Thinking Out Loud

May 16, 2020

How Exactly Do You Wish the Death of Your Enemies?

Filed under: Christianity, personal — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 3:19 pm

The last eight weeks have brought many to the point of discouragement, frustration, anger and bitterness. It’s so easy to see why. I can’t imagine too many people not wishing that this plague had never happened; wishing we could reset the clock and have things exactly as they were before.

During this time there has been an increased increase in the Psalms. David wrote at least half; though we have contributions from the Sons of Korah, from Asaph, from Solomon and from unknown sources. And David poured out his heart to God. We have to marvel at the transparency of his emotions.

But David also wished his enemies dead. He asked God to bring about their swift destruction. More than once.

Is that a model for prayer in the 21st Century?

Pouring out my own heart, I wrote a piece here a few days ago about unanswered prayer. At least that what it was intended to be about. I think we need to be especially carefully dangling that carrot in front of prospective believers or new believers. Offering answered prayer as a sure thing, when it’s really something that God isn’t necessarily going to deliver.

Some of that article was personal, describing a handful of situations, one of which would fall into that general category of enemy or enemies.

However…

Despite my frustration and anger, I can’t see myself wishing the death of someone else. I just can’t bring myself to pray that prayer, ‘Lord, kill him.’

Perhaps it’s the difference of a New Testament; New Covenant perspective; a post-incarnation era unknown to the Psalmist. Perhaps it’s living at time in history when the grace of God is the only thing we have to offer the world. Perhaps I have a hint of “God is not willing that any should perish” coursing through my bones.

Please recognize that I’m thinking of this in terms of a domestic situation; this isn’t about the larger just war versus pacifism issue. This isn’t about an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

I just think that the God of the impossible is able to exceedingly beyond anything we could request or imagine. He’s capable of writing the scene so that it plays out with a creative twist we couldn’t have conceived.

I really believe that. It’s a testimony to the faith I still have.

In the middle of the doubt I increasingly wrestle with.

February 12, 2020

Lost Voice 3: Brett

Filed under: Christianity, Lost Voice Project — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:07 am

About 12 years ago when this blog was an e-newsletter, I announced something I was working on called The Lost Voice Project. Periodically I would add new people. I think some of the stories are worth repeating, so over the next month I’m going to run all the ones which were published here. I originally envisioned about eight characters here, getting together describing their church experience, a multi-age “Breakfast Club” of people recalling days when the church was at the center of their thoughts and activities…

The Lost Voice ProjectWhen it came Brett’s turn, he had to introduce himself to everyone. Unlike the other voices that had been lost to the church, Brett and his family were completely AWOL. He and his wife and been young parents of three kids, but when their fourth, a daughter, was born with post-birth issues requiring hands-on care, they simply stopped going to church since to do otherwise as a family was simply too complex.

It had been eleven years.

So unlike people who lived and functioned in the church as exiles, Brett and Kim were more literally exiles, albeit by their own choice.

Not that there were a lot of options. But one could have easily stayed home one week allowing the other attend weekend services, and then alternating on the other weeks, and that’s exactly what the members of the group suggested.

“Why didn’t you just take turns.”

Brett was silent. His oldest son was now graduating from high school. There had been some fragmentary contacts with the church youth group, but basically had grown up un-churched. His kids knew some of the Bible stories, they were told some of the family history, and all their cousins were involved in local churches in their hometowns. So on a survey, they would identify as “Christian,” even though that’s about as far as it went.

“Couldn’t someone have picked up them for a mid-week kids club?”

“Does this mean he missed out on the youth group retreats as well?”

With each answer Brett hung his head lower and lower. The situation was a complex as their young daughter’s care. There was more to the story. Though it was never said, there was a slow dawning of the realization that this wasn’t a story about a family who couldn’t make it to church because of a special needs child at all.

This was a story about two parents that withdrew from church life over a prayer that was never answered, a sadness that never healed.

Brett is one of the lost voices in the modern church. His contribution over the years would have been both greatly varied and deeply committed. But unlike the other lost voices, an entire family disappeared from some church’s membership roll and left a huge gap.

August 5, 2016

The Pastoral Problem

Filed under: Christianity, personal — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:49 am

I’m writing this in a moment of brokenness…

…So a few weeks ago our church did a four-week series on apologetics, and one of the weeks dealt with the problem of evil. The speaker was quick to point out something that both my son and I immediately caught on to when he said that the question, “If there is a God then why is there evil in the world?” might be coming from two different places.

The speaker explained that there is the intellectual problem of God and evil coexisting, but then there is the pastoral problem; “If God is love, why is there so much pain and hurt in my life?”

I love when people give you the words to properly articulate a situation or issue. So many times since, I’ve said to myself, ‘You’re reflecting the pastoral question; or the pastoral side of things.’

The pastoral is personal; it’s subjective; it’s taken up with with the cries of one’s own heart.

And that’s where I find myself right now. I’m asking myself how can I keep giving of myself and serving others in ministry — mostly through my vocational calling, but also through my various blogs — when the cry of my heart seems to go unanswered. I really don’t know how much more I have to give.

Ah, yes; the problem of unanswered prayer. It’s partly that, but it’s also just a general brokenness; a feeling that God has distanced himself from the circumstances and situations which make up my personal journey. Some of it is just self-pity. So many things I dreamed of — even for this summer — not accomplished as time slips away…

…So if it’s a pastoral problem, why not see a pastor? I guess I’m in a season where I don’t really have that go-to person in my life; which is ironic because I am surrounded by clergy. I don’t want to have to sit down and pour out the minutiae of my life to people whose life is so very different from mine, or people with whom our basis of association hasn’t had to include the details of our family situation. It would feel good to talk, but at the end of the day I’m not sure they would get it. (Cue: Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen.)

I think I need a shepherd.

Even more, I really need a hug.

 

February 23, 2014

Lost Voice 3 – Brett

More than six years ago when this blog was an e-newsletter, I announced something I was working on called The Lost Voice Project. Periodically I add new people. Today, I thought I’d give you another sample chapter.I envision about eight characters here, getting together describing their church experience, a multi-age “Breakfast Club” of people recalling days when the church was at the center of their thoughts and activities.

The Lost Voice ProjectWhen it came Brett’s turn, he had to introduce himself to everyone. Unlike the other voices that had been lost to the church, Brett and his family were completely AWOL. He and his wife and been young parents of three kids, but when their fourth, a daughter, was born with post-birth issues requiring hands-on care, they simply stopped going to church since to do otherwise as a family was simply too complex.

It had been eleven years.

So unlike people who lived and functioned in the church as exiles, Brett and Kim were more literally exiles, albeit by their own choice.

Not that there were a lot of options. But one could have easily stayed home one week allowing the other attend weekend services, and then alternating on the other weeks, and that’s exactly what the members of the group suggested.

“Why didn’t you just take turns.”

Brett was silent. His oldest son was now graduating from high school. There had been some fragmentary contacts with the church youth group, but basically had grown up un-churched. His kids knew some of the Bible stories, they were told some of the family history, and all their cousins were involved in local churches in their hometowns. So on a survey, they would identify as “Christian,” even though that’s about as far as it went.

“Couldn’t someone have picked up them for a mid-week kids club?”

“Does this mean he missed out on the youth group retreats as well?”

With each answer Brett hung his head lower and lower. The situation was a complex as their young daughter’s care. There was more to the story. Though it was never said, there was a slow dawning of the realization that this wasn’t a story about a family who couldn’t make it to church because of a special needs child at all.

This was a story about two parents that withdrew from church life over a prayer that was never answered, a sadness that never healed.

Brett is one of the lost voices in the modern church. His contribution over the years would have been both greatly varied and deeply committed. But unlike the other lost voices, an entire family disappeared from some church’s membership roll and left a huge gap.

Blog at WordPress.com.