Nothing makes such horrible loss any less horrible.
And so, I’ve found myself struggling with how to put it in context for my kids.
Not too long ago, a pastor acquaintance at an urban church posted this link to a proposed cease-fire in Burma which would end 60 years of conflict. To North Americans, this is irrelevant. Just another foreign turf war, and after all, there are so many. But for that pastor and his congregation, this was deeply emotional news. Eighty percent of his congregation are refugees, the majority of them Burmese. They have seen their neighbors and loved ones shot. They have lost, and lost, and lost. When asked if they would like to send their children to summer camp, their response was, “Will I ever see my children again?” Because to them, the word “camp” means refugee camp. It means permanent dislocation.
They are people of war and grief and loss. And they are not farther from God and goodness than we are.
But where we live, it’s easy to mistake the relative peace in our lives for relative goodness in ourselves and those around us. We tell ourselves we’re the ones who go out to solve the rest of the world’s problems, because, look at our peace and prosperity. It shocks us when our sense of goodness and order is violated by the brute facts of human nature: This is not a good world.
Nothing makes such horrible loss any less horrible. Nothing.
Every day has a few strange moments scattered through it, like salt tossed over the shoulder for luck. But when the atmosphere is right, like salt, they stick to the skin.
The mind is like an apothecary’s shop. Instead of the brain being in the jar on a shelf, it is the jar and the shelves. There are strange twists and turns, grooves worn in the planking from regular pacing back and forth between commonly-used artifacts and the potions relied upon to conjure happiness or comfortable assurance.
Most of these potions, we make ourselves, which is not always the wisest choice. They often lack the simple binding ingredient of salt.
One grain of salt is almost too small to see, on its own. It takes a few grains before we notice it’s there. We often sweep it away as part of the random detritus, yet it’s what keeps the meaty parts of life from rotting and poisoning our existence.
I love cultural stuff, and here are some of my favourite places to visit for a wide range of religion and culture topics:
Mike Duran at DeCompose talks faith and artistic expression.
Karen Campbell at ThatMom talks family, education, womanhood, and discernment on religious trends related to the above.
Cardus is a Canadian think-tank on civics and religion. The blog is always thought-provoking.
If you can cry, “Mercy!” then you have prayed.
-Pastor Shelby Samuels
Concord Baptist Church, TX
We’re told that prayer is the bowing of all heads at once on Sunday morning. That it’s a list kept, where names of the unfortunate are written down and mentioned back to God daily until an answer comes. We’re told to pray without ceasing, as if the heart and mind could murmur, complain, petition, praise, or rejoice in incessantly restless fashion.
Yet God is a refuge and rest. His yoke is easy; His burden is light.
Sometimes, prayer is what people do on Sunday together. Sometimes it’s what we do for those around us. Sometimes it’s a constant restlessness.
And sometimes it’s not.
Long ago, I stumbled across an obscure hymn in the book that has never been sung in any church I’ve attended. It says this:
Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire,
Uttered or unexpressed;
The motion of a hidden fire
That trembles in the breast.
“Love is not completely foreign to me, but it is something I struggle with.”
-Benjamin Collier, fantasy author
And so goes the human journey. Few, though, have both the perception and the honesty to state it as clearly and profoundly as my friend Ben.
I don’t think I love God so much as I see him as something fulfilling the role of God, without which something would be missing. But I highly doubt that recognizing the necessity of a person or thing is the same as love. So I question that I’m really doing this Christian thing the way that I’m supposed to.
Through the lens of Asperger’s, Ben more effectively diagnoses the ills of the Christian walk than many a popular pulpit. Perhaps this diagnosis is not exactly a result of the non-neurotypical state. Perhaps it’s a clearminded observation of the non-Edenic state. And perhaps it presents both problem and cure.
Here’s the problem: We all think this way about God at least some of the time. We call it, “I just feel so far from God,” or “I’m not sure about God’s love for me,” or “I reject that hateful God the previous generation taught me about, my God is about love.”
But the thing is, feelings of distance, uncertainty or defiance–are our feelings, not God’s character, and not the same as our state of understanding. Continue reading
Politics and religion are acknowledged hot-button topics the world over. Which means they can have quite a strong influence in small groups. So, as you can imagine, doing church together in a small town is its own delicate dance.
A Pastoral Setting
The guy who gets up and talks every Sunday at our Christian gathering is a farmer. If I were to say “the pastor of our church,” the mental image would be completely wrong for a lot of modern North American churchgoers. There’s no spire at our gathering. There’s no three-piece suits. No giant Bible on a stand at the front. There’s no show lights or rock band or postmodern barista.
It’s more like an extended family gathering of people who actually like each other. Continue reading
Earlier, I wrote: ‘People are used to testimonies about “I got saved at the age of four after stealing a quarter from Mommy’s purse and realizing what a sinner I was.” Emphasis on was.’
And then promptly ran out of word-count covering that angle.
But as a gritty Christian, I would very much like to address the misconception that people who haven’t lived through “big” sins have no testimony. I’ve heard it a few times–”Well, I don’t really have much to tell. I was saved as a kid, and nothing bad ever happened to me. I’m ‘just’ a Christian.”
HA! Do you know what a huge big deal that is in today’s world? If nothing bad ever happened, that’s rare indeed, and not ‘just’ anything. Continue reading