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Summer Sabbath is what my church calls That Time In The Summer When Everyone Is Away. It is also my favorite time of the church year because we all cram into the church for one service. Usually we have three services–one contemporary, one traditional, and one for the college students–and I don’t especially like to choose just one.  In the summer I can sit in the balcony and look down and see people I never get to see during the year. Also, the style of services are combined so that there is a mix of formal with the informal: amazing organ music and classic hymns holding hands with drum sets and guitars. I like the fact that each of us in the community has to give up the right to ‘preference’, and just worship together.

Sadie, on the other hand, doesn’t especially enjoy Summer Sabbath because there is no Jr. Church. In the summer, Sadie is subjected to the torture of sitting through the ENTIRE service, instead of getting to leave after the offering (and before the sermon…) Five minutes into the service, she is rolling her eyes and sighing and fidgeting and asking How Much Longer???! So Dan has been packing a surprise bag for her each week filled with fun stuff for her to do–pens, notebook, little dolls etc. He also packs a little snack and a bottle of water.

So this morning, as the service is starting, Sadie is pawing through the bag, looking for something to share with her friend Emma. We are sitting in the first row of the balcony and Emma is six rows behind us. Sadie pulls a screwdriver out of the bag and cracks up. She stands up and holds it over her head to show Emma what her crazy daddy packed in her surprise bag. Then she pulls out a fortune cookie. And a piece of plastic tubing. And a gym sock. Each item she gets she stands up and shows Emma. By this time we are into the first song and I am laughing too–I had no idea what Dan had packed for her and I was wondering what she was going to pull out next. A bag of Apple Jacks. A little package of elastic cord. Binoculars. A kitchen sponge. A chocolate covered granola bar.

What on earth!? It was all just so RANDOM. I’m nearly snorting with laughter and then the older gentleman behind us taps Sadie on the shoulder and says ‘Who packed your bag?’ I was relieved to see a sparkle in his eye–he seemed to find the whole thing as amusing as I did.

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I spent Columbus Day making grape jam with my friend Sunshine. She had picked mountains of Concord grapes at a local vineyard, and since I had already been through the jam-making process once before with Industrious Betsy, I was up for another batch (actually 5 batches…). The kids had the day off of school, and Sadie is good friends with Sunshine’s little girl, so I packed up two kettles, picked up a borrowed food mill, grabbed some snacks for Sadie, and we were off.

My favorite kind of day is when I get to live life with people. Making jam by myself couldn’t be NEARLY as fun as working with a friend. We pulled the grapes off their stems, rinsed them, and put them in a big kettle to cook down and get mushy. Then we ladled the slurry into a food mill–the kind with a hand crank (I’m sure Caroline Ingalls used one just like this–it hooks right on to a kettle) and mashed all the juice from the seeds and skin. So in case you weren’t counting, the number of kettles used so far: 2. Then we measured 5 cups of juice into a THIRD kettle, mixed that with a box of Sure Gel, and waited for it to come to a full rolling boil. At that point, we added SEVEN cups of sugar all at once and STIRRED CONSTANTLY until it boiled again for EXACTLY one minute. After that it was a race against the clock: get the hot jam into the jars stat (a big funnel helps) and one pours while one screws the lids on, and it has to happen while it’s hot or the jars won’t seal. So in the middle of the crucial get-it-into-jars-time, of course, the kids need something immediately: we want to paint, we need a snack, can you get me down from here?, I have to go potty…

After we finished the 5th and final batch, Sunshine and I sat on the back porch and complained about all our aches and pains from working so hard all day. See, I always thought I would like to be Amish, but after ONE day of Amish-y work, I was SPENT. How do they do it? Churn the butter, milk the cows, make the quilts?? The one thing I know is that they understand the power of Community. And I think that’s what makes their lifestyle so attractive to me. (That and the bonnets…)

Since I quit my job and started my domestic career (ahem), I’ve felt very alone and lonely at times. Which is interesting, because I know so many people who stay at home for various reasons–and we’re all in the same boat, doing the same things at pretty much the same time. I think I could be a good candidate to live in a commune–then we all could all fold clothes and unload the dishwasher together.

All this to say that I’m experiencing Community here, and I feel like it’s Christmas morning. Life together is one huge present to me from God.

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Oh, the weekend drearies! Maybe it’s just the weather. But I find myself wandering around the house, wondering what to do with myself. (Wait, I do that every day of the week. Why should I expect the weekends to be any different?)

At least I’m happy to be back into some kind of routine again. Having time off at Christmas was terrific, but there is something to be said for normal life. I take things for granted when I’m here–my comfy (albeit ugly) couch, my electric blanket and just the familiar rhythm of things. I don’t notice their absence until I have to pile 50 blankets on myself in a strange bed in Pennsylvania.

The super hard part of going and coming back though, is knowing how many miles are between us and our families. And believe me, on a 20 hour car trip, I felt every one of those miles. Sadie and her cousin had such a great time, it makes me sad that they only get to see each other once or twice a year. I grew up a few miles away from both sets of my grandparents, and I saw my cousins at least monthly. Sadie’s world is a lot different than mine growing up. I know I feel it more intensely than her–she doesn’t know any different way of life. But our life is good here in Arkansas, and unless God makes it clear that we are supposed to be somewhere else, we’re here. And I’m glad we are. I just get wistful around the holidays.

In other news, Dan and I rented ‘Stardust’ last night–so very delightful! A fairy tale for grown ups. Loved it. Oh, and we are teaching the Young Adult Sunday school in our church starting this Sunday. Super laid back, get some yummy sweet stuff, and some coffee, then we’ll watch a short video clip, and discuss. We’re doing the Nooma videos by Rob Bell. Hopefully we won’t be the only ones who show up. Oh, well, more sweet rolls for us 🙂

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There’s this guy at church who plays the drums. He’s from South America, and according to his roommate, he never stops moving. Even when he’s not playing, he’s playing. He is Rhythm. During the songs, I watch him, mesmerized. He’s all there–fully engaged and attached to what he is doing–not even noticing that there are hundreds of people out in the congregation. The drumsticks are his arms and the big bass drum is an extenstion of his leg. Playing the drums is breathing to him. He looks like he is doing what he was MADE to do.

Watching him play makes me think about God way more than the worship songs do. He is beauty, and motion and rhythm and life. The guy has this gift, and he is using it exactly the way God seems to intend–pointing the way back to Himself. I’m blown away by this example of God giving us gifts and then using them for His purposes. And I’m hopeful that God does indeed have something that He’s given to me–something that I do or maybe will do that seems like breathing.

I want to live there–in the place where I’m doing what I’ve been made to do, and it doesn’t matter who’s watching.  I wonder sometimes if God is using me at all, or am I just waiting until I find my ‘calling.’ I think, maybe He’ll use me if I go to grad school, or volunteer at the homeless shelter. Maybe He’ll use me when I write a book or start a Bible study. What feels like breathing to me? What are the effortless things, the activities or ways of being that I’m fully engaged in, or that I love?

And then I think, God is probably using me behind my back. I bet He is sneaky like that. I mean, this guy was just playing the drums, doing something he obviously loved, right? I’m sure he has no idea that I’ve been thinking and thinking about God and calling and vocation and gifts just because he helped out with the worship band. He doesn’t know that watching him made me want to be closer to God and to serve Him with the best things I have in me.

Some people seem to have GIFTS, you know? It is obvious what they are supposed to do. But maybe it isn’t so obvious to them. Maybe lots of people feel like me–wondering, comparing, hoping for something good to do for God, and we’re already doing it and don’t know it. Maybe it’s not about gifts at all, but being faithful in the right now, doing what is in front of us.

What I do know is that God made us and prepared us for the good work He has for us to do. I just wonder what that work is.

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Essentials of Evangelical Theology
04/19/07

Olson 15 Letter

Dear Toni and Denise~

I was a little intense in high school, wasn’t I? Do you remember the night I invited you guys over to watch that ‘end times’ movie A Thief in the Night? I want you to know that I only wanted to introduce you to Jesus, but I think I ended up scaring the daylights out of you instead. I want to apologize for any fear such a hyper-sensationalized movie may have caused you.

At the time, I truly believed that the events surrounding the end of the world were going to happen in that specific way. I was sincere in my hope that if you knew what was coming, you would choose Christ and be saved from the pain and suffering of the tribulation.

Although I still pray that you have met Jesus and have experienced the joy of knowing him, I realize now that I was using evangelical scare tactics by showing you that movie. The truth is, I don’t exactly know how it is all going to go down in the end. One of the major church fathers, Augustine, believed that many of those events were already happening in this current age (Olson, 339). Other liberal branches of Christianity believe that the apocalyptic literature of the Bible is the stuff of myth (Olson, 340). I was surprised to learn in my Theology class that ‘the rapture’ “is not a part of the great consensus of Christian belief (Olson, 345).”

One thing I do know: Jesus is coming back. And when he does, “every corruption of creation will be healed and God will be all in all or everything to everyone (Olson, 356).” Instead of focusing on the terrifying events that movie predicted, I want to instead believe in the “promise of peace and reconciliation, love and justice, abundant life and fulfillment (356).” If you know Christ, the future will hold wonderful things for you. We will all dwell with him “in a new heaven and a new earth for eternity (356).”

Peace, my friends.
Love, Shelley

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The Baptism in the Holy Spirit

“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful “than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Matt. 3:11 NIV)

Dotted across the hillside, sitting on blankets, all forty thousand of us listened to Marilyn Hickey speak as the sun was setting over the Jesus festival. I listened to her talk about the Holy Spirit, and how you must experience his Baptism to receive more of God. I was twelve, and couldn’t understand why I was weeping. “If you want more of God, if you want to be baptized in his Holy Spirit, then come down to the front,” she said. My pastor came over to me, and with a loving arm around my shoulders, urged me to go to the front. “Do you want all God has for you?” he asked me. I nodded, unable to do much more than cry. I truly did want more of God, I wanted him so much to fill my life. I wanted to serve him and witness for him in my school and love him with all that was in me. But I was afraid of what was going on. People around me were raising their hands and speaking in tongues, swaying and kneeling and shouting. Thousands were making their way to the front. I knew I needed to go forward too, even if I didn’t know what I was in for. So I went.

“Raise your hand if you want to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. When you are filled, you may begin to speak in other tongues. Oh, let the Spirit have control,” Ms. Hickey said and then began to speak in tongues herself. “Be filled!” she shouted, and I felt an electric sensation run through my upraised arm. I opened my mouth and started saying something that I couldn’t recognize and felt the Spirit hovering over me like an umbrella. Later that night, in my tent, I hugged God like a teddy bear, close to my chest. He felt near, and good, and warm. Something had changed in our relationship.

Later, after years of leading my friends to the baptism, laying hands on them and hearing them speak in tongues, I married my husband who said he had never had this second experience. He said he had no need, since he was filled instantly with the Spirit at his conversion. I couldn’t argue with him—I was seeing fruit in his life in his ministry to his floor as an RA. This was a spiritual earthquake to me. It went against all my beliefs about Holy Spirit baptism. How could he be using the gifts of the Spirit with out the baptism?

Today, I am not sure I really know what the baptism in the Holy Spirit is all about. I know I experienced something at the Jesus festival, and I know that many Christians do not believe they need a ‘second experience’ after salvation to minister fully to others. And then, many Christians have experienced an ongoing filling of the Spirit. In this paper, I want to investigate what the Bible has to say about this phenomena, as well as what has been said about it historically and theologically. I hope to come to an understanding of my own experience within the broader context of Christianity.

In Acts 1:4, Jesus commands his disciples to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the gift his father promised: “For John baptized with water, but in a few days, you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” He repeats it again in verse eight when he says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you…” This event happens in Acts 2 when the disciples were “all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2: 1-4 NIV) This ‘second experience’ also happens to new believers in Samaria when Peter and John laid hands on them and prayed for them to receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-17 NIV), as well as to Cornelius’ family while Peter is speaking to them (Acts 10:44-47 NIV). Paul find some disciples in Ephesus who had never heard of this baptism, only the baptism of John. “When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied (Acts 19:1-6 NIV).” The Spirit is manifested in many ways in the book of acts, including giving power, bringing others into the faith, and enabling disciples to do signs and wonders.

Many Christians since the early church have claimed a distinctive experiential baptism in the Holy Spirit as well. The Pentecostal Movement in the United States is one example of a group of people that believed in this ‘second experience,’ though “there is some disagreement among Pentecostal scholars as to where, when and under whose leadership the…Movement began (Nichol, 1966, 18).” Some say it began in 1896 with a revival in Cherokee County, North Carolina led by layperson William F. Bryant. There, according to Charles W. Conn “’Worshipers were so enraptured with the one to whom they prayed, that they were curiously exercised by the Holy Spirit’ speaking in languages unknown to those who heard the ecstatic utterances (Nichol, 1966, 18).” Usually, though, most connect the beginning to the Azusa Street Mission, “where for three years without interruption, prayer meetings took place with speaking in tongues, singing in tongues and prophesy (Hollenweger, 1972, 22)” One near legendary story of the 1906 Azusa Street Revival is told like this: “They shouted three days and three nights. It was the Easter Season. The people came from everywhere. By the next morning there was no way of getting near the house. As the people came in, they would fall under God’s Power; and the whole city was stirred. They shouted there until the foundation of the house gave way, but no one was hurt. (Hollenweger, 1977 ,23.)” From the turn of the 19th century to today, “every Pentecostal believes in the reality of a present-day experience for believers such as was received by the early disciples on the Day of Pentecost (Nichol, 1966, 8).”

While no one can argue that the term ‘Baptism of the Holy Spirit’ is in the Scriptures, many Christians disagree with the Pentecostal interpretation of Acts chapter 2. John Stott says in his book “The Baptism and Fullness of the Holy Spirit” that “what is described in scripture as having happened to others is not necessarily intended for us (pg 9). He believes that “a doctrine of the Holy Spirit must not be constructed from descriptive passages in the Acts. It would be impossible to build a consistent doctrine from them because there is no consistency about them (pg 18).” Sinclair B. Ferguson agrees. He says “several elements of Pentecost clearly belong to its significance as a once-for-all event. The waiting of the disciples belongs to this category, as do the physical manifestations of the sound of the rushing wind and the tongues of fire. These are not repeated even within the book of Acts itself. (Ferguson, 1996, 88.)” Regarding the Baptism as a second experience, Stott believes that the instances of those receiving the Holy Spirit in two separate stages are rare, but the instances of people receiving Jesus and the Spirit simultaneously are numerous. (Stott, 1964,17).

To sum up these two views, “most evangelical Christians today think of baptism in the Holy Spirit in one of two ways: either Christians receiving the spirit at conversion (the typical Reformed position) or Christians receiving a special empowerment after conversion (the usual Holiness or Pentecostal position) (Keener, 1996, 20).” Keener goes on to say that the New Testament teaches both views—for the simple reason that different texts employ the phrase “baptism in the Holy Spirit” in different ways.(pg 20­) He feels that since most Christians agree that we can be filled at conversion AND need the Spirit’s filling for our daily lives, the debate may be purely semantic. From my research, I agree with Keener. It seems that there must be a both/and in this issue, since the Scriptures talk about receiving the Holy Spirit as a one time event, (Acts 2) and also about being filled with him on a regular basis (Eph. 5:18).

Recently, I was driving in the car by myself and was caught up in the beauty of the fresh green trees. Like a bubble coming up to the top of a stream was the joy that filled my heart. Without even realizing it, I began to praise God, whispering in a language I didn’t know. I’ve wanted to forget about my charismatic experience and upbringing for many years. I’ve been confused about things of the Spirit. But I can’t decide what God can and cannot do. I believe that I was filled with the Holy Spirit in a real way that night at the festival, and that I also need the Holy Spirit to fill me every minute of my Christian life. I could not follow Jesus without His filling. Instead of blocking those years out of my memory, I want to look at my experiences and cherish them as an acts of grace—even if I’m not laying my hands on people to received the baptism of the Holy Spirit any more. I want to ask anew what it means to live a ‘Spirit-filled’ life, and to receive all that God has–our generous, broad God who gives us everything we need to serve him and love him.

Works Cited
Ferguson, Sinclair B. The Holy Spirit. Downers Grove, Ill: Inter-varsity Press, 1996
Hollenweger, Walter J. The Pentecostals. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1972
Keener, Craig S. 3 Crucial Questions about the Holy Spirit. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1996
Nichol, John Thomas. Pentecostalism. New York: Harper and Row, 1966.
Stott, John R. W. The Baptism & Fullness of the Holy Spirit. Downers Grove, Ill: Inter-Varsity Press, 1964

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Undeserving

Why is it that fights between people who love each other happen most often right before church? This past most holiest of Sundays, EASTER, Dan and I had this hideous fight in the car minutes before we walk into to church.  I was so sure I was right and church or no church, I WAS NOT going to apologize. Why do I always have to apologize first anyway? So the song leader says ‘let’s all stand and praise the Lord’ and I am planted on the seat and surly. Instead of singing, I grab my journal and start writing, pushing the pen down hard, about how infuriating my husband is, and how maddening it is to be right and not be appreciated for that rightness. My heart is hard and black and I can’t imagine even God wanting to do anything about it.

Then this thought floats through my mind: is it possible that you may be partly at fault? Why don’t you take an honest look at the interchange and then decide. What? NO. I am right. I will be mad. But my mind goes over the fight anyway, beyond my control, and I realize that I said some things that were MEANT to hurt Dan, and maybe I wasn’t totally justified in my smug I’m-the-winner attitude. It wasn’t like winning was making me feel any better, anyway. Suddenly I am pierced and my heart goes to mush, and I realize that God does care about the state of my insides, and my pride is gone as quick as you can blink your eyes. I’m choked up when I whisper to Dan that I meant to hurt him and that I was sorry. By this time, the singing is over and there is this corny Easter drama going on. Dan and I are both hunched down whispering to each other, and he says ‘even when I’m mad at you, I still love you. I won’t abandon you.’ Then I start crying, almost sobbing, and the people around  probably think I’m moved to tears over the drama, which couldn’t be further from the truth. I can’t believe God has given me this man, who even in the face of my mean-ness loves me anyway, and forgives me. I’m crying even now, thinking about it.

Unmerited favor. That is grace in the shape of my husband. God is good to me even when I am awful, and I’m just so thankful.

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