Christie Love, reminded me of these words from C.S. Lewis, “What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.”

You know what I see and hear? An anti-Christ theology and practice among professing evangelicals revealed over the last year. As my friend Preston Yancey and others have rightly pointed out, we are living in an apocalypse, a time of revealing.

What has been revealed? The apocalypse, or revealing, is this: evangelicals are bowing to the counterfeit trinity of money, power, and influence. We’ve learned that some of our so-called evangelical leaders can get away with anything, idolatry, sexual assault, greed, oppressing the poor and more, as long as they are in power. Power is the precious ring from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Love of money, power, and prestige have become our gods.

Gollum (Wax Muserm Mexico City)

My friend and writer, Michelle Van Loon,  recently pointed out that, “Access to power is like crack. It has made addicts of too many people who claim the name of Jesus.” Boy, is she right. I’ve seen too many people throw Jesus under the bus this last year in exchange for political and religious gain. They’ve sold their souls.

The Moral Majority is immoral. Then again, some have known that for a while. Evangelicals as a collective group have lost all credibility. No longer can we collectively speak with any measure of integrity about family values or about being pro-life. We have lost the right to be heard. Only repentance and living like Jesus will allow us to ever be heard again.

I am throwing up in my mouth.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on us.

May we repent.

 

 

 

Change the Way You Seek Happiness

Thomas Keating writes that, repentance means “to change the way in which you are looking for happiness.” We are all, every one of us, looking for joy and peace – contentment. We want to rest from the rat race. We want to know that we are okay – known and loved for who we are. We want to feel at home in the life and in the eyes of another–safe, comfortable, and at rest. Not agitated. We desire to look into the eyes of another and see delight. We want to be the apple of another’s eye, of those closest to us. Those who encountered Jesus knew they were the apple of his eye.

Tulips

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are weary with comparing ourselves to others, yet we do it anyway. I grew up poor and  isolated. I didn’t know what I didn’t have. Social media has changed all that. Sometimes, social media is a crystal ball beckoning me to enter vanity fair. My head swivels about, taking in sights and sounds I don’t encounter in daily life. These sights and sounds agitate my soul. Temptations call out, singing their alluring songs, telling me that my life won’t matter unless I succeed according the world’s standards, or even American Christian culture’s standards. These Christian culture standards often mirror our celebrity culture.

Bigger is better. More numbers are better: book sales, blog stats, church members, friends, followers. Higher numbers are better except when it comes to weight. The message I often hear when I gaze into the social media crystal ball that often acts as a window into vanity fair is : you are only someone if you chum around with the right people. You are who you know. You are your connections. 

That’s not always the case of course. But it is a dominant message. (We all know of the benefits of social media).

I think of Jesus and how he chummed around with all the wrong people. Jesus didn’t pick his friends based on their money or influence or followers. That’s good news for me and for the rest of the poor in the world. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

I’ve written elsewhere that I often fast from social media, Facebook and Twitter, for my well-being. Fasting from social media cleanses my soul. It reorients me to what is good and true and beautiful. It reorients me to what is important. I think for the Christian, fasting from social media is the modern-day equivalent of seeking silence and solitude in the wilderness. 

Many people I admire, those good at loving God and loving others, spend a lot of time in silence and solitude so that they can hear God and return to themselves, return to what they know is right.  They spend time in silence and solitude to they can learn to love God and others better. Wendell Berry advises staying away from screens, period. 

Fasting from social media allows me to repent. It allows me to change the way I am looking for happiness. It allows me to seek the Jesus way more fully. It allows me to go to Jesus, and get rest, to take his teachings, or yoke, upon me. Fasting from social media is a channel for Jesus’s peace.

What are some ways that you repent? What are some ways that allow you to change the way you are looking for happiness? 

 

God, are You Messin’ with Me?

I recently suffered a stunning disappointment. I mean, it was a heart-wrenching stunner. 

I thought God was pointing and moving in a certain direction. Guiding this way and not that.

I was wrong.

Dead wrong.

I was sorely disappointed especially since the movement in that direction was not initiated by me. Originally I thought it was initiated by God through others. Not now. When I heard the resounding ‘No’, I cupped my mouth. I had to swallow my anguish. I couldn’t allow the girls to hear my primordial scream. I didn’t want to move them to tears with mommy’s tears. They wouldn’t understand. 

photo-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally Lord, I thought, after all these years, you are moving me in this direction. And then this. Why God? Why would there be a resounding “No!”? Why wasn’t I left well enough alone? I was fine, on my way, following you, content-all before this possibility turned up.

God are you messing with me?

Why was this an exercise in futility?

Jesus, I thought you told me to cast my nets, the way you told Peter and the others to cast their nets (John 21). I cast my nets and they turned up empty. Is this some sort of cosmically cruel joke? 

It can’t be. God, you’re not that way.

Again, I didn’t understand this one. Not this one. The invitation to move in this direction came through several trusted others. And so I thought it came from God too since it was also a desire of my heart.  But then the door was slammed shut. Right in my face. In the eleventh hour. 

I know God is kind, loving, and generous. He’s not stingy. But it’s moments like these that I am tempted to think that he is tight-fisted. This disappointment stings like crazy. I have to go on, hide my disappointment from my three little girls. My husband Shawn and I just need a moment to grieve together. Maybe more than a moment. 

Right now I feel like so many who have been disappointed in God. Like Martha told Jesus, “If you would’ve been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.” My Lazarus, my dream, is dead in a tomb. I also feel like Joseph left in prison after he helped the baker and the cup bearer. Forgotten.

I’m fighting to believe in my Lazarus’s resurrection and my Joseph-like vindication.

Today I had to flip to chapter 8 of my book, “The Death of a Dream”. I had to preach to myself yet again, take my own advice. 

Here are my own words to myself and to others who are looking in:

Much of our disappointment over unfulfilled dreams is due to our inability to see. We see so little now. We are looking at reality through a peephole. So when I witness the death of my dream, or the dreams of others, and I can’t figure out what God is doing, I have to remind myself that I am looking at reality through a peephole. I have to remind myself that God is doing so many things, that he is interweaving the story of our lives into his grand story. It’s not just my life and my dream. It’s about our lives and our dreams.  

p. 121-122 A Beautiful Disaster

The problem is that I can’t see. I only see a locked wooden door and feel the fresh sting of a door shut on my face-a door that had begun to swing open but not enough for me to go through.

Today I shot an e-mail off to a friend who was standing vigil with me. She was hoping and praying with me. I broke the bad news. She told me that she doesn’t believe it’s the end of the matter. I cling to her hope and her prayers and what I wrote in chapter 8. 

God has got this in a way I don’t yet understand. And I know that if you find yourself in a similar situation, that we can grieve together. Find someone else to grieve with. God has got this. And when he turns the situation around in a way you and I could’ve never imagined, we’ll rejoice together.

 

 

Right Now.

Our family just welcomed tiny little Isabella into our lives. She was born 10/2. We love and adore her. God protected me through a difficult pregnancy and a scary delivery. Most of this pregnancy I’ve been sick and immobile. I haven’t been able to write as much.

In fact, my book came out when I became increasingly immobile and unable to talk much about it. But God has his hand on these things and in these things.

When I did get out, it was either to church, or to visit people as part of the pastoral care staff at my church. I couldn’t run and jump and play with my two daughters. My husband has for the last 10 months while also working full-time and trying to care for me. A neighbor he just met asked if he was a stay-at-home father (no shame in that). It’s because she never saw me-just him and the girls. That goes to show how absent I’ve been, physically isolated. It’s not because I’ve wanted to be, but because that’s what pregnancy does to me.

Since she was born, I’ve been out and about a little. People comment “You’re out so soon!” And I say “Yes, I’ve been in all year.” I am thankful I am alive and can walk. I am thankful for friends that helped/help out with the girls. I am thankful for social media so I can read about what others are doing and stay somewhat connected to those far away. When I was extremely nauseated, I could do very little. I moaned prayers. Then when I was more physically immobile, I found I couldn’t do too much more. But I could pray and I did pray. I believe James 5:16 – the prayer of a righteous person is effective.

I know many righteous friends have prayed for me.

My prayers are the loaves and fish I offer for my friends and for the world when I am immobile or up during the watches of the night. I think of the monastics who rise to pray throughout the night and of the prayers of brothers and sisters across the world whose day is my night and who are praying.

I like to join them.

 

God’s Power & God’s Peace Again

Mark 2: 3-5,12

Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them.  Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven”….He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God,saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

The story above is one of my favorites in the Bible. I wrote about it in my book. And tonight I come back to it. 

Recently, I’ve been really discouraged. Discouragement has come for several reasons: financial, relational, and because of the grief over the grief of friends, loved ones, and of those suffering in the world and in the church. Also, I’ve had some recurring anger about how the wicked seem to get away with abusing and oppressing the innocent-part of the problem of evil. I’ve been absorbing a lot of it. And, I am 9+ months pregnant and can hardly get around when I need to get around nor meet certain deadlines because I am exhausted. I could go into details about all of these things, but I won’t.

However, I will tell you that I did go into detail with a group of my friends the other night (online) because I stand by and wholeheartedly believe James 5:16:

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

I confessed my sin of resentment toward God and others. I told them how I felt paralyzed by circumstances and how I thought life unfair at this moment because I’m following hard after Christ and still afflicted. I didn’t say this to them, but essentially, I started feeling like Job. And I’m tired of feeling like Job, especially financially. I am ready for a long stay in the Promised Land! I thought I was out of the wilderness, the treacherous land where the devil and his demons and evil want to eat us alive, and where we are tempted to turn from God in order to figure things out on our own because it seems much easier that way-much easier than walking by faith. But then I remember and remind myself that we can see God in all of his glory while in the wilderness if we persevere under trial or have friends persevere with and for us when we just cannot. That’s the whole theme of my book!

But I did confess my sin and soul sickness and my dear friends lowered me through the roof-me the paralytic-me when I was all twisted up inside and despairing. They boldly lowered me through the roof to the feet of Jesus, the throne of grace, where I am promised that I will find help my time of need (Hebrews 4:`16).

And I did find help in my time of need. That very evening when they prayed. Sounds like stories in the gospels, right?

That miracle occurred 48 hours ago. And you know what, I got up. Past nine months pregnant, my spirit leapt up and praised God. I have experienced that peace that defies understanding. Circumstances haven’t changed, but God has done a work of grace in me. He has been loving and kind and faithful and assuring. But that’s not all. I do think he’ll meet my family’s needs as we seek his kingdom (Matt. 6:33). My soul feels stronger and more robust than it has in months -thanks to my friends who lowered me down through the roof to the feet of Jesus.

The thought sometimes comes to my mind that I shouldn’t confide in them – that I am always in need of grace and favor and why ask them for the umpteenth time to pray for me and my situation. They’ll think me needy. But I am needy, in constant need of grace. And God invites us to come in our time of need no matter how often it is. And these friends, they do the same. So I cast the temptation to go at life alone and to suffer alone aside and find the grace of God pouring out on me through the conduit of my friends’ prayers and other concrete acts of love.

May you do the same.