Tag Archives: spiritual

Living in a material world

On Wednesday, I was sitting in the last class I would have of a course, (yay!  Summer is here!)  and we were talking about volunteers in churches, or more accurately, problematic volunteers.
This particular discussion was about what to do with volunteers who cause pain and division among a congregation – because, unfortunately, it happens.  People want to serve in the church for all sorts of different reasons, and often, those reasons are selfish or poisonous (not that the volunteer realizes this, or has even taken the time to reflect on why she wants to volunteer).  We joked about how it would be so nice to have a list of the people who moved from church to church, causing destruction (because that happens), or how maybe we should warn whatever church they are going to next (assuming they tell someone – which they usually do), or how we should maybe call their previous church to see what their impact was, before allowing them to serve in our church.  Like, actually having references (and checking them) in order to volunteer with your church…or maybe even join the church.
Someone in my class likened it to sexual predators, saying that if they knew the person was a sex offender, and was going to another church, she’d warn the other church.  And everyone in the class seemed to agree.  But, everyone quickly followed up, only warn the other church THEN.  Not if the volunteer was causing spiritual or emotional pain, or even a split in the congregation.  You can’t warn the next church congregation victim of the destructive volunteer is the volunteer does ONLY spiritual or emotional damage to their previous church.
WHY IS THAT?
I mention this because I think it shows a fault in our physically-aware Western culture.  If someone is going to harm the physical side of another person, we do everything we can to stop it (as we should).  But if someone is known for causing spiritual harm, or emotional harm, well, the victim should just toughen up.  Distance themselves, if they can, sure, but often we Christians encourage them to stay in the painful, awful situation.
SERIOUSLY?
By saying that, we are saying that the physical part of a person is the most important, or most valuable part.  At least, that’s how I see it. Protect the physical part of people from those who would do harm, but if we know of other harm – our hands are tied.
GAH!!!
Assuming you believe in an afterlife, than you probably believe that physical body is not the part that lives on.  It is not the most important part of you.  Is it important?  Sure.  Are all the facets of who you are (physical, spiritual, emotional, mental – just to name the big ones) somehow intertwined with your physical body?  Yes.  If a man rapes a girl, is he somehow also harming her emotionally, spiritually, and mentally (despite the fact he’s only touching her physical body)?  More than likely – yes.
We put so much emphasis, so much importance, on the physical world.  On our bodies, on our possessions, what we can see, hear, taste, touch and smell.  We call this physical world Reality.  But the thing is, this Reality, this physical world, it’s not going to last.  Look around, decay is everywhere.  Western Culture’s Reality is crumbling, and crumbling quicker by the day.  And yet we cling to what our physical bodies can experience, ignoring the fact that God created us with other, more long-lasting parts.
Why is that?
We get so trapped up in this immediate world, that we forget to prep for the next.  We forget to protect the spiritual and emotional parts of us and of others.  We forget (or get too lazy) to stretch the mental parts of us.  The parts of ourselves that we can’t see, we forget matter.  And so they sit, curled up in the fetal position, in the corner of our existence, starving to death with skeleton-like faces and twig arms, too emaciated to even cry out.
Something needs to change.  Our priorities need to change.  The way we see the world, the way we experience the world, the way we view ourselves, needs to change.
Only God can change our perspective.  Only He can help us remember that the world we live in is more than a physical one, that who we are is more than a body and a mind.  But the change of perspective, the realization that this physical world is not the only layer of our existence, is vital.  It needs to happen.  Has to happen.  So pray.  Pray that God will change how you see yourself and others, and that you can be an influence in changing what others think is most important.

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The thin boundary between worlds

Bear with me here.  I’m processing this.  This has been on my mind for months, and this is the closest I’ve come to getting it out.  Please feel free to respond and put in your two cents.

There is a repeated theme in fantasy literature that there are places where the boundaries between the supernatural world and the physical world are thinner, where our actions in the physical world can affect the supernatural world, and visa versa.

I know it’s not always the best idea to get your theology, or even world view, from fantasy literature, but sometimes it speaks truth in a way that no other sort of story (or text book) can.  Hence C. S. Lewis writing The Chronicles of Narnia, or J.R.R. Tolkien writing The Lord of The Rings.  Actually, the truth in mythology is a big reason why C. S. Lewis became a Christian (or so legend says).

The thing is, this principle isn’t just in my favorite fantasy literature; it’s all over the Bible.  Look at Job: Satan talked to God – in the spiritual realm – and then Job’s physical world came shattering down around him.  Look most of the last third of Moses’ life, as he led the Israelites around the desert.  Look at the miracles Elijah and Elisha performed.  Look at Jesus.

There is an overlap.

And maybe this is because we are not just physical beings, but spiritual as well.  We live in a culture that currently believes that Science and Logic will always have the last word.  And yet there are so many unanswered questions in our lives that Science and Logic will never be able to answer.  So many heart longings that make absolutely no sense, but that make us miserable until we pursue them.  We are spiritual beings.

And so, as both spiritual and physical beings, sometimes what we do in the physical world echoes into the spiritual – our actions, our words.  Not always, but sometimes.

This is the part I’m not sure about.  I don’t know where the overlap is.  Is it everything?  Is it only the important stuff?  Is it in the quiet moments?  I’m willing to bet ceremonies like weddings and baptisms are a few of those times.  And those moments when you inexplicably feel loved.  Or when you just know that you know that you need to do something, or say something to someone, even if it doesn’t make any sense to you.

I don’t know exactly what the implications are.  I know there are some.  I know there is some sort of important life application here, but other than just becoming more aware of the consequences of your physical actions, and learning to listen to the spiritual side of you (um, otherwise known as the conscience the Holy Spirit has put in you…or the Holy Spirit Himself), which are both HUGE things, I don’t know.

But I know it’s important.

So, talk to me.

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Baptism

under water

 

“What we do in life echoes in eternity”

I couldn’t understand why I had to do it; I just knew I needed to.  But there was no way I was going to do what I needed to do before I knew WHY I needed to do it.

That sounds confusing.  Let’s back up.

When I was ten, I watched my babysitter get baptized, and something in me longed to do the same.  When I told Mom that I wanted to do that too, she said I should wait until I was older, when I knew what that action meant.   Years passed and while the desire would come back when I watched others get baptized, somehow it was never the “right” moment for me.

The summer I was twenty-six, I had been back from Bahrain for a full year, and I had just begun healing.  My church had a baptism, and as I watched some of my youth group kids get baptized, the old longing returned.  I knew next year, at next summer’s church picnic, I would get baptized.

I never doubted that this was going to happen, but I instantly wanted to know WHY I needed to be baptized.   After all, I had said the prayer seventeen years before.  If a simple prayer saves you (I’m not convinced of this, by the way) than I’d been saved for seventeen years.  Everyone who knew me knew I was a Christian.  If the point of baptism, as it appeared to be in the Bible, was simply declare my faith, why did I need to go through the actions?  It wasn’t necessary.  My salvation was not dependant on my baptism, so why?

No one could really answer my question other than, “Well, Jesus did it.  And we’re supposed to imitate Jesus.  So, you need to do it. It’s an obedience thing.”

But that didn’t really explain anything for me.  WHY?  WHY was this ceremony, were these specific actions, necessary?

So, since no one could explain it to me, I took my Bible and journal to a coffee shop, and had it out with God.  I told him I wanted to do this, but I also wanted to know what I was doing.  I wanted to understand the significance of these actions.

And I sat there in silence, staring off into space, waiting, listening, for a good chunk of time.

And gently, quietly, a picture of a wedding worked its way into my consciousness.  As I looked at the bride and groom in the picture, I realized they could have asked a similar question.  The wedding ceremony didn’t change how they felt about each other.  It didn’t change their commitment level to each other.  The wedding was simply a public declaration to the world of what was already in their hearts, and it was the bride and groom’s asking the congregation to be part of their story.  To celebrate with them in the joyous moments, to cry with them in the unbearable moments, and to help them push through in the moments when all they would want to do is run in the opposite direction.    And there was something about the ceremony that made the commitment more solid, harder to break.  Maybe it was the ceremony itself that changed the commitment into a covenant.

And the same was true of me getting baptized.  It was me declaring my love and obedience to my Lord and Savior.  It was me inviting others into my story, asking them to keep me accountable, to help me out, to rejoice with me.  It was an intentional public display of affection.

The quiet sploosh of me being dunked beneath the water, will forever be one of the most holy sounds I ever hear.   In that moment, my physical body echoed what my spirit had long ago done, and it was about time the two were unified and in agreement.

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