Thursday, April 24, 2008

Perfect or Whole?

Lately I have been a part of many discussions about perfection.

As a result of these discussions, I decided to post part of an email I sent to a precious new friend of mine.

Ruth has forever been one my most favorite books of the bible. A couple of years ago I taught this book at my home church. An incredible group of women assembled for this study. If ever I believed God gave me a message to share it was in that season. During one of the group sessions I broke a clay pot with a towel-covered hammer as an illustration of how we are often broken. Even as I carried out that illustration I was experiencing brokenness in my own life. My life was splintered...and the shards were scattered.

In Ruth, Naomi was broken to shards...her life was shattered. She had to leave her home, go to a foreign country, her sons married foreign wives, her sons died, her husband died..and she was left with two foreign daughters-in-law. One of those left her also.

Many think the book of Ruth is just about Ruth. In some ways it is, but the sub-plot (and just as important or maybe more so) is how God makes Naomi WHOLE again. Piece by piece he restores her...her life does not look exactly the same. But at the end of the book we see Naomi--restored and whole.

I have struggled with perfectionism all my life. And I have really fought this demon over the past year. All my preconceived notions of what a Christ-follower looks like have been altered. I once believed Christians do not get divorced. Maybe in a perfect world. But I am not perfect. I cannot attain the kind of perfection the world or the religious community expects.

But you see God is quite merciful...and through the past year he has been showing me that his definitions of perfection are always different.

The original words for perfection in Scripture have the underlying meaning of wholeness and completeness. I can be perfect by this definition.

God will perfect me--he is making me whole. And, friends, he will make you whole.

God will take all the shards--and I told the Ruth group--he numbers them so that not one piece is lost or unaccounted. And he uses these very pieces to make us complete.

We (our lives) may not look the same; we may look utterly different, but I guarantee if God puts the pieces back together we will be perfected as he wants us to be.

What will it be for you?

Whole or perfect?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Wild Faith: Uninhibited Love

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. I John 4:18

I approach this element of wild faith with trepidation. I must fight the maudlin emotion I am so often prone to experience and express.

How does anyone write about uninhibited love? One of my favorite bloggers wrote about this kind of love recently. Because I have been writing about Wild Faith, this piece had been saved, and after I read theirs I was reluctant to finish mine. But their thoughts made me think, ponder, and evaluate.

I have often failed miserably to love the people in my life who most needed and deserved it. How can I speak of such?

I have been most inhibited with the people I love and have loved. Holding back, clutching to my shallow breast this flimsy thing I have called love. I have guarded it with a fervor that now seems so ridiculous.

And does real, uninhibited love need to be guarded? Is it uninhibited if it is held close and tight—clutched in a tight fist and given away only if there is reasonable evidence it will be reciprocated?

Is this the uninhibited love of wild faith?

There is no greater need than to love and to be loved. And it seems to me that all other needs stem from these. All.

Inhibitions have to do with fear: fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of censure, fear of ridicule, fear of inadequacy, fear of disclosure, fear of expectation, and fear of pain.

What pithy statement can I offer to dismiss all these fears? Who am I to offer a solution? How can I suggest that if you just do the right things…then all these fears will dissipate and you will be left with pure love to give and gain? I would be lying to you if I suggest that if you just love uninhibitedly then you will never experience these fears. Even if you do practice uninhibited love you will most likely experience these fears. The real key is will you love anyway?

In Paul's letter to the Corinthians—we read this long, beautiful description of love and we curl inward knowing at exactly what points we have fallen short. And we dismiss the whole piece trying to convince ourselves that Paul was simply exercising his poetic license. Surely, no one can really love like that.

David sure did not. Or did he? What about Jonathan? What about this friend, this son of the king—his rival for the throne? David’s love for Jonathan continued long after Jonathan died in battle. Jonathan’s crippled son was brought to live as a part of the royal family—protected by David. (And what about Mary Magdalene?)

Uninhibited love embraces another in spite of knowing that there is a chance of being hurt. This kind of love gives regardless of the knowledge it will not be reciprocated at all or in the same intensity as it was given.

This love weaves and wends an essential layer to wild faith. If you pull on this thread the whole garment unravels like the coat of a cartoon character caught on a wayward nail.

When this kind of love does experience the fears I mentioned, it acknowledges them…looks them straight in the face, takes a deep breath and decides to love anyway. This kind of love takes Jesus’ answer to Peter seriously—forgive seventy times seven.

Uninhibited love is not the tolerant-do-what-ever-you want kind of emotion. This is a sterner breed of love born out of decision and will. This love is made of more than the whispers and tendrils of whimsy and romance. This love is only romantic because it is eternal. This love is stronger and more enduring than people’s shortcomings, idiosyncrasies, addictions, and failures. This love is stronger than death.

When we allow ourselves to love someone without inhibitions we have invested in their eternity. And we have invested in our own.

Paul says three things will remain: faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is love.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Wild Faith: Sharp Hunger

Wild Faith begins with sharp hunger.

Hunger with a bite.

Hunger with an edge.

Hunger with a purpose.

Have you ever had a time when you were hungry and you just could not decide what you wanted to eat? You stand and stare into the cupboards or the refrigerator and tick off each item…knowing that it is not what you want, but not sure of what will satisfy this stomach rumble.

We nibble here and we munch there. Eventually the pangs go away, but the actual hunger does not. We are now full, but we are not satisfied.

Spiritual hunger.

We follow the same pattern. We stand and look at books in the Christian bookstores or online. We flip through the radio for the Christian station or shuffle though our tall stack of worship CDs trying to find just the right song. Sometimes we even read a whole chapter of a well-known Christian author’s latest book. We pursue bible study with an admired vengeance. We listen to the message on Sunday mornings and even take notes. We go on short term missions projects. We try every new spiritual fad, but the hunger is still present and still insistent. We are full, well satiated with information and activity, but we are not satisfied. And being full, but not being satisfied is sometimes a dangerous place to be—because we substitute.

I have substituted. I have tried to feed my faith’s sharp hunger with so many things: service, study, activity, art, music, words, books, food, emotions, appetites, drives, and spirituality. Like me, David often substituted to satisfy this hunger. And we both experienced discontent, disappointment, dissonance, disruption, and depression.

Read through the Psalms. David’s hunger was only abated and appeased by one thing.

Wild faith can only be satisfied with one thing:

God’s presence.

Stop!

We must be very careful that we don’t apply our cultural or even our religious definitions to God’s presence. We must not measure His presence with our expectations of answered prayers or the emotions we feel or do not feel. We cannot equate his presence with our own warped sense of expectations. We cannot completely evaluate the quantity and quality of his presence with our limited ability to discern and be aware. He is present, but more often than not we are just not capable of recognizing him.

Why?

We use too many filters. And often these filters are too narrow or too broad. We also tend to convolute the simplicity of the wild faith. We create a labyrinth that is just too stringent for people (including us) to try to maneuver.

Maybe our most detrimental assumption is that when we are in his presence the hunger goes completely away—

Do not count on this. God does not allow our hunger to totally dissipate. The keen edge of hunger makes us sharply aware. He will use this to help us be attuned to his presence. He satisfies us, and then he makes hungry again. Sounds a little contradictory. Feels a little mean. I used to think so.

I am finally coming to understand (in my own finiteness) God wants us whole and complete, not just full. And I am learning that the purpose of spiritual hunger is to encourage us to desire to be in God’s presence.

God wants us to be his satisfied (complete and whole) people, not just people with appetites assuaged for a brief while.


Wild Faith begins with sharp hunger.


How hungry are you?



“My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods…we will feast on the abundance of your house; you will give [us] drink from your river of delights…the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine—the best of meats and the finest of wines…”

Psalm 63:5; Psalm 36:8; Isaiah 25:6

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Wild Faith

I have been asked a lot of questions lately and been given several tags (last post).

This week I was asked if I could be called “one of those artsy persons.” I smiled and nodded my head and replied, “Yes, yes I am.”

In the past couple of weeks someone gave me a nickname (I haven’t had one of those since my mother called me Tweety Bird when I was little).

I have been asked some probing questions. I told someone I wanted a wild faith—immediately they asked what I meant. And they really seemed to want an answer.

I answered them, but I have continued to ponder this question.

What does it mean to have a wild faith?

Again, David comes to mind (along with Mary Magdalene, Lydia, and Peter).

In recent years there has been quite a bit of writing targeted toward dethroning David—and there have been some attempts to treat him as a legend or myth. Some scholars have suggested that the shepherd boy and the king were two different people. I get so weary of this cynicism. We live in a world/generation that seems bent on pulling all heroes down in some way or another. And it seems no one is safe from the jaded scrutiny (Not even Abraham Lincoln).

As I said in the last post, in no way do I think David was perfect. I can think of so many situations that he was far from such a title: his mayhem disguised as a madman, his strained relationship with Michal, his leniency and tolerance of his children’s behavior, his arrogance with the census, his total disregard for Uriah, and his treatment of Bathsheba. We could go on…I recognize these flaws. I see them. I take them into account.

But (remember the divine conjunction), David still remained a man after God’s own heart. At the core of David, midst all of his short comings and failures and sins, in the depths of his heart he loved his God. David learned to recognize and find God everywhere—no matter the place or the situation. And so I must pay attention.

Like David, (Peter, Mary, Lydia) I am flawed and sinful. It is that simple. And yet, because God is who he is, I can still be a woman after his heart. I can be a woman bent and resolved to running after him—a woman hungry and thirsty for him. David assures me of this.

What characteristics do we see in someone’s life who has a wild faith?

Uninhibited love

Sharp Hunger

Intense Passion

Utter Abandon

Authentic Worship

Deep (broken) Repentance


I want to have a wild faith, because I have a wild God.