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All Things are Yours

"… whether Paul, Apollos, Cephas, the world, life, death, the present, or the future— all things are yours, but you are Christ's…" (I Cor 3)

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Heather G

Adoption is a Beautiful Choice — AND so is IVF

It’s no secret that my husband and I have been walking through the process of building our family together with IVF. I’ve been fairly open about this on social media and on my blog here. In doing IVF I’ve been part of a large community of women (and men) who join support groups to walk through this very formidable process together and help each other out with information and validation.

One of the things that comes up over, and over, and over again — both for me as an individual and with others in my support groups, is what can only be termed a “microaggression” from people who seem to look down on people who turn to medical science for help with getting pregnant. It’s the statement, said sometimes gently, and other times harshly, “Why don’t you just adopt?”

From religious people in particular, I think this is based in a few misconceptions. The pro-life movement holds up adoption as a virtue, and it surely is. But many people I think get this misconception that there are literally thousands if not millions of babies just waiting for someone to step up and adopt them, and failure to adopt these ethereal babies results in rampant abortion. Yet nothing could be farther from the truth.

The reality is that there are thousands of couples desperately trying to adopt a baby, and it is a very, very difficult road. For every baby that comes up for adoption, there are dozens of couples vying to be the chosen ones who get to take that baby home. Many couples will never fit the bill – preference will go to families that are well-off, with parents who are under a certain age, and have a certain level of education. The process is often heartbreaking (I have known many would-be adopted parents who are given babies to take home, only to have the birth mother change her mind at the last moment) and expensive (thousands and ten-thousands of dollars are used up on each attempt.)

Of course, one could adopt from the foster care system, although even there, there exists a lot of competition for babies and small children, and I’ve heard too many stories of well-meaning would-be adoptive parents praying and hoping that parental rights get terminated of some woman who they hope does NOT get off drugs in time or show up in court in time to keep her family together. I personally don’t want to be that person, as I came from a family where my mom had a very real risk of losing me due to her irresponsibility, and no matter how messed up my mom was, I’m very glad no one ever took me away from her. I’m a real bleeding heart for family reunification (except in the extremist of cases) and I wouldn’t want to be on the other side of that fence.

But here’s the salient reality: Infertile couples (and singles looking to have children) have no more responsibility to take care of the world’s unwanted children than anyone else. Being infertile while yet desiring to reproduce, does not suddenly bestow a mandate upon a person that unwanted children are one’s assignment.


The fact is that all competent adults of the world share an equal responsibility towards unwanted children — both fertile couples, and infertile couples, both singles who want children, and singles who don’t want children. Every adult in our society has a responsibility to ask themselves what role they ought to play in helping the unwanted children of the world. Shirking off this responsibility the moment someone shares that they are doing IVF, to inform them subtly that THEY ought to adopt unwanted children simply because they are trying to get pregnant with medical help, is just a form of scape-goating of one’s own responsibility to the children of the world.

People have a natural desire to reproduce themselves. For some, this means biological reproduction. It is a privilege to be able to reproduce with ease, and for the privileged to look at those who have medical issues and inform them that they are judged for wanting the same privilege, is nothing short of a microagression towards a weaker party.

Adoption IS a beautiful choice, that every adult should consider if and how it might play a role in their lives. But this choice is just that — a choice. And as long as couples can freely reproduce naturally without being put down for having biological kids instead of adopting, no one should be judging those who reach out for medical assistance, either. Adoption ultimately is not the responsibility of the infertile; it is the responsibility in one way or another, of all.

Revisiting 25 Views on Hell

If there is one blog post out in the blogosphere that I have shared more often or brought up in conversation more often both off and online, it has been Chuck McKnight’s classic post, “25 Views on Hell? 2 Questions to Reframe the Debate.” (Classic to me, anyway.) Yet now, 3 years later, I’d like to suggest a revision.

Chuck (otherwise known as “The Hippie Heretic”) aptly noted that most of the viewpoints out there about hell can be placed in a grid making up 25 views, based on asking two main questions: What is the duration of hell, and what is the purpose of hell. The answers to the two questions get laid out on the two axis of a graph, like so, with the purpose going across the top, and the duration up and down on the side:

The inside cells with the weird letters are all the possible interactions of all the answers to the two questions about one’s notion of Biblical hell, placed into this grid.

It’s too much to explain, and if I did, I’d be plagarizing, because Chuck explains it in huge detail over on his post, which in case you missed the link above, I’ll repost again HERE. If you’ve never read his post, I highly recommend you go give it a read and then come back to finish reading my post. I’ll wait. 🙂

******************

Ok, so, wasn’t that revelatory and deep and chew-worthy? Maybe you can see now why I share that post so often. (HEY, you, go and READ IT!) But as an avid fan of the post, I’ve road tested it in many a real life discussion and after getting to chew on it for quite a few years, I’ve realized it needs an update. So, Chuck — I’m adding to your conversation, if I may 🙂

It has occurred to me that this grid needs another question added, a third dimension. This is because I have found that in many conversations about hell, there are a few assumptions being made — usually, the assumption is that we are talking about EVANGELICAL hell in some form or another. And the assumption about Evangelical hell is that it applies to everyone, who ever lived, or ever will live, no matter where they live, no matter their situation, everyone goes to this hell unless they…know Jesus.

So I realized we need a third row, a third question in the discussion, and that is: “Who goes there?”

Does Ghandi go there, because he never believed (as far as we know) in Jesus? Of course many would say he does not go to hell, but this would be outside the scope of the 25 Views of Hell chart (lucky him.) Or, one might envision that he does, but gets out quickly the moment he realizes Jesus the Way, in one of Chuck’s “consequential yet healing escapable process” scenarios. Or one might imagine he goes to hell, and is annihilated (sorry Ghandi) in a “retributive inescapable destruction” scenario.

What I have found is that many people almost don’t care as much about what kind of hell we are talking about — as much as they care who goes there. Sending Ghandi to Hell divides the no-holds-barred evangelicals (and some other groups) from most others.

So the question of “What kind of Hell” are we talking about really needs to include a discussion of who Hell is for. Is it just for demonic spirits, and perhaps humans never go there at all? (This is not a widely held theory because it doesn’t seem to go along with most Biblical statements about Hell, but some folks might hold that.)

Another consideration is that all the statements Jesus made about any sort of Hell were to a mostly Jewish crowd, and maybe we are dealing with a uniquely Jewish hell? After all, even Jews themselves did not believe that their 613 laws applied to anyone other than Jews, and that God would not be holding non-Jews to that standard nor judging anyone for failing to uphold Jewish law. Perhaps there is one punishment for disobedient Jews, and another one for the rest of humanity? Many people have noticed that Jesus harsh words were not directed at just anybody, but specifically to the Pharisees. Perhaps the people who might go to hell were specifically religious elite among Jews.

Perhaps we have extrapolated unique punishments promised to that generation to all people to come, and the Hell we think we know is really a Hell meant specifically for disobedient first century Jews, not Jews of all time, and not the entire population of humanity for all time. I could see some version of preterism postulating this, as preterism makes 70AD a firm cut-off for Biblical prophesy, and centers it all on the Jewish world.

This would also mean for instance that concerns about the injustice of murdered innocent Jews such as Anne Frank going to hell, who did not believe in Jesus because of their time and culture could be assuaged because of perhaps the Biblical hell was meant specifically for those who had the chance to hear from Jesus or those who saw Him personally.

Perhaps none of this is true (after all, it borders on sounding pretty darn anti-semitic) and perhaps Hell does exist for everyone, Jew and Gentile, but again, only in the first century, before the Preterist 70AD cutoff, and then now we are in a new era where things somehow work differently.

That brings us more up to date with most versions of Christianity, which believe that Hell, whatever the duration or purpose, would apply to all humanity that is disobedient to God and fails to believe in Jesus. But, does it apply to those who never had a chance to really hear the Gospel? What about the Aborigines in Australia before Europeans arrived, were they going to hell (at least, one of Chuck’s 25 versions of Hell) or were they not?

Perhaps our chart needs to have a version of hell that is only for those who have had a chance to hear an adequate telling of the gospel, and still refused Christ.

Of course, perhaps people go to hell whether they believe in Jesus or not, just based on their actions. This is why on my chart I defined categories as “disobedience” to God, because one can view “failing to believe” as gross disobedience, or cling to an Anonymous Christian idea like the Jesuits do, that there are those who do not believe in Jesus by name but still live according to His Spirit without knowing His name. Then again, Cornelius was a righteous man, but salvation still came to Him when Jesus was made known…..oh well, this post is not aimed at figuring these things out, but only stating that more options need to be covered…..and those options center around the question of WHO.

If the table of the variety of possible Hells includes a third dimension for “Who”, then there is room for the unique Jewish scenario of the Rich Man’s hell in the story of the Rich man and Lazarus to be one form of hell (say, CIP – consequential inescapable process, for Jews of the first century who had Moses and the Prophets and refused to listen), while Ghandi could end up in RHED (retributive but healing escapable destruction, specifically for Gentiles who heard the gospel and refused post-first century) and Anne Frank to miss hell entirely. In fact, there could be dozens of different hells for different situations at different points in time.

Or maybe there is only one hell, but that is for you to decide amongst yourselves. With the help of this nicely expanded table, to chew on for the next several years until you update it and send me a link to it. 🙂

— Heather

A Woman Responds to: An Open Letter to John MacArthur (re: Beth Moore)

This excellent blog post by Nijay Gupta has been getting passed around on Facebook and for the most part being received with a lot of popularity. I hope he and others can appreciate my push-back along with my praise, it’s part of the iron-sharpening-iron of writers and thinkers to critique and build on one another’s work. I could be a “good girl” and just swoon with appreciation to Nijay, and to some degree I do, but as an equal with him (as he defends women as being, more or less) I’d love to share my thoughts from the female side of the fence and hope that it is taken as the intellectual and spiritual engagement such conversation is meant to be.

Nijay’s post is good for evangelical culture in that it accomplishes two things:

1) It uses examples from scripture of a narrative involving women that counters the “women should never minister to a man” script
2) It demonstrates that women can be extremely useful in the leading and teaching domain. 

However, I’m not a real big fan of this letter, for a couple of reasons. For one thing, it subtly continues the sexism it is trying to confront. In this letter, the arguments of “Paul” come across as if sexism against women would be okay if it weren’t for the fact that women were so competent and useful in ways that men might not expect. It also presents the idea that women should be valued because they were important to a MAN’s ministry. (Excerpt from Gupta: “Women have played such a crucial role in my apostolic mission, I could not operate without their wisdom, partnership and leadership.“)

However, I think this detracts from a greater point: that women should be looked as equal to men whether or not they have proven themselves, that their worth should be honored and potential be valued, rather than determined by whether or not men think they are already proving useful in some domain. 

When men have the attitude that we can make exceptions for women who are particularly competent in an area to be allowed into an area they are normally shut out of, women are not nurtured in their potential, because potential doesn’t count–there are only looked at as valuable once they have somehow proven themselves to men by beating the odds and becoming something. This is why, even in Evangelical churches where women can occasionally minister, often no one goes out of their way to disciple women into being ministers and leaders. Once they already are a leader they are recognized, but they are still not given the same opportunities to be nurtured and recognized and rise up through the ranks as men are, unless somehow they are already there. 

Additionally, this letter asks Evangelical Christians to ignore some verses in the Bible because of other verses, as people are somehow to understand that the apostle Paul doesnt remember saying that he doesn’t allow women to speak or teach, nor does he hold to any inkling of that sentiment, that instead the few very undeveloped mentionings of women in the NT doing something or other, supersedes anything else Paul thought on the matter.

I suppose if that gets us to a place where women are valued as fully equal to men in value and abilities and permissions before God, then maybe it’s just a wrong road to take us to a right place. But deeper questions really ought to be confronted in evangelicalism, instead of just presenting ideas in such a way that whatever Paul said in one place just doesn’t exist, deep theological discussions should be had about the nature of inspiration and the influence of culture and how the body of Christ ought to weigh these things.

Here is Nijay’s letter:

https://cruxsolablog.com/2019/10/21/an-open-letter-to-john-macarthur-re-beth-moore/?fbclid=IwAR3CRd4JHxKqEs3JgJ1SzQWktvezd3ii3KHZhVdZ8KBsrSRZmpfXAjo5fLg

Walking through IVF

I was afraid

I was afraid of doctors
Afraid of showing a stranger my body
Afraid of tests
Afraid of probes
Afraid of shame

I was scared
I was scared of needles
Scared of anesthesia
Scared of surgery
Scared of mistakes
Scared of pain

I was overwhelmed
I was overwhelmed by costs
Overwhelmed by credit checks
Overwhelmed by insurance denials
Overwhelmed by medication prices
Overwhelmed by newfound debt

I was wounded
I was wounded by ignorant comments
Wounded by ignorant questions
Wounded by passive aggressive people
Wounded by those close by who didn’t care
Wounded by those who didn’t approve

I was discouraged
I was discouraged by doctors who didn’t want to try
Discouraged by eggs that didn’t work that well
Discouraged by statistics about my age and weight
Discouraged by embryos that looked great then weren’t
Discouraged by transfers that didn’t go as hoped

I was confused
I was confused by recommendations of supplements
Confused by various recommended medication protocols
Confused by ideas about LH and birth control
Confused by studies about PGS testing and 3 and 5 day transfers
Confused by Keto, vegetarianism, avocados, and fresh fruit.

And yet I am undaunted
Undaunted by being afraid
Undaunted by my fears
Undaunted even while overwhelmed
Undaunted by these wounds
Undaunted in the midst of being discouraged
Undaunted by confusing information

I hold a dream deep within my soul
A dream I will not let go
A child I pray God will give me
The baby I will one day know.

Premarital Sex and Purity Culture

One of the things that we are REALLY good at doing in our culture, unfortunately, is being polarized on one side or another of an issue without much nuance.   As Josh Harris, author of 90’s bestseller, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” is in the news for renouncing both his book and his faith, it’s easy to slam “purity culture” and all it stands for.

I would like to slam “purity culture” too, in a lot of ways.   But I want to do it with nuance, not with a broad brush.   I recently got married at age 42, and while I do think purity culture had a very negative influence on my life in a variety of ways, I am not at all unhappy that I went to my wedding as a, yes, 42-year-old virgin.

I wish I had been younger — getting married, that is.  I’ve written elsewhere about the damage done by purity culture and an apathetic church culture on extending, or at least not helping, with the plight of singles getting older without marriage (for those who desire marriage) here and here.

But one thing I actually WORRY about in the current climate of a no-holds-barred bashing of purity culture is that singles are losing the ground upon which prospective mates will respect a desire to remain celibate until marriage.   While this applies to all singles broadly, women more specifically often get pressured by men to have sex before marriage, and the more that progressive christians specifically start to label saving sex for marriage as a detrimental outcome of “purity culture”, the more sex becomes EXPECTED without any commitment from the party expecting it.  (Or demanded, as in, “I understand that’s your conviction, but I need to move on to someone who will have sex with me before we get married.” ) This is a situation where what gets promoted as “sex-positive” actually demotes it into something which can be demanded, or else, singles lose even more opportunities to find people to date them.

That said, here are a few things I do believe purity culture gets wrong about sex:

Bad teaching #1. If you’ve had sex before marriage, you’re ruining your ability to have a healthy marriage.

This is a false teaching of the purity movement.   How do I know it’s not true?   Because even in the purity movement, no one has any issue or concerns with widows or widowers remarrying.   If sex before a marriage permanently destroyed one’s ability to have a healthy marital sex life or healthy marital bond with anyone from that point forward, widows and widowers should be writing books about how they overcame the memories of their wonderful sexual histories with their prior deceased spouses to go on to have a good relationship with their present spouse.   I know of no such books.

Now I’m sure that people do have a huge transition to go through in going from their life with one spouse to another spouse after the first one dies, I’m not discounting that there must be all sorts of emotional and human issues that go on with that, from adjusting to a new person’s eating habits to how they roll the toothpaste to yes, even to having sex with a new love.   But while adjustments to new seasons and new circumstances are to be expected, no one expects that a widow or widower is going to have too much “sexual baggage” to be able to enjoy intercourse with their new spouse.

In fact, adulterers and adulteresses don’t seem to have much trouble bonding with a new person despite having sex with their legitimate spouses first before being unfaithful.   I’d hate to use this as an example, but it does make a point: humans seem to be actually very flexible with being able to go from one partner to the next.   This isn’t ideal, for a whole lot of reasons, nor do I encourage it: but I’m just saying, I think the purity movement gets this one completely wrong.

What the REAL result of this teaching in fact ends up being is that thousands of Christians who slipped up and had sex with someone before being married, end up getting a complex over it where once they finally find themselves in a fulfilling marital relationship, they yet believe that they somehow always carry part of the person or persons they had sex with before marriage with them into their marital bed.   This is somewhat a uniquely Christian problem, in my experience — reports from nonbelievers I know who view having serial sexual partners before marriage as part of normal dating life often do not develop a hang-up on feeling unable to shake feelings or memories of previous sexual partners during love-making with their spouses.   Sadly, this is a sometimes self-fulfilling prophecy unfortunately where believing something is going to have a certain effect on you, can actually cause that effect.

The exception to this of course is if someone had a great experience with someone sexually and later goes on to marry someone who isn’t communicating well in bed and isn’t fulfilling someone’s sexual fantasies/needs/desires, but that is a slightly different problem, which is covered below.

Bad teaching #2: If you save sex for marriage, you’ll have a fantastic sex life once you are married.

If you save sex for marriage, you are almost guaranteed to have a totally lousy sex life when you first start having sex.   Why?  Sex is a learned skill, and virgins by definition have had virtually no chance to learn it.

Will your sex life eventually be turned into something awesome with, er, practice?  That is entirely up to the couple — how well they love each other, how well they communicate with each other, how well they identify any issues that might get in the way (and this extends even to medical issues for which medical help might be warranted.).    Saving sex for marriage doesn’t mean that two people will be kind to each other, or communicate well with each other, or be patient with each other, or experimental with each other, or any of the whole host of other things that make for both good relationships, and good sexual chemistry and sexual troubleshooting.

When it comes to sex, no one can give anyone any guarantees – whether two people refrain from sex before marriage or not.   But, sex is something that is meant, I believe, to be *developed* between two people, so having sex ahead of time to figure out if one is “compatible” I personally think is also a bad strategy.   But that’s just me.  I think, perhaps erroneously, that one is marrying another person’s entire personality and character, and those things carry over to what one can expect in the bedroom.

I think in both these wrong teachings of the purity movement, the error is in trying to EXPLAIN why saving sex for marriage makes good emotional sense and will result in a good relationship.   But sexual abstinence does not need to be justified; it is enough to value one’s deepest physical intimacy and one’s body as something to be shared with another person only when the other person shows themselves worthy of such a sharing, by honoring the giver with a lifelong commitment before God and others, which is then also reciprocated.  And even if that were too much of a justification, even if there were no reason whatsoever that waiting until marriage for sex made sense, one who believes that God desires the intimate sharing of sex to be only unleashed inside of a marriage covenant should not need to justify their belief as anything other than to simply to obey God.

So a word to those who bash the purity movement: I hear you, and in many ways I agree with you.   But please be careful not to run roughshod over those who either because of spiritual conviction or personal desire, wish to be celibate until marriage.  I am that person, and I am very happy with my decision.

 

 

 

 

 

A Jew’s Perspective on Christian Perspectives on Jews

I’ve never really focused on this on my blog before, but I want to share my perspective as a Jew.   Yes – I am Jewish, and while no Jew in my life has ever asked me this question, Christians always seem to ask me so I guess for some reason Christians need to know that:  yes indeed, both my parents were Jewish.

I guess Christians ask that a lot because some live in areas of the country where they’ve never actually met someone who was Jewish; or, because in Christian circles someone is always “discovering” that some obscure great-great grandparent might have been Jewish because of some family rumor, it might be hard to believe that someone hanging out in the Christian community who claims to be Jewish might actually be really, truly Jewish — like, solidly both parents, and all the grandparents, had no question about the matter.

Actually, the reason no one would ask this in the Jewish community is because it is generally assumed no one wants to be there who isn’t actually Jewish, and even then, Judaism doesn’t actually require that both parents be Jewish for one to be a Jew.  Only one’s mom needs to be a Jew, or alternatively, one can be a Jew by choice and convert.   But this means that “when” I have children, they will be just as Jewish as me.  There’s no such thing in Judaism as “half-Jewish” or “partially Jewish;” one either is or isn’t, and thus my non-Jewish husband doesn’t really factor in to Jews accepting that my children are part of the tribe.  (But sadly, I know that *Christians* will constantly ask my kids their entire lives if *both* their parents were Jewish, as some sort of litmus test, and I just hope my children won’t get a complex over it that threatens their sense of identity as part of my people.)

bread with sliced avocado and salmon near basil mint on plate
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

The other question I get a lot from Christians is whether or not my family “raised” me “practicing” Judaism.   Again, this is an outsider’s question.   Every Jew practices Judaism in some way shape or form, however assimilated into Gentile culture they may be — whether that simply means eating bagels with Lox, and perhaps having a Chanukkah bush (read: Christmas tree) at Christmas, or celebrating three Jewish holidays a year with heartfelt conviction while eating a ham sandwich on the way home from the party, or really any level of more religious observance they might feel drawn to.  All Jews have a sense of connection not necessarily to the faith, but definitely a connection to our shared culture and history, even if it only goes back as recently as World War 2, which reinforces us a distinct people who shared in a common history of trauma. (Many traumas, in fact, as WW2 is not the only one.)

cloak-2027435_640A professed atheist who is addicted to dill pickles, with a dating profile on Jdate.com, might not be the image Christians have of what a practicing Jew looks like, because unfortunately many Christians’ image of what it means to be a practicing Jew comes from their reading of the New Testament mixed with some sort of caricature they’ve absorbed somewhere.  They are expecting Jews to be like the Pharisees of the Bible, walking around in long white robes, speaking in Hebrew, and blowing shofars.

And, the scarier Christians are the ones who have bought into some crazy conspiracy theory and think we control all the banks and the world, which is most certainly why I grew up needing the free school lunch program, couldn’t even afford to go on my senior class trip, nor the French class school trip like my Gentile classmates, and which is also why my impoverished father has been known to sardonically say, “Every Jew owns a bank…it must be true, people constantly say so.  I just want to know, where’s my bank?  Why don’t I have a bank?”  It’s also why so many Jewish Holocaust survivors live in abject poverty, and why thankfully there are even Christian organizations that want to help them out.

pexels-photo-2068975.jpeg
Photo by Alexander Mils on Pexels.com

At any rate, over the years since believing in Jesus, I’ve actually I’ve experienced a whole spectrum of Christian viewpoints about Jews, a great deal of which seem to be detrimental to the Jews as people.  It’s time I would like to talk about what’s going on out there in the Christian world relative to my people — the people of my birth — and where I might humbly or perhaps not-so-humbly submit what I think needs to improve in the Christian worldview towards Jews.

What I’ve seen is that the Christian pendulum has two extreme ends of its swing, including at one end a church with theology that is completely enamored with the idea of “Jewishness” and Jews, and on the other end, a theology engendering a distaste for everything Jewish and a desire to erase even the idea of Jewishness itself.

These two positions in many ways are diametrically opposed, but, something they both have in common is that they are viewpoints that dehumanize Jews and replace Jews with an idealism that is uniquely concerned with Christian interests and concerns, to the disregard of Jews themselves.  I’ll explain more of what I mean as I go along.

Adoration of all things Jewish

guitar-4008341_640First, there is the side of the church that is absolutely in love with anything about Jews and the modern nation of Israel.   Often, I and probably most Jews don’t generally mind this so much — on one hand, it’s so much better to have people enchanted with our culture and peoplehood and religious practices than to have them hating us, barring us from employment, and even wanting to kill us for no reason, as so often in history things have gone for us with Christians.

But there is a problem here even so: as believers in Jesus fall in love with Jewish things, they often fall in love with their distinctly Christian IDEA of Jews and Jewish things, more than the actual Jewish people around them.  For one thing, the Christian “love of Israel” is often oversimplified; way oversimplified, beyond the reality and complexity of how Jews themselves even relate to the complex politics and ideas in the region. It’s as if Christians don’t realize that Israel is a democracy with as much or more diversity in political opinions than Americans have about America, and that debates are had from many different JEWISH perspectives about Israel’s policies in region.  Christians for instance often don’t realize that there are entire cities INSIDE Israel (not in Palestinian held areas) that are filled with Israelis who are Arab, part of the fabric of the nation of Israel since 1948, who even sometimes even serve in the Israeli military.  Nor do they realize that Jews themselves protest other Jews settling in sensitive areas in East Jerusalem or the West Bank, nor that there are kibbutzim where Jews and Arabs live together in a shared life.  There is a lack of understanding of the history and variety of opinions Israel has about what it means to be a modern Jewish state.

But beyond politics: one time here in the USA, I was at a new Bible study where I didn’t know most of the people and I hadn’t said much during the meeting.  At the end of the meeting, an older gentleman whom I hadn’t yet met came up to me and without introducing himself or even asking my name, asked me point-blank, “What are you?”   Now I could have taken this many different ways, but experience told me it was likely that he had noticed my olive skin, and fairly pronounced nose, and other physical features unlike most people in this predominantly Germanic neighborhood, and that his question was aimed at uncovering my ethnicity.   I found the question, though, as it was posed, to be literally dehumanizing.   So as I responded with an, “Excuse me?” and he repeated the question, “What are you?” emphatically,  I just replied, “I’m human.”  The man smiled and said, “Yes, but I mean, what ARE you?”   To which I again replied that I was indeed human.  This went back and forth with a few iterations to which I just kept replying with the word “human.”

Now what I found the MOST bothersome was not the man and his questions, although they were rude and I was hoping he would realize his rudeness at some point by my resistance to answering his question — but what really bothered me was the response of my Christian friend who brought me.   She could have chosen to stay on the sidelines, or, to politely introduce me and the man to each other, but when she sensed what this guy was asking, she instantly replied to him on my behalf, “She’s Jewish.”   I still did not know this man’s name, nor why he presumed to need to know my ethnic background, and I also felt incredibly objectified by the friend I came with who somehow didn’t understand that my privacy was worth keeping, and my humanity was worth fighting for, instead  divulging without my permission to an inappropriately curious voyeur what my exotic middle eastern appearance said about my ancestry.  (And by the way, my completely Jewish grandmother had naturally blonde hair and blue eyes!   Stereotypes are not reality!)

But there are lots of little examples:

  • I’ve been in prayer meetings where Christians were weeping over their sins as a people towards Jews, only to find out it was a mere religious exercise which while Jews were the hot topic, when I introduced myself as a Jew to extend forgiveness and they had zero interest in talking with me as an actual person.
  • I’ve been cursed out by Christians in debates on the internet, that, when somehow the debate brought up the topic of my Jewishness, the perpetrator immediately started saying, “Why didn’t you tell me you were Jewish?  I don’t want to be cursed by cursing a Jew!” As if treating me like a person worthy of kindness and honor wasn’t important unless he knew I was Jewish.
  •  I’ve had people tell others that I was Jewish and had their friends come up to me asking if they could be friends with me because “I’ve never been friends with a Jew before but I really want to be.”
  • In my hippy lifestyle when I decided not to shave my legs and armpits in a revolt against “the system” oppressing women with requiring women to remove body hair, I’ve been asked if the reason I didn’t shave was because I was Jewish.  (Uh, no…are all hippies Jews?)
  • There was an older widow who told me she was “waiting for her Boaz” to remarry, and when I asked what she meant, she told me God had promised her she’d marry a Jew, which, while I found it strange and objectifying, I still introduced her to a Jewish single guy friend in her age bracket, and then she took me aside and told me she meant a RICH Jew.
  • And, I’ve had a non-Jewish roommate that I felt saw me as a person until I came home one day to her and her friends in our living room, and as soon as I walked through the door, she announced, “This is Heather, my Jewish roommate,” as if somehow that was vital information that one must know before simply knowing me as another person.   Like, why???  When I protested that she would never introduce a black friend like that, she defended herself saying that with a black person, it was too obvious to need to say anything.
  • I’ve been told I need to move to Israel to fulfill Bible prophecy.   Yet God was calling me to go to other nations as a missionary.

Maybe none of these examples seem particularly poignant if you haven’t experienced them, but what they all have in common is that in some corners, there is such a fascination and infatuation with Jews as a concept, that an actual Jewish person is not really “seen” but rather entirely objectified; is not known as a person or even as a fellow believer in Christ who happens to be Jewish, as much as “this Jew I know.”  To this extent, the love and fascination with Jews actually turns into racism — just, a nicer, less dangerous form of racism that happens to be a little harder to explain.

Screen Shot 2019-07-09 at 4.39.03 AMAnd ultimately, it ends up with cultural assimilation, where Christians are all claiming to have a Jewish great-grandparent (no offense to those who truly have one) and everyone dresses in stuff they think Jews would wear so they can dance and blow shofars the way they think Jews would do so….and they try to keep Torah with a total disregard for thousands of years of careful debate about how it might best be kept, because a verse or two about how Jesus had an issue with some tradition or another — and ultimately, their eagerness to connect with Jewish things ends them up in a position of trying to replace Jews themselves; with their own version of what they think Jewishness is.

The icing on the cake of course is that most of these folks also believe all Jews should immigrate to Israel, to fulfill their vision to have two-thirds of us killed in some great Armageddon so Jesus can come back.   It’s such a great vision for our future, and for our children’s future.  I can’t wait.  But of course, there are other movements in the church to be concerned about.

On the other hand: the “JEWS DON’T ACTUALLY EXIST” teaching.

Screen Shot 2019-07-09 at 4.31.19 AMThis one is the extreme opposite of the folks who are in love with all things Jewish.  In this side of the church, the teaching that the church is the REAL Israel dominates.   According to this side of the church, Jews disqualified themselves from being Jews 2000 years ago by not believing in Jesus.   Then God destroyed the Jewish temple in 70AD, thus ending Judaism.   The church is what God’s plan landed on as He rejected the Jewish people and instead chose the church.  Therefore, aside from Christians being a new Israel, there is no such thing as Jew today as God “ended” that whole covenant in 70AD.

Now, for every lie, there is a little bit of truth.   Here’s the truth of the matter: the Israel of the Bible was a nation that represented something that God wanted to do more fully in Jesus Christ and those who would believe in Him.   There is something valid about understanding that the Earthly nation of Israel was not the fulness of God’s plan for a people, and that the body of Christ is a spiritual “Israel” .

But here’s where the problem is, if it isn’t already obvious:  You can’t just erase an entire people group, their contribution to your faith, and their history, just because the way you’ve calculated things in your theology says you can.

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No one would ever go up to a Native American and say, “Native Americans aren’t in the Bible, therefore, according to my theology, you’re not a Native American.”   This is about as valid as saying, “My theology says Jews no longer exist, that God has no special place in his covenant for Jews anymore, and therefore, there’s no such things as Jews.”

Yet these people act like this is the case.   They ignore an entire people group which has mostly shared DNA for the past 2000 years.   (They are also very fond of a theory that says a race of people called Khazars all converted and became Jews, to try to prove erroneously that there is no genetic connection of modern Jews to ancient Jews.  Even if it were true, which DNA says is not true, it wouldn’t matter anyway, because Jewishness is more than just DNA.  But the DNA link does mean that there is a people who share ethnicity with one another through thousands of years of intermarriage.)

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Auschewitz Concentration Camp

They ignore that a group of people has a shared heritage, shared culture, shared humor and ideas, a shared Bible that they have copied over and over for two millennia, and that they have suffered together at the hands of mostly Christians for the greater part of those two millennia.  They ignore the fact that there is a people with a shared story, language, practices, food, history, trauma, homeland, and to some extent or another, belief system.

I’ll upset my Jew-loving audience who is sure the modern Jew is a fulfillment of Bible prophesy, by saying to the Jew-dismissing Christian audience what they need to hear:

It doesn’t matter one iota if prophesy is already fulfilled, nor that God instituted a new Covenant, ended the old, nor even if it would be true that He rejected the Jews from being His people — none of these things change the fact that there is a group of people on the Earth right now, descended by blood, history, culture, and religion from those people God wrote the whole Bible story about, whether or not you think God is finished with them, even today, and even if there would be nothing spiritual about the whole situation, Jews are still a viable people regardless of whether or not the Bible is done with Jews or not.

Ultimately, Jews today are not a theological fact for you as much as a fact of present reality and a historical fact — we are here, and we’re not going to stop being a people just because your misinterpretation of our Holy Book and our Prophet and Messiah says so.  The problem is, you’ve confused your theories and theology with actuality.

We don’t have to theologically “count” for you as “true Jews” for us to be Jews nonetheless.  Jews in the Bible might have been defined by God’s covenant to Abraham and Moses, but even if everything Biblical about us would belong to the past, it’s still a shared history — and today’s Jews are still a people even if they are less defined by Biblical markers. Whether we are descended via DNA or simply culture and tradition, it is immaterial — the Israel according to the flesh still lives, not to compete with the Israel of the Spirit, but to constantly reflect a God who is merciful and faithful who does not utterly destroy even if His plan does not depend on us anymore. God did not wipe Jews off the planet, as much as I’ve overheard some of you saying that Hitler was sent by God to do so in your insane need for your theology to make sense.   The fact that Jews still exist, and a nation called Israel has been resurrected may not be any sort of Bible prophesy in your measurement, but it doesn’t have to be.

 We don’t have to fulfill Bible prophesy to be real.  We don’t have to fit somewhere in your understanding of covenants to be a people who have a history with God that we pass on to our children today.  

We are yet a people.  We didn’t disappear in 70AD; we just went into hiding.  And as much as you are Irish, or you are German, or you are whatever it is you might want to be, American, Australian, Canadian, whatever — well we are a people. Sorry to inform you, but as much as you want to, you can’t just Bible that away.

rain passing through at clearing in the woodsRomans 11:17-18 “Now if some branches have been broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others to share in the nourishment of the olive root, do not boast over those branches. If you do, remember this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you.

 

 

SO WHERE DOES THIS LEAVE THINGS?

Well this post is very long.   But if I could ask Christians — just treat us as people.  Interesting people, people who you may or may not want to learn from, but please stop trying to be us.   Please stop treating us as an artifact to stare at, rather than your brothers and sisters in humanity, and sometimes even in your faith.

vitrage-2127736_640And please stop coming up with theologies where you tell us what our place is to be in your version of the world — I guarantee you, we won’t fit your box for us, anymore than anyone made in the image of God does.  We won’t be pawns in your theological games, my apologies, but it must be said.   In the end, try loving us.   Show us a real Jesus, not the one you’ve held up as you’ve hurt us through the centuries.   Make us want what you have — if you indeed really have Him — and welcome us with open arms in the covenant our own Messiah made with us.  While we don’t run the world, and we don’t generally own banks — we do have treasures to share with you if you get to know us, for real, as people, and generally, we really want to know you too.

The Most Common Christian Infertility Cause

I suffered from infertility for a long time.  It was an infertility that the church most easily ignores; an infertility that comes with very little sympathy from others and yet is one of the most common forms of infertility suffered by women in body of Christ in the West.   My infertility had nothing to do with anything wrong with my womb or my body or anything medical; it was the infertility of being a woman who was being a “good girl” and obeying the Christian edict to wait to get married to have sexual intercourse, and yet, who was unable to find a suitable Christian husband.

For years and years, I would be in churches or get togethers and see couples share that they were struggling to conceive a child; and they would be invited to come forward and have hands laid on them and get prayer while the church shared in their grief and struggle; while I and many other women who were single past their prime were invited to do nothing but go home and cry on our pillows at night, alone.    Married infertility is seen and recognized, but singles facing impending lifelong infertility are considered unworthy of corporate support.

I and my fellow single sisters have had difficult decisions to make.   A friend of mine recently asked her parents to help her financially with the very expensive process of freezing eggs; her Christian parents told her they wouldn’t help her because, “If God wanted you to have children, He would have brought you a spouse already.”   Not only did this comment make my friend angry at God as to why He supposedly had assigned her this unique grief, misplacing the problem off of a messed up dating culture and the unwillingness of the body of Christ to help singles find matches in the same way other groups (such as Orthodox Jews) take very seriously the need to preserve their legacy by helping singles find spouses, but by blaming people’s deepest griefs on Divine Providence, we alienate people from God.

During my singlehood journey, I struggled with the idea of getting sperm donation and having artificial insemination.  Single parenthood seemed too scary to me, I didn’t have a support network where I could even count on having a babysitter, I wanted to be able to breast-feed a child and wouldn’t be able to take off work to do so in a country that offers little to no maternal leave, and I couldn’t shake the stigma that I knew evangelicals would have towards me for bringing a “fatherless child” into the world.   Yet I thought often about how the God of the Old Testament seemed to want to make sure that a woman who was left single and childless because her husband had died still had a chance at becoming a mother through the whole kinsmen-redeemer thing.  It seemed that God had more concern over people being left without children than my evangelical subculture would allow for.

If I shared all this with others, I had to suffer through person after person telling me that “You don’t have to get married and have children to be a complete woman.”   They seemed to believe that I had bought into some cultural lie that feminism would deliver me from.  The problem was, I was already a feminist — I knew that I didn’t have to have children to fulfill some “womanhood” edict.   But that wasn’t why I wanted children — it had nothing whatsoever to do with being a “woman” as much as the existential human desire to pass on what and who one is to survive into future generations through reproduction.    I wanted a child maybe on some level because God spoke into all humanity the words, “Be fruitful and multiply,” because it just was something intrinsic to the deepest parts of my soul with a strength of divine edict,  and while I have no problem with people who feel this isn’t for them, to the depths of my heart I knew this was something I couldn’t live without doing.   Rachel’s cry, “Give me children lest I die”, was my unbidden heart cry, and no platitudes about being complete whether or not I have children could satisfy that yearning.

The painful thing too that most singles in my shoes have dealt with is that most of the people who give us platitudes and share comments with us that ultimately are basically micro-aggressions towards our grief about singlehood and its associated infertility, are usually people who themselves are married and who have their own flesh and blood children as well.  These are also the people holding up adoption as the highest ideal, most often people who have never adopted children press on singles and even childless couples that they ought to adopt, even criticizing us for trying to have children by other means because, “there are so many children out there that nobody wants.”  I don’t know why people with natural children think there is a moral obligation for those struggling with infertility to find and adopt the world’s unwanted children, while those who have children easily and without trouble often seem to feel excused from having any need to do so, but this is probably the greatest microagression that singles and infertile couples face from other believers on a regular basis.

Adoption is a beautiful choice, but it is only one of many choices that people ought to respect and admire.  Those holding up adoption often don’t understand how difficult it is to adopt (one middle class couple in my church has been trying to adopt for years and years, and are consistently overlooked by birth parents choosing wealthier or younger parents, or have children placed with them for adoption only to have birth parents change their mind before the adoption is finalized.  The experience has been nothing short of traumatic.).

Adoption is expensive, difficult, and in my husband’s case (that’s right, I’m married now, and I’ll discuss that and the next step of our journey with singlehood infertility in my next posting) he has already adopted a child only to have experienced corruption in the adoption industry that resulted in him raising a severely special-needs child that he loves dearly and would never trade for any other child, but is emblematic of the type of issues that even adoptive parents face.

And, to be honest, for single people even adoption is stigmatized still in the church.   My friend Julia Duin has a blog site dedicated to promoting adoption among singles, because even that can be frowned upon by Christians.

At any rate, for years and years I asked my friends and church to help me find a husband.  I was on every dating site I could afford.   I went places, met people, and shared my story.   Christians seem to despise people who seem “desperate” to meet a spouse.   I was told over and over, well into my thirties, that “Sarah had a baby in her 90s so don’t worry,” as if Sarah’s story trumps all birth statistics and that I could count on God to make my fertile years an exception to the norm.   One pastor, I was close to, in a weird twist on the whole “Jesus is your boyfriend” stuff, told me to “embrace Jesus as your son.”  I was kicked out of a Facebook group for house churches for starting a thread in the group asking who in the group was single and looking for spouses — and told that in no way, shape or form was this group about something as lowly as “finding a mate.”   I’ve seen leaders that I respect, chewing apart “Christian Mingle” advertisements as if the desire of single people to get married and have the family and kids that they happily enjoyed themselves was something to be despised when pitched to singles.

In short, single hood is something the church doesn’t want to deal with, considers unseemly to address, and despises those who complain about it.   There is no compassion, no answers, and if you say too much about your desires or grief on the subject you will even be rudely shown the door — by those who are on their third child and talk about how family means the world to them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Experiencing God’s Voice, Part 1 – “The River”

I’m going to begin a series of posts about experiencing God’s voice, and this is a HUGE subject that honestly could and probably should be a book, not a blog post.  Many have in fact written books on the topic, and some of them are pretty good, and some are not.   I wade into the topic with a fresh perspective — I have been through countless teachings and books on experiencing the Spirit and the voice of God and most of them didn’t seem to help me very much when I was trying to learn how to find Him in this way.  So in this series some of what I’ll do is look at the pitfalls of the various approaches that are commonly taught as “the way” to do this, as well as bring my own perspective into play of what I’ve learned along the way of bumped knees and concussions in trying to go on pilgrimage to this place.

The subject is so vast, and it will be hard to do it justice.  I’m very aware of my own lack of knowledge on this topic, and yet, I do know I have a small deposit of something worth sharing.  If you want to follow along, please pray for me as I write that I’ll be able to organize what I ought to say in some coherent fashion and that, as one stepping into some role as a under-shepherd of God’s people in trying to nurture my readers along, that I won’t leave anything out that needs to be said for the sake of safety and edification.

bridge-192982_640Safety — it’s an interesting word on this topic.   Realistically if you treat into these waters looking to stay safe, I’m afraid you’ve come to the wrong River.   Yet there are disasters that we can hope to avoid, even so.

Some of those disasters involve what happens when you put “hearing God” into the context of community.   Ironically, many people would point to community as the place of safety in learning to hear God, the idea being that community will keep experiments along these lines from going too far afield.  The problem is that often those surrounding us in community aren’t real good at hearing God either — they either quickly shut down things the Lord would want to do because it doesn’t line up with their expectations of Him, or, they themselves are the ones saying they are hearing from God and in the process abusing and manipulating others with what they say God is saying.   Hearing God is dangerous — hearing God in community is even more dangerous.   And yet, the folks that say we need community for safety are paradoxically also right — community really is the best place to tread into these waters, as Jesus and His Word dwell among us corporately.   As much as community can wound and trouble us on our journey, it’s still better to suffer those wounds and troubles than the ones we will end up with going it alone.

At any rate, I hope to do justice to all these pitfalls, and make a clear and balanced presentation of both the singular experience of experiencing God’s voice and the corporate dynamics of the gifts of prophecy and word of knowledge and wisdom and so forth.  I might never get done this series.

radio-1682531_640But let’s begin — why did I entitle this “Experiencing God’s Voice” instead of “Hearing God’s Voice?”  This begins my “fresh perspective” I hope to bring into this conversation.    When I first wanted to hear God, I wanted most specifically to be “led by the Spirit.” I initially didn’t even realize that the way the Spirit “leads” us is by speaking to us!   But I had no idea what avenue, or channel, or sense, or experience would actually constitute being “led.”

When people talk about “hearing” God, folks new to the experience can often assume we are talking about “hearing voices” or at least, a Voice.   And, we are.   But the fact is that God’s voice is not really all experienced auditory.   The auditory experience of His voice is a real one, and one I’ll be discussing as we go forward, but realistically the Lord Himself is not simply transmitting in audio, although he can definitely be found on the audio frequencies.   But if we think we are only meant to “hear” His voice, then figuratively speaking we start to search for Him on the AM/FM dials, hoping to pick up only some sort of “sound,” and while He can be found there, searching for Him only as audio not only blocks out the fulness of His “signal” but also ironically leaves us more open to confusion and deception in trying to hear Him.   Realistically, the Lord is like super-broadband, transmitting on so many wavelengths all at once — He’s like a star in the Cosmos that you can view in infrared, radio, UV radiation, and visible light, and gravity waves all at once, or a broadcast station transmitting internet, HDTV, FM audio, and cellphone signal all at once.  Likewise, He is not just speaking audio, but He speaks thought-to-thought, He speaks in visions, He speaks forth a sharing of the sense of His emotions, He speaks forth dreams, He sings, He laughs, He gives forth His fragrance and extends His love and peace and anger and pleasure and displeasure and His glory and strength and healing and power; He expresses Himself with various extensions of His spirit and personhood to us.

God’s utterance, is, in fact, Himself.   His voice is the going forth of who He is, and as He is Spirit, we can only know Him Spirit to spirit.  (I’m aware and tracking with you when saying such a thing creates a problem for us when we don’t even know what or where our own spirit is within ourselves.)   But His voice isn’t just “voice.”   After all, does a Spirit have a mouth or vocal cords?   sun-11582_640But just like our Sun has an outer atmosphere which is part of it, yet there are deeper layers still, experiencing the Voice of the Almighty has layers.   He is extended to us at all times with a constant stream of His Spirit, pouring forth from His being, but there are experiences one might have with a solar flare which would be altogether different from touching the plasma surface of His burning, and different yet again from experiencing the substance of His core, even though His core drives forward and is one substance with all we might experience at any part of Himself.

Yet God is not an unfeeling, inanimate object like a star (no offense meant to any stars out there.).  Analogies have their limitations.   All of which to say — God is transmitting on too many wavelengths to merely talk about “hearing” His voice as if it would all be auditory or even all words, even though, “hearing” is what all of his communication, whether verbal or nonverbal, can be spoken of in a certain broad sense.

iceland-2608985_1280There is a stream that comes out from the throne of God.  It never stops, and even though for many of us an experience from God is a rare and isolated event, unpredicated by anything we know how to control, the stream coming from the throne is nonstop, and God is “speaking” to us constantly.  This is the same stream that Jesus spoke of being within believers when he said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said: ‘Streams of living water will flow from within him.’”

We just need to learn how to drink from the stream more consistently and consciously, instead of rarely and accidentally.  It is a stream of living water; throughout the Bible, both “life” and “water” are motifs associated with God’s words.  Put together, “living water” refers also to the Holy Spirit, who is made of the same substance of the God who is Living Word, but the Holy Spirit is unique in being the part of God that extends to us and abides within us, and thus carries the rest of God — all that He is, His Words and His thoughts and emotions and voice and personhood to us.  Thus Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would “take from what is mine and make it known to you.

radio-telescope-3575529_640In some words I think of the Holy Spirit as being like the “carrier wave” of a radio station; in radio,  the “sound” of the station is wrapped up and embedded in the transmitted carrier wave and when the wave arrives at your receiver, the “sound” is part of but can also be decoded out of the wave.  The Holy Spirit is the extension of Heaven from God’s throne to the innermost part of us, and He abides within us individually and among us collectively when we are gathered together in tune with Jesus and His Father and each other.

God can be felt (which is a problem if you’ve always been taught to be wary of “feelings” and “impressions” and “sensations.”). And yet, in wanting to be open to feeling Him, we must also be aware the balance is that most feelings are not Him.   And God can be heard, and yet most voices are not His.  God can give visions and dreams, and yet not all dreams or visions are from Him. river-679011_640And He can be manifested in miracles, appearances, experiences, and all sorts of things from flashes of inspiration to creativity to peace to joy to overwhelming love to heat to shakings to too many things to list.   All of it, when legitimate, is an experience of His Voice.   The stream is broad, and so is God’s wavelengths of speech towards us; the stream is powerful, and so is the effect of His Voice where it is made known and received; and the stream is deep; taking us to deeper and deeper experiences of communion with His person.

But all of this we will delve into.   Why do some people get prayed for at the altar and while everyone else is falling down shaking, nothing ever happens to them?   Why can some people hear God easily and others are left with their own thoughts?   Why does music seem to bring some people easily into God’s presence and others can’t stand singing?   Why do we talk about God’s presence as something you can experience when the Holy Spirit is in everyone who knows Jesus regardless of feelings?  And how do you know if someone’s prophesying is real or not?   Is it just a matter of “comparing what they said to the Bible” when the Bible doesn’t say anything at all about that person’s word they gave you that you need to drink orange juice every day for the next week?   And what about “signs” and “confirmations?”   And while we’re talking about the Holy Spirit and our spirit, and angels and demons and the like, what is “a spirit” anyway?

blushing-4213963_640I’m going to wade through all of it.  Here’s hoping you are with me on the journey.  And please pray especially the Lord grants Himself to me as I write, as it is after all, all about Him and that is the real journey.

 

*********************Please let me know any topics you want me to explore in all this as we go forward, below.  Or just make a general comment. 🙂

God, Prayer, and Randomness

From a mathematical and practical standpoint, it seems that randomness and probabilities undergird the foundations of our universe.  (See here for an intro. ). Even for those things which are not TRULY random (like the outcome of a flip of the coin, which is really determined by a whole set of variables), the amount of complexity involved in seemingly random occurrences (such as the chance of a thunderstorm on a specific place and date a decade from now) is so overwhelming that these things are best described in terms of chaos theory and its probabilities and fractals.  (Our inability to exactly calculate Pi even after finding trillions of digits is an example of this complexity.)

RANDOMNESS and PRAYER

tile-193295_640As a believer in Christ, one of the things I noticed when I was younger and just beginning to really pray about things was that most often, answers to prayer just seemed like a string of really good “luck.”  Most of the time when we pray, nothing occurs that actually seems to break any natural laws (like limbs growing out, or objects materializing out of thin air.). Most of the time, it just ends up seeming like things went better than we could have expected them to go, with a line-up of freak coincidences and really impossible-to-conjecture happy occurrences just line up in.a way that leaves us in awe and praising God for how our prayers were heard.

Sometimes the string of “good luck” borders on the edge of ridiculous.   I’ll never forget the time in my teens that I decided I wanted to SEE an angel and locked myself in my room for hours doing nothing but tarrying in prayer over this, holding to Jesus’s promise that if we asked for ANYTHING in His name, it would be done for us.  While praying for so long, I had my eyes open and was staring into my aquarium as something to absent-mindedly look at while praying.   Hours into this prayer marathon, with not a soul in the world including my family having any idea what I was focused on that day and no previous discussions about it with anyone, my mom who had been gone all day long while I was doing this, uncharacteristically had a random thought to go to the pet store and buy me two new fish — angel fish — for my aquarium.

angel-fish-57060_640 It interrupted my prayers when she got home so I took a break to help her unload groceries and then put the bag floating in my tank to let the fish acclimate to the tank water, and ultimately shut my door and resumed my prayer, staring once again into my fish tank absently, until about 10 minutes in I realized I was looking right at “angels” that hadn’t been there when I started praying.  Ok, well, I certainly wasn’t expecting ANGELfish, while begging the Lord to let me see an angel.   Honestly, I was amused and angry at the same time, as I realized that for whatever reason, the joke was on me, as God demonstrated that He heard my prayer AND pretty much played with the semantics of my request to pull a joke on me which I was shocked to find out He might do.  

Again, when prayer seems to result in a ridiculous string of “good luck” – another time much later on, my husband went for a couple weeks without work and our finances were stretched, and for various reasons we also couldn’t use our kitchen so we were having to eat out.  While we prayed for the Lord to please bring him calls for work to provide for our bills, during that week our seeming “good luck” left us rejoicing in awe of the Lord’s kindness in the “ether” of the universe — a malfunctioning coupon code at one restaurant gave us our entire meal for free; at another restaurant, they mistakingly put mustard on something we asked for no mustard on, so they decided to fix the order AND give us 50% our entire meal.  And on and on, until it was literally ridiculous and happy.

These are the types of occurrences that could never be used in an apologetics debate to prove God to someone who doesn’t believe, but for those who already believe, the seeming “good fortune” that occurs when praying about stuff can be pretty amazing.  And yet accusations of “confirmation bias” might rightly be applied; which really only further underscores the point I wish to make – that overall, much of the time, God’s observed interactions with the physical universe are so subtle that they really look no different at all than the general randomness in the midst of overwhelming complexity that surrounds our existences.  And yet, answered prayer seems to put us on the “good luck” side of that incalculable, immeasurable, randomness.

evilIt should be mentioned that Curses, spiritual opposition, and general spiritual negativity seem to work like that too, though.  For instance, people are often aware that when they try to step out in some direction in life for the purpose of bringing freedom to people long held in some sort of oppressive bondage, that often they experience a string of “bad luck” and everything going wrong — as if some invisible force was pushing back at them for trying to see others get set free from things.

The apostle Paul said in 1 Thess 2:17-18:

“Brothers, although we were torn away from you for a short time (in person, not in heart), our desire to see you face to face was even more intense. For we wanted to come to you—indeed I, Paul, tried again and again—but Satan obstructed us….”  

 

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This of course leaves open all sorts of room for interpretation — while one person might see a string of negative occurrences as “satan obstructing them” from a course of action, another person might see the same type of circumstance as God trying to show them to make a different decision about what they are doing.  (The whole, “Open doors you want me to go through, God, and shut the ones you don’t,” sort of prayers that people sometimes pray, usually mean those people will take resistance not as a sign that satan is resisting them, but that God has “shut a door.”  I personally usually don’t lean towards assuming everything that happens is from God.)

worship-435108_640How can one know what is truly going on, whether general “flack” kicking up from the universe is just truly random, or perhaps a warning from God, or even a sign that one is headed in a right direction that evil forces don’t like?   That’s a long discussion for a different blog post — one about divine guidance, discernment of spirits, and hearing God.   But the short answer is that in my opinion, one can never make a decision based on circumstances alone; but must listen to the Holy Spirit to get His perspective, as different spirits (both God or evil spirits) can be responsible for things going on around us.  We can learn though that we are supposed to have some role though in making such decisions from the apostle Paul who confidently asked other believers to join with him to “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful, as you pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word [notice no prayers here for closed doors], so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may declare it clearly, as I should.…” (Colossians 4:3)

THE UNIVERSE ON AUTOMATIC

games-2025663_640All that aside, what about the kid who gets cancer, or the family killed in a freak car accident?  What about when prayer doesn’t “work” at all, and instead of a string of good luck, everything goes terribly wrong, or nothing much happens at all?  Is God (or satan) always to blame for the effects of seeming randomness?

As I learned about probability and chaos theory and brought some of those ideas into my faith, one time I felt God was inviting me to go to a casino with Him.  (I seldom go to casinos but all things are permissible — in moderation. 😃 ).   From that experience and multiple other “experiments” with randomness and probability, my opinion at the moment is this:  

Most of the time, the universe just runs on automatic, albeit with Christ holding all things together.  Most of the time, randomness is really just pretty random, with no One or ones specifically interacting with it.  

BUT — It seems as if randomness is a place that God can hide yet emerge, when He wants to exert His influence, yet in a seemingly inconspicuous way.  Most often, God’s exertion of His power is in conjunction with prayer, as God generally acts in conjunction with His human representatives, His kingdom of “kings and priests” on the Earth.  Those of us who are in the midst of developing intimacy and friendship with Him can ask and watch for these emergings, and participate with Him in seeing them happen as we dialogue with Him about His will and desires.  But most of the time even when God does do something unusual, He cloaks Himself with plausible deniability, so that only those with “eyes to see” really know that He has done something, and those whose eyes are still closed to Him can go on dismissing Him.  

explosion-123690_640Why He does that, I don’t know if anyone can be sure; we all would love every moment to be like Elijiah before the prophets of Baal, putting God on full display with fire falling from Heaven in impossible ways, in plain view of those who don’t believe so that their coming to believe would be easy.   But God doesn’t usually go for the full out, “breaking the laws of nature” power display….

(Although, sometimes, sometimes, He cracks right through the fabric of our mundane random reality with something completely out of this world, and undeniably freakish stuff happens.  Or does He?  Maybe in those cases He just operates within really, really, really good probabilities, so good that trillions of particles in the probability of quantum physics just “happen” to line up with creating a new organ or something…But whether it breaks the laws of physics or is just freakishly quantumly normal, this is really rare compared to what we’d often want it to be.).

My sense of this is just that God is Spirit, and He desires people to know Him in Spirit, so He hides Himself much of the time so that the only way He can truly be perceived is Spirit to Spirit.   Because even if someone comes to believe in Him because of experiencing something material of Him directly with the eyes of their flesh, somehow then they still have a hurdle of getting past what they experienced in outward terms to really still apprehending Him with the gaze of their inner Spirit.  (2 Corinthians 5:16)

RANDOMNESS AND THEISTIC EVOLUTION 

shell-219665_640There are considerations involving these topics when it comes to God using the randomness inherent to evolution to create all life on Earth. While evolution is not completely truly random but is a stochastic process operating under many filters and constraints, nevertheless there is enough randomness for one to refer to it as relying on probability and chance and be fairly correct.   Often young-earth creationists will take this as a basis to object to a belief in evolutionary creation/theistic evolution, which because of randomness is in their mind being synonymous with a view that “God isn’t a Creator” or that miracles don’t happen.

But, as discussed above, God lives inside randomness and probability, and it is one of His favorite means of interacting with the material realm.   If we are happy with answers to prayer that seem like nothing more than “good luck” while we indeed perceive that the “good luck” came from Heaven, while is it so unthinkable to concede that the mechanism of God’s direct action as Creator might involve Him breathing on probabilities and chances, even creating the fabric of probability and randomness itself?

nature-1571717_640When we speak of God “sending the rain” upon a place in response to prayer, do we think the rain came deliberately through some supernatural storehouse of precipitation, or can we speak of God sending precipitation knowing that He uses the same general random and chaotic occurrences that direct the weather on any other given day?  I’d like to submit that the well-known “butterfly effect” — that a butterfly flapping its wings one day one one continent could be the tiny variable that when mixed with all the others ends up producing a hurricane in some other place — could just as easily be seen any tiny intervention from God, resulting in Homo sapiens and all other life on Earth.

God working from the hidden places of randomness is no less an act of creation than anything construed from a literal historical reading of Genesis 1 and 2; and in fact serves only to demonstrate His indescribable wisdom and power in being able to use incredibly complex and long-running processes towards His desired ends.   For this, we praise the God of all life and all Creation, of all rain and all snow, and Creator of all the beautiful fractal patterns and outliers of this universe with all its probabilities and randomness.

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~HGM

 

 

 

 

 

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