Monday, September 17, 2007

How far is too far?

This may be my last post for a couple of weeks. I am off to Europe for an educational tour. I am not sure what I expect and may blog on this a bit later. I have a good topic though for this time. At least I think it is a good topic.

Recently, I had a conversation with a couple of friends who shared with me a concern voiced by a few people regarding the content of blogs, especially by Salvationists. I know this subject has been simmering for a while with people in leadership.

One of my friends indicated that in a conversation he had with a few people there was great concern that people who raised a critical voice regarding organizational or church change were somehow not being faithful to our Movement. In fact, he indicated that there was a very passionate plea to stop people from writing bad things about the Army.

I am somewhat in a quandary as it pertains to this subject. Followers of this commentary know that I raise many issues about the church and our part of it in particular. I don't believe that I embellish truth or that I am completely one-sided in my commentary or in opening a discussion. Maybe there are those who think I do not completely explore the truth, but that is their opinion and they are entitled to it. They also have opportunity to comment and debate their point through this forum.

I do think that if one of my fellow bloggers or one of those who would comment on my posts, are completely honest, don't falsify statements and are courteous in their discourse that they do have a right to criticize and even call into question the Movement. I don't believe in personal attacks though and have removed them from my blog when they have arisen. I think that is an inappropriate area of discussion.

I do, however, believe there should be an open forum to discuss the issues of our Movement and to hear from all sides. If we were to, as some have advocated, shut down all of the blogs that question (not sure how you would do it anyway) the issues of the Movement, I believe two things would happen.

1. You would force the discussion further underground. This would not, in my opinion, be healthy or really solve the issue of a group who want to be heard, but may feel they have no voice. I believe that this would cause rancor (if it is not already there) among the troops, most of whom, love the mission of our Movement and are sold out to it. I feel most of the critical voices already love our Army and genuinely want it to be better. Open discussion of this type regarding ecclesiastic issues, methodology or leadership, although painful at times for some, I believe is key to creativity and building consensus as we move forward. If it is taken away, I believe there could be a great wave of apathy as we try to build momentum for this millenium.

2. I think also we could border (and I know this is tough to hear) on the edge of being almost cultic. The moment the rank and file cannot comment or are castigated for voicing an opinion, may be the moment we find we are not be much better than those movements we tend to criticize. While I do not believe we are a cult, unquestioning following and unchallenged leadership will lead us down a path that I believe will not be healthy for the church and our part of it. I do believe as the Word says "Iron sharpens iron."

I know that last paragraph will raise of few eyebrows and some blood pressure. Some may consider it over the top. I think for many, the blogging arena is where they feel they can express opinion without retribution. I would hope they would also think twice before being ungraceful in their comments or posts. That does not do us any good either.

I know I may have stirred the pot a great deal on this one. I do so because I think this discussion makes for a hard, yet necessary discourse.

So the questions for my journey are simple. What is proper and Christian as far as it pertains to blogging? How far is too far? Should we not question the leadership, methodology, ecclesiastic issues, stewardship or other issues pertaining to our Movement? What is off limits? Is there anything off limits?

I am leaving in a few days but will try to stay current on the conversation. As with all of my posts I want to know,

What do you think?

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Breathe Normally?

Over recent days and in the next few weeks, I have and will be in airplanes for hours on end. I used to love flying. I don't relish the thought of flying now. After being on the scene of the World Trade Center within hours of the attacks and the hassle flying has become, I view it, especially long flights with trepidation to put it mildly. Also, the thought of having my molecules rocketing through the sky at 500mph at 30,000 feet that is somewhat unsettling as well.

On my recent flights I have noticed that the pre-flight safety speech most of us seasoned travellers now ignore is not given by flight attendants much anymore. It is on video. You know the one I am speaking about. This boring speech where they show you how to fasten and unfasten your seat belts and show you the exits, restrooms etc. is now dramatized by actors. Everyone is neatly groomed, what a joke. Have you been on some red-eyes? Everyone is calm. Obviously, the director has not sat next to the lady I sat with on the way home from San Francisco a few months ago. I still have claw marks in my arm from her death grip when some moderate turbulence hit us over the Rockies.

The real laugher is the emergency scene when air pressure drops in the cabin and oxygen masks fall from the ceiling. Everyone is so calm and the guy sitting next to the little kid in the video just reaches over and gently fits the mask on the kid after his own is fixed. I have never met a little kid who would be sitting there like this one was, unless he was pumped full of sedatives.

The fact is if that happens people are screaming and we are all praying and making the sign of the cross on ourselves (even if we are not Roman Catholic). This happened on a flight I was on once right as we were landing. A laughing pilot joked when we hit the tarmac "Sorry, hit the wrong switch as we were landing." My reaction to his joke was, "Don't quit your day job." Then I thought, "Maybe he should quit his day job."

Well back to the video. The oxygen mask scene plays out and a calming voice tells you that in the middle of this chaos, with your life flashing before your eyes, that when you put your mask on, you are to "Breathe normally." OK....SURE...RIGHT!!!

I have thought much about that instruction lately. Breathing normally; what exactly is it? I have been thinking recently as I have moved through significant changes in my life and relationships with family, friends and God, "Breathe normally."

It is easy for us to go into panic mode when there are pressure changes. It is easy for us to scramble to hold our breath, shake our fists at God and the world and pass out from our desperation when the lifeline of grace hangs right in front of our face.

I have to admit, in recent days with some turmoil being experienced, I have almost held my breath in a temper tantrum style and dared the mask to fall. If we are all honest, we have many of those days in our lives. We hold our breath, follow our own safety instructions or even just ignore the prompting of the Spirit as the mask of grace is firmly in our reach.

It does not mean that we can't question, push for organizational change or even occasionally wrestle with God. Lord knows I won't stop with any of those things. I think to do so makes you soft and almost robot like in your response to spiritual things. God wants so much more in our relationship with Him than a robot.

There is a point, however, when you simply need to breathe. When you are hurt; breathe. When you are frightened and frustrated; breathe. When you are confused by the actions of others or an organization; breathe. When you feel as if the last bit of your resource is gone; breathe. The mask hangs in front of you.

The original question though is what does it mean to breathe normally? If you are like me, your theology tells you that there are natural rhythms to life that are placed there by the Creator. He designs a pattern of prayer and meditation, physical exercise and food (natural and spiritual) which is specifically designed for us. The Evil One tends to want to disrupt our designed pattern through broken relationships, stressful, almost impossible situations, disappointment with circumstances or people, disagreement with leaders who you believe to be less than aware of your circumstances or policies or procedures you just think are down right silly.

In times like those, we need to breathe normally. Retreating in the midst of our busy, stressful and hurtful situations is almost impossible. Going back to or taking time to discover the patterns the Creator has made specifically for us, having them become as natural as breathing, that is the key. Admittedly, it is not easy, and sometimes the mask falls. We don't want to grab it because in our stubborn, self-righteousness we place ourselves as the all-knowing ones. Just breathe. It sure does beat the alternative.

So here you go. Are you ready to share and strengthen the community of Christ? What are the things that help you breathe normally? Have you experienced times when you just can't breathe ? How do we discover what it means to breathe normally and allow the Creator to set a pattern for us? Am I crazy saying all of this? Does it sound like self-help? How can our breathing patterns be found in community?

As with all of these questions and all of my posts, I want to hear from you.

What do you think?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Spiritual Warfare or Misguided Saints?

Last week, I wrote about my raw emotions from the weekend prior. God has begun doing a new thing in my life. I noticed that God had begun to transform and refine a few of my friends too. It is not unusual then that when emotions are raw and God has surgically prepared the way for new growth that the Evil One tries his best to infect what has been prepared.

I had a very difficult week as did a few of my close friends. Much of the hurt that was felt came at the hands of those in the church. I am sure that for the most part, there were pure motivations in what was said or done. The issues that arose, were probably not handled in the most delicate of ways, by me or others. I also wonder, if there was not a good bit of legalism exercised by some, even me.

Add to that for me that I crossed a significant threshold in my life. Our youngest struck out on his own this weekend and we helped him move into his first apartment. This was not without controversy either. The Evil One once again struck me. While I had a great time moving my youngest into his modest living accommodations, nagging questions came to mind. "Is he really a man of God? Did you do the right things in raising him?" These questions along with others streamed through my mind and have caused me some anxiety.

Many of you know my views on this whole idea of spiritual warfare. I do believe that there is a struggle in heavenly realms which manifests in various ways here on earth. I don't, however, chalk everything up to attack on me or to some spiritual demonic force out to get me at every turn. I am not sure that my theology or a very careful reading of scripture supports that sort of extreme view.

What I do believe is that as people have a heightened awareness and hunger for the holy, that there is a sense in which we are left bare to emotions that are quite raw and questions that seem to haunt us. Hurt does seem to befall us in these times as we expose more and more of ourselves to the King and to the rest of the Kingdom known as the church. Often, instead of being a soothing balm, the church becomes more judgemental. People with pure motives in their own frailty and brokenness try to speak truth to us or guide us without having thought through the process well either. Unfortunately, even I was one of those people.

There is a fine line here. How is truth shared in kindness and love? How are we sure that we have the right message for the moment. Do we as a church just rub salt in the wound often instead applying salve on the wound? Is the church sometimes its own worst enemy? Or is this all just some type of spiritual attack that we are supposed to gut out? I admit I take a very dim view of the last assertion. Then again, maybe I am wrong.

So is the church under attack or just a collection of misguided saints who tend to mess it up sometimes? As you know, I am finding more and more that I like outside the institutional church, so maybe I am just a bit biased on this. I need your opinion.

What do you think?