Tag Archives: religion

Our Spiritual Drifts

Ah, the gifts of the Spirit. You know what I’m talking about; wisdom, faith, healing, prophecy, speaking in tongues, interpretation of speaking in tongues, etc. Everyone’s supposed to have them: lying dormant in those yet to cross the line of faith; itching to bubble to the surface if not already on full, glorious display in those who have.

I think I’ve finally figured out mine . . .

. . . Mine is being in awe of those who have spiritual gifts.

It truly floors me when I’m able to connect with a song from Third Day, MercyMe or Casting Crowns (and their brilliant lyricist, Mark Hall) or a book by Francis Chan or C.S. Lewis. To be moved by inspirational speakers like James McDonald (Walk in the Word) or Mark Gungor (Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage). Those guys have got it. To me, they are very obviously being led by the Holy Spirit. And I think . . .

What’s wrong with me?

Why aren’t I able to inspire like that? Why aren’t I able to discern life around me through the lens of spiritual wisdom? Why can’t I speak in tongues? (Well, if you listen to me get into playing fits with the kids you might think otherwise, but I digress.) Maybe I’m not doing it right. Maybe I don’t have the Holy Spirit in me. Maybe God isn’t listening and I am just praying to the empty air around me.

Sound familiar?

Yeah, I thought so. I think we’ve all been there. If we’re totally honest with ourselves, I think we continue to visit that particular exit on the road to spiritual fulfillment more often than we’re comfortable with. Furthermore, I think that’s one of the biggest ongoing problems with those seeking answers, those new to Christian faith, and pretty much anyone else, including many who’d call themselves “mature” Christians.

Doubt.

Not a lack of Spiritual Gifts but an overabundance of Spiritual Drift.

Once you cross the line of faith you expect to be different. Choirs should sing, beams of light should shoot out of the sky and hosts of heavenly angels should alight all around you giving high fives and doing end-zone style victory dances.

Doesn’t happen does it? (But, in their defense, maybe my angels were off that day.)

How about when you pray? Don’t you expect to be heard? Don’t you expect to be answered—your way? You expect your problem to be solved, your worry to abate, your friend or relative to be miraculously healed.

Doesn’t always happen does it? That addiction remains a maddening temptation. That problem is still nagging. That friend or relative still dies.

And what about spiritual gifts? Gifts of the Spirit are a big thing at our church. We’re constantly told that, know it or not, we all have them. That if we ask, we will be shown.  Or if not, we can always take one of the ready-made tests available—both in church and on-line—to be able to figure out what our particular gift is.

I don’t know about you, but every time I take that test I get a different gift. And it’s never one of the really cool ones like speaking in tongues. That would be great!

Doubt creeps in.

I must not be doing it right.

Maybe I’m not really “saved” after all.

Maybe, because I’m still such a screw-up that God really doesn’t want me on the home team; even as a bench-warmer.

Or worse, maybe God doesn’t care.

I will say this; atheists are right on one account. We, who believe in a God, have a lot riding on faith. We put our hope out into the ethereal nothingness in promise that it sticks to something, to Someone. The hope is that He is indeed there, and He is faithful to answer. The faith is in the confidence that, if He says “no” or “wait” there is more, or better, or at least understanding, awaiting us at the end of whatever trial we’re currently going through. The doubt is in being human: An incurable, terminal condition that we’re all born with.

And honestly, I don’t have all the answers either. I’m still waiting for some of my answers just as you are. I’ve been told “no” on a few, just as I’m sure you have. But I rest in my faith. I rely in my hope. And, I get mad in my occasional doubt. Just as I’m sure you have. I don’t think I’m too unusual in my spiritual journey. But I do think that any believer who says they’ve figured it all out, all their prayers have been answered, and their lives have been nothing but blue skies and rainbows is probably lying; to themselves and to others.

Or they’re just weird.

Especially if they’re speaking in tongues.

Stepping Away From the Self-Righteous Abyss

I had a perfectly good post ready to go today. It was weighty, full of insight and self-assurance in calling out what, in my perception, was yet another folly of our community. There was only one problem: Before I posted it this morning I read Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 2 & 3. If you’re not familiar with it, Paul basically points out (in quite vivid detail) the difference between knowledge of the law and application of the law. In other words, just because you know the law (the will of God for our lives) doesn’t mean you are righteous, you actually have to DO it; to live it out. Daily.

And, what I was going to say that others in our community weren’t doing, I wasn’t doing either. In this case, I was upset at our community’s lack of outrage over the county government’s decision to pull funding for a “meals on wheels” program for some of the elderly shut-ins in our community. I wasn’t upset at our local government although I hate that the government is forced into a decision that does this to these elderly citizens. (Yes, I say forced, because ultimately it is only through our continued funding {read: taxes} that social programs such as this can exist. You want lower taxes—here’s the result! Not that I have an opinion on the subject.) I was upset at our community’s lack of response (read: astonishment, activism, outrage) whereas the very next day there was a huge outpouring of community support over an eleven-year-old boy who had his bike stolen on the very day that he’d purchased it with money he’d worked all summer to attain.

But this morning I thought, “What did Ido?” Did I rush down to donate to my local senior center? No. Did I call up my local government official and express my concern over the decision? No. Did I remove the plank from my own eye so I could see more clearly to remove the speck from my brother’s eye?

No.

So, where was my basis for judgment? And within this realization I believe is the root cause of friction between those who call themselves the “faithful” and those that have yet to cross the line of faith. What’s the difference? If we, who call ourselves Christians, aren’t living with an outward appearance of being somehow different, what then are we? Just because we spend an hour or so in a building together on the weekend, how can we claim to be any better than . . .

Different than . . .

Special . . .

Set apart.

I have a lot of work to do with the huge plank in my own eye, before I can call out anyone else for the speck in their own. I can start by donating to the new food bank that just opened beside my own church (how did I never see that before?) I can start by being an example rather than a bullhorn. One of my favorite religious quotes has always been by St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the gospel always. If necessary, use words.”

Maybe it’s time I listen to it.

Whatever you do, don’t pray for patience!

A lot of things have been said about God: Some of which are actually good. One thing that can’t be said however is that God doesn’t have a sense of humor. If you want to test that theory, just try praying for patience sometime.

This is one area where the old adage rings true: “God doesn’t grant you patience. He grants you the opportunities to show patience.”

Except there’s only one problem with that: I don’t want opportunities to show patience.

I want PATIENCE. And I want it NOW, dammit!

But that’s not the way it works in the life of spiritual growth now, is it? What good would it do for God to just give us patience like that? What would we have learned? No, no, my friend; look at it through the omniscient lens of our Creator; the gift is not in the acquiring, but in the process to acquiring. I can just picture my Heavenly Father looking down on me as I pray for patience at the start of another workday, shaking his head in a resigned melancholy and saying, “Ooooooookay . . . .”

I know. I’ve done it with my own son: Usually when it involves a ramp of cushions, a flight of stairs and a laundry basket.

Ooooooookay . . .

In other words, “This is probably going to end badly.”

And besides, don’t think that they don’t have “Heaven’s Funniest Home Videos” up there. You’ve got to think that even though they’ve seen it a million times, all of heaven goes nuts for this stuff; you know they do! I mean, how many times have you seen “Guy gets hit in the crotch with a Basketball”? It’s still funny! And, when our children are poised at the top of the stairs, all smiling confidence and self-assurance saying, “Watch me! Watch me!”, who are we as parents to say ‘no’? We could. In fact, we probably should, in most cases. But more often than not, these are what we like to refer to as “learning opportunities”, or “teachable moments”.

So, we bite our lip, watch the carnage unfold, apply the antiseptic and band-aids, and say things like, “its okay . . . its okay.” All the while mentally whispering to ourselves, “I knew it . . . I knew it.” After all, in the end it’s not what our kids want, it’s what we know is best for them that matters; like life-lessons on gravity and hard surfaces. Why should our Father be any different with us? It’s that omniscient thing again—like he knows everything. Like how we don’t need patience, we need to learn patience.

Dammit!

What am I missing?

I woke up in a horrible mood today.

Last night we went to our local county fair.  It should have been a fun time for all; especially as I’ve got two children who love rides, animals, vegetable displays and all the free stuff the vendors hand out to entice a conversation with weary (and wary) adults.  And don’t get me wrong, the kids had a great time overall.  In between bouts of dad constantly yelling, “Get down”, “Get back”, “Come here” (or as Bill Cosby puts it, “Come here!…  comeherecomeherecomeherecomeherecomehere . . . come HERE!!”)

I felt like I was herding cats all night and I came home exhausted and strung out.

Oh, then I didn’t sleep well ‘cuz I felt like crap all night over the way I acted.  Which, when I finally crawled out of bed this morning, got me thinking about how I too often act at work towards surly customers and needy employees.  (Well, not all of them, but those are the ones that usually elicit a reaction out of me . . . usually negative.)  Which spiralled me further into my funk.  Which got me thinking about how hard it is to be attempting to live out the fruits of the spirit within the parameters of “retail customer service.”

Like a dog chasing its tail, my thoughts spiralled around the, “it shouldn’t be this hard.  Well, if God were truly in your life it wouldn’t be this hard.  Well, I’ve asked him to lead in my life and I just have to have faith he is.  Well, maybe you didn’t do it right.  It shouldn’t be this hard!  Well, maybe I shouldn’t even be in this line of work if it’s this hard.  Well, maybe you’re in this line of work for a reason.  Well, this line of work is driving me, and my family, crazy!  Well, maybe you’re doing it wrong.  IT SHOULDN’T BE THIS HARD!!”

Yet it is.

And all this leads me to wonder, in my morning funk and depressing stupor, what am I missing?

I’m currently reading Francis Chan’s book “Forgotten God” for the second time.  Yet, this time it’s incredibly hard to get through.  I feel as though I’m just going through the motions; slogging listlessly, page by page, reading out of some sense of “duty” rather than for the joy and experience I should be feeling.  And again, I can’t help feeling I’m missing something.  I’ve been at this a long time now.  Time and time again, I’ve come before God with my faults and foibles, sins and shortcomings, laying them at the foot of the cross; earnestly praying for the forgiveness I so desperately need and the guidance and wisdom I so desperately crave.  And I rise from my prayers feeling . . . .

. . . . no different.

As Chan puts it in his introduction to Forgotten God, “It doesn’t make sense that Almighty God would have children characterized by fear and insecurity. He put His Spirit in us so we could be known for our power (Acts 1:8; 2 Tim. 1:7).”

What am I missing?

Or, maybe I’m just having a bad day.  The weather is gorgeous this morning.  The kids are quiet.  The coffee’s good.  Maybe in my quest for the answers to the “big things” in life, I’m missing all the little things that are supposed to give me pause, give me a slight centering or at least cause me to just stop and take a breath.  Could that be a “still, small voice” I hear?

Naw, just my six-year-old wanting “purpa grape joos”.

But still . . .