Thursday, February 15, 2018

Prayer: Reflections for Lent - A Path of Prayer

My life has been shaped by one extremely influential mentor. If I was Samuel, she was Eli. For years she taught me how to serve and how to discern the Lord’s voice. 

She made sure I knew I was loved by God. When I came to her, panicked because I didn’t know if I was “saved,” she stopped right there and prayed with me. When I joined the LDS church, she stood with me wholeheartedly. She gave me my first real job and taught me to be confident in my abilities.

But before all that, she taught me how to pray. She first taught me using the PATH method of prayer. It’s so easy to remember, it’s stuck with me since. PATH is an acronym, standing for Praise, Adoration, Thanksgiving, and Help. I’ll share some thoughts and insights I’ve gained about this method and each of its parts as I’ve used it.

We begin prayer like Jesus did, always praising and thanking God before asking. The purpose of this is not to remind God who God is, but primarily to remind US of who God is. Beginning prayer with praise, adoration, and thanksgiving puts us in the correct mindset. We are awed by God’s majesty and we are filled with hope because of who God is and what God has done for us in the past. 

Praise is to “express warm approval or admiration of.” When we praise God, we say, “God, You’re great!” Another dictionary defines praise as “to glorify (a god or saint) especially by the attribution of perfections.” God, You are perfect in Love, perfect in Creating, perfect in forgiving, perfect in hearing us. 

If we think about how we commonly use the word praise, we think of praising people for things. We praise actors for superb performances in films, we praise singers for moving performances on stage, we praise painters for exquisite works of art in museums. We praise politicians for enacting fair and just policies, we praise juries for demanding justice. We praise people for what they do. And I think it’s beneficial to think of praising God using this comparison.

In praise, we thank God for what God does: God, I praise You because You are working in me and making me new, I praise You because You hear my cries, I praise You because You protect me from harm, I praise You because You provide for my needs.

This is different from adoration, where we simply adore God for who God is. “I will worship You for who You are,” Hillsong Worship sings. In adoration, we simply stand (or sit or kneel) in awe of who God is. God is powerful, just, mighty, fair. God is a rock, a fortress, a safe place. God is mindful, God is merciful, God is gracious, God is extravagantly generous to us. God is “my author, my maker, my ransom, my savior, my refuge, my hiding place. You’re my helper, my healer, my blessed redeemer, my answer my saying grace. You’re my hope in the shadows, my strength in the battle, my anchor for all my days” (Worthy of Your Name, Passion). 

After praising and adoring, we thank. We thank God for all that we have and all that God has done for us. We are profoundly grateful and we express that gratitude to the Source of all that we have. 

Then, we are finally positioned to ask for help. A proverb says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” This is true because when we delight in the Lord, His desires become our desires. Since His will always comes to pass, our desires will be given in that way. Beginning prayer with praise, adoration, and thanksgiving is a way to delight in the Lord. After we have done that, we’ve invited the inspiration of the Spirit and can better know what to ask for. 

Prayer is a time to be filled with God’s spirit, That should be one of our primary requests. In the Help portion of prayer, we pour out our hearts to God and seek comfort in His hands. 

We pray for our families, our friends, our churches, our cities, our nations, and our world. We ask God to help us. We ask God to help our world. 

~ ~ ~

Another acronym for prayer, similar but not identical, is ACTS. This stands for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. 

Here, we begin with adoration. We begin by declaring and reminding ourselves how big our God is. God can do anything. 

Then, we move to confession. “We confess that we have not loved you with our whole hearts,” one prayer says. Here we come before a holy God and confess that we are not God. And how freeing it is to not be God. 

Then we give thanks. We thank God. We thank, we thank, we thank. Because nothing we have or are is by our own doing. Everything we have and are is due to God’s grace and mercy on our lives. It’s all chance. So we are grateful, and we express that gratitude. 

Finally, we end again with supplication. The time when we come before the all-powerful, whom we have adored, confessed, and thanked, and humbly ask. We ask for revelation, for strength, for help, for healing. We ask for ourselves and on behalf of our whole world. 

~ ~ ~


And then, we listen. 



~ ~ ~ 

This post is the second in a series, Prayer: Reflections for Lent, which explores prayer in a variety of ways. Read Part 1 here. Come back on Thursdays during Lent for the next post!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Prayer: Reflections for Lent - A Story, a Goal, and a Plan

Prayer is something that I often struggle with. 

When I was younger, I never prayed. It just wasn’t something we did except at church. I can remember sitting in a treehouse one summer in Dallas, sent out on assignment to pray and  listen to God. What? I read the Bible instead - something I never did and wasn’t interested in. 

Even though I didn’t practice prayer, I had learned a method of prayer. It’s stuck with me all these years, and it’s a blueprint I use today. As I learned it, this method is called PATH prayer. It’s an acronym reminding us how to pray. Praise, Adoration, Thanksgiving, and Help. We start out with how awesome God is, and then move on towards supplication. 

When I returned to religion after my first period of atheism, I kept a prayer journal. I subscribed to a little devotional magazine called The Upper Room. Each issue includes daily Bible readings, and short reflection written by readers, and a very simple prayer. I would walk to the cafeteria on campus for breakfast and have a date with Jesus, reading the passage and reflection, then copying the prayer word for word in my prayer journal. It was a great start for me.

I got the journal idea from my grandmother. She keeps a prayer journal and writes every morning. I don’t know what she writes, but she’ll use up three pages or more and spend an hour sometimes just writing to God. I thought writing my prayers down, like a letter, might be easier than just “thinking” them (there was no way I’d be praying out loud at that time, by the way). 

After a while, I became more confident in beseeching the Almighty. During my first year of Mormonism, I’d meet Jesus for breakfast still, reading Psalms and a few chapters in the Book of Mormon. Then, I’d write a letter to God from the heart, rather than copying one someone else wrote. By that time, I’d become comfortable kneeling in prayer every evening and telling God about my day. Out loud, unless my roommate was there. 

I prayed regularly, but my relationship with prayer was not always the best. I often felt like I was talking to a wall. I often felt uninspired, like my prayers didn’t matter or weren’t being heard. I usually prayed anyway, begging God to show me that I was being heard. 

In spring 2016, I lost my faith and stopped attending church. I stopped praying, too, because I didn’t believe in God. 

Many months later, when my heart began opening up to the idea of religion again, the first way I prayed was yoga. I’d started doing yoga prior, mostly for the physical benefits I gained as a dancer. But I started doing it as a way to connect to myself, to others, to that Presence that permeates all. I’d start each class with stillness. I set an “intention” - I decided what I was praying for during each session. 

I also was intrigued by the use of prayer beads. I memorized a couple of short prayers - the Lord’s Prayer, Hail Mary, and a couple of others I found or wrote. I found a beaded bracelet (a full rosary seemed way too long for me to start out with) and created a pattern to pray. I found this an excellent way to calm and center myself, letting the words of one or two prayers sink deeply into my being. 

When I was ready to worship and pray with a community again, I attended many churches. I was really attracted to methods of reaching God that included my body - things like yoga, prayer beads, kneeling in worship, and others. I attended Catholic mass sometimes, where people kneeled in reverence and asked God for forgiveness. I attended Pentecostal churches sometimes, where people clapped, danced, and lifted their hands to heaven praising and thanking God for forgiving them and doing all kind of other things. I was and am amazed at all the ways that humanity had found to pray. 

Regardless, I haven’t been really disciplined lately about making time to pray alone. Sure, I go to church and I pray with my kids at church and I pray in church services. But outside of church? I prayed close to never. 

Just a couple of weeks ago, I finally watched the film War Room. WOW. Highly recommend. This film inspired and challenged me to really think about my prayer life and what kind of efforts I was making to connect to the Divine. Then, that very same week, the pastor at the church I attend gave a message about spending time with God through prayer. His emphasis: Pray without ceasing. Pray not just in church, not just morning and night, but all the time

~ ~ ~ 

The Christian calendar is moving into the season of Lent. Lent is a season of penitence and preparation. Lasting forty days (like the Biblical flood or Jesus’ time in the desert), Lent is a time for us to recenter our priorities. Some people fast during Lent, clearing out space to make room for God. 

In Lent, we have there main focuses:

  1. Disciplined walking with Jesus. Lent is the time to reflect on our discipleship and recommit ourselves to spiritual disciplines. 
  1. Renewal of the baptismal renunciation of sin and evil. At baptism (certainly in Methodist and LDS churches, possibly others), we take a stand against evil and register ourselves in the fight against sin. We covenant to a life filled with work to eradicate sin in our lives and evil, injustice, oppression, and societal sins in the world. 
  1. Daily adherence to Christ. This is more than just following Christ or behaving like a Christian. This is about spending time with Jesus, soaking up Jesus’ being into our souls. This is about loving deeply and looking into the eyes of Jesus to become like him. This is about tying ourselves up in Christ, adoring Christ, and listening purposefully. 


This Lent, I am challenging myself to get serious about prayer. 

Prayer is a spiritual practice, a spiritual discipline. Being disciplined about this will bring rewards as I develop a greater relationship with God and listen. Through prayer, I can receive strength to follow through with other religious disciplines as well. Prayer is the foundation upon which all other disciplines are built.

Prayer is a renunciation of sin and evil. One Muslim wrote regarding the five daily prayers something like, “If you are sincerely praying five times each day, you will not just stand up and sin.” Prayer is a defense against evil. Prayer strengthens us in the fight. When we pray, we receive spiritual aid to fight injustice and oppression. Further, prayer opens the door for instruction on what are to do in this fight. Once again, prayer is the foundation upon which the renunciation of evil is built. Prayer is fundamental and completely necessary. 

Finally, prayer is adhering to Christ. What other way have we to directly experience our Lord? When we read the Bible or stories of saints, we read how God interacted with others, and how they experienced God. In prayer, however, we are directly linked to God - no intermediary. Prayer is a date with Jesus. In prayer we speak to God and we listen to God. In prayer we learn the nature of God and our souls are filled with God’s goodness and life. In prayer we listen purposefully and receive nourishment to go on. Prayer is the foundation for any relationship with the divine. 

Prayer is our foundation. Prayer is the foundation of every spiritual discipline and of the Christian life itself. Prayer is the foundation of the renunciation of sin and evil. Prayer is the foundation of a relationship with the Divine. 

This Lent, I intend to pull out my hammer and work on that foundation.

“And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.”

Helaman 5:12

~ ~ ~ 

This post is the first in a series, Prayer: Reflections for Lent, which explores prayer in a variety of ways. Come back on Thursdays during Lent for the next post!

Monday, February 5, 2018

Moses was Wrong - The Lord Won't Fight for You

We all know the story - the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, God sent the plagues and Pharaoh let the people go. They escaped at night, to find the Egyptians coming after them! Moses assured the people that God would fight for them, they crossed through the sea on dry land, and the Egyptians were drowned. Victory! But I realized this story wasn't quite so simple. 
When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, the minds of Pharaoh and his officials were changed toward the people, and they said, “What have we done, letting Israel leave our service?” So he had his chariot made ready, and took his army with him . . . The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt and he pursued the Israelites, who were going out boldly.
Exodus 14: 5-8 

I read this story yesterday during my scripture study. When I first read these verses, I realized something. The text doesn't say that Pharaoh changed his mind and decided to go after the Israelites. It says the minds of Pharaoh and his officials "were changed" - passive voice. This was an external occurrence. Someone or something did this to them. Then it says, "The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh!" 

What?? The Lord sent Pharaoh to chase the Israelites? I thought this whole time the Lord was trying to save the Israelites?
As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites looked back, and there were the Egyptians advancing on them. In great fear the Israelites cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt? Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, ‘Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” But Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.”
Exodus 14:10-14 
Inspiring. But wrong. God replies:

“Why do you cry out to me? Tell the Israelites to go forward. But you lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the Israelites may go into the sea on dry ground."
Exodus 14:15-16 

Then, God speaks an answer to my original question:

"Then I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and so I will gain glory for myself."
Exodus 14:17 

GOD sent the Egyptians after the Israelites so GOD could show off GOD's power!

Sometimes, trials come upon us out of nowhere, and it's nobody's fault. "The minds of Pharaoh and his officials were changed." Something happens, but the text there doesn't say what. Sometimes there are trials and we don't know why. "Life is suffering," as the Buddha taught (This isn't a pessimistic "life sucks" teachings, but a simple realization that true and full living in this world includes suffering).

Sometimes (bear with me) God sends trials - "The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh."

And in our trials we wonder, oh God, why did I trust you? I thought you were bringing me out of Egypt and here the Egyptians are chasing me again! I'm in the wilderness and the horrible circumstances just keep multiplying and I just might DIE out here and where even are you??

Then, like Moses and the rest of the Israelites, we might get hopeful. "Oh right. God is so big. I don't have to be afraid because God's gonna rescue me! And then I'll never see these Egyptians again! God will fight for me!" And then we plop down like a toddler who has given up and waits for a parent to solve all the problems. 

But God comes in, with a gentle shake of the head and says, "No. Why do you think I'm going to do everything for you? Stand up and go forward. YOU lift up YOUR staff and YOU stretch out YOUR hand over the sea that you may go through on dry land Then I will send those trials chasing after you again so we can show my glory and power." 
Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided. The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left. The Egyptians pursued, and went into the sea after them, all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and chariot drivers.  . . . Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, so that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots and chariot drivers.” So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at dawn the sea returned to its normal depth. As the Egyptians fled before it, the Lord tossed the Egyptians into the sea. 
Exodus 14:21-27 
God didn't pick the Israelites up out of their struggle and airlift them to the other side, and God won't do that for us, either. The only way out is through. So God gave Moses power to get through. God doesn't just pull us out the hard things, but gives power to part the sea and walk through on our own. 

So Moses opened the sea, the Israelites passed through. Then, those trials just weren't done, so they pursued the Israelites. But God gave Moses power to close the sea and overcome them once and for all.
Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the Egyptians . . . Israel saw the great work that the Lord did against the Egyptians.
Exodus 14:30 
God gives us power to make a way through our trials. When they start coming towards us again, the Lord gives us power to over come them for good. Notice that the trials doesn't go away immediately, the first time the Israelites ask for help of see God's intervention. It takes time. First, God rescues them from Egypt. Then, God saves them from the pursuing Egyptians. (And even then, the story still isn't really over - the Egyptians will the tested and tried for many years, required to trust solely on God for their every need.)  The Israelites have a long road getting over this particular trial. But God is constant and faithful through it all, giving the Israelites power to overcome. 

And that is how "the Lord saved Israel from the Egyptians." By empowering them to overcome! "Israel saw the great work that the Lord did" in them against their trials. 

The LDS church believes in a doctrine commonly called "eternal progression." This means that the Christian life doesn't end at death with entrance into heaven. Life, for Latter-day Saints, began long before this world, when our spirits were born to Heavenly Parents in the realms of glory. From thence we came to earth to learn and progress, with the goal of one day being like those Heavenly Parents. Those who pass the exam by being saved by the Lamb enter into eternal glory with God Almighty, where the growth and progression continue. The human race, beyond this life and raised bodily into heaven to be with God the Father and God the Mother will continue growing and progressing until they are like God, even gods themselves. 

If this is the ultimate goal, why would God do everything for us? 

Young children are taught through a process called "scaffolding." In this process, caregivers support the child in all that they cannot do, while allowing the child to do all that they can. When the child grows and can do more, the caregiver supports less and allows the child to use and develop new strengths. 

This, I believe, is the same principle working in this story and in our spiritual lives. God, who yearns to see us grown up and exalted into glorious beings, does not do everything for us. God does, however, do all that we cannot do. Moses could part the sea, with God's help. Just like a child can climb the money bars, with help. So God gave that help and required that Moses and the Israelites do everything in their power. 

And that is just how it works with us. There are things that we cannot do, and God will help with those. But for everything that we can do, for everything that God can give us power to do ourselves, God requires that we do ourselves. 

So no, Moses, the Lord will not fight for you. Bu the Lord will equip you with power to fight for yourself. 


Sunday, January 28, 2018

On Loving Others

"The Holy Spirit has put you in charge of these people . . . God himself thought they were worth dying for."
Acts 20:26

This week, I've been working on seeing people how God sees them. As you can imagine, this is going great!

...Not.

If you're like me (a human) you probably struggle to see people in their best light. we're quick to judge people for cutting us off in traffic, being rude in line at the grocery store, taking too long at the DMV, etc, etc, etc. All kinds of things get us irritated with the people around us.

I've started praying something simple each day: "Lord, give me Your eyes and Your heart. Give me a mind and a heart to do Your work. Show me Your heart. Let me see people how You see them."

I pray this in the morning and get in my car. I have this thought fresh in my mind when I start my day, but it doesn't take long for my mind to wander and completely forget this goal.

I find it's especially hard to see God's love in those closest to me. It's easy to look at a stranger in the car next to me at a red light and think, "Wow. God loves them so much." But when those nagging habits come out in my family members, it's easy to get frustrated and focus on that. I never seem to remember to look with God's eyes at those closest to me.

But let me share that verse again: "God himself thought they were worth dying for."

Wow. "Remember, when you see these people, God died for them. God loved them so much that God went to the ends of the earth, even to death, to show that love."

The New Testament indeed preaches a universal gospel. This library of scripture is no longer a story of a chosen people called to slaughter cities and take the survivors as slaves and concubines. Jesus preached and his earliest followers continued preaching a universal gospel - one where every single person is loved by God.

No more do we see a tribal god who knew before they were formed in the womb only his own people. Now, we see a God who created and knows and loves the whole world.  

Further, Jesus told us that every person we see is not only loved by him, but like HIM.
"Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
Matthew 25: 34-40 

Actually, he said that every person we serve IS him.

Mother Teresa famously served the poorest of the poor in India. When people asked her how she did it, she responded, "This is Jesus in his most distressing disguise."

When we feed those who are hungry, we feed Jesus. When we welcome those who are strangers among us, we welcome Jesus. When we clothe those in need of clothing, we clothe Jesus. When we visit those who are sick and in prison, we visit Jesus. When we serve those in need, we serve Jesus. When we love anyone, we're loving Jesus.

And when we turn any of these away - we reject Jesus.

Every person we see is Jesus. Every person should be treated as if they are the God of the universe.

Wow.

Started with a goal to "see others as God sees them." Then realized "everybody is Jesus."

Guess I'll have to work a little harder to overcome that road rage.




Ways to serve Jesus right where you are:


  • Make blessing backpacks for the homeless. Click here for some ideas of what to include.
  • Volunteer at your local food kitchen or homeless shelter.
  • Renew the practice of bringing a casserole to welcome new families to the neighborhood. 
  • Clean out your closet and donate gently used clothes, coats, and shoes to a local clothing agency. 
  • Visit people in hospitals or nursing homes.
  • Visit people in prison. Or, if you're worried about safety, sign up to bake cookies! Click for more information.
  • Call your representatives to tell them you want legislation that feeds the hungry, welcomes strangers, clothes the naked, cares for the sick, and treats those in prison with justice and kindness. Click here to find your representative in the House. Click here to find your Senators.
  • TITHE. Whether it's to your local congregation or to your favorite charity, reclaiming the Old Testament practice of tithing the first 10% of our income to the work of the Lord is a powerful way to affect our world for good. Check out my favorite charity here. They partner with local organizations to help Syrian refugees, hurricane victims in Texas and Puerto Rico, low-income schools, and more - and because they're run completely by volunteers, 100% of donations go to those in need.Related image

Monday, January 22, 2018

Dear Pastor, Shaming Women is not the Word of God

Dear Pastor,

I recently listened to you speak in my hometown, and while I enjoyed and was uplifted by the majority of your message, there are two comments that I need to respond to. 

I say these things not to tear down, but to build up and encourage in love and kindness.

The first comment came towards the beginning of your message, during a story about your teenage girlfriend, Charmaine. When you dated, she was “FINE.” When you came to Christ, God told you to break up with her, which, of course, was difficult. After your wedding, you saw Charmaine. You implied that Charmaine had gained weight. And you thanked God for subtracting her from your life - implying that a fat person is unattractive and not worthy of marriage. 

This comment is hurtful to everyone. Women and men receive countless messages in our society about what their body is supposed to look like. When you include messages against certain body types in the context of a sermon, you are encouraging people to reflect the image of what the world defines as beauty. I do recall you beginning your message with a call to reflect the image of God - not the image of the world. 

When you gave this message, the building was packed. The message was streamed online. It may have been recorded and posted online for later viewing. Your message reached many people. Doubtless, some of those people were women and men whom society deems overweight or unattractive. Statistically speaking, a not insignificant portion of the people who heard your message have or will experience an eating disorder in their lifetime. This comment, which implies that fat people are unattractive and unmarriageable, tore those people down. This comment perpetuates society’s standards of beauty and repeats the message of “not good enough.” It is this kind of culture that contributes to our alarmingly high rates of eating disorders. These disorders are prisons. Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of all mental illness. Your comments contribute to that. 

The church should be a place where people are uplifted. Where it doesn’t matter what you look like - you are a child of God and you are loved and that is all that matters. Women who struggle with body image or eating disorders should not have to worry about triggering messages such as the one above when they are worshipping and hearing the Word of God. That message - that fat equals bad - is NOT from God. That is NOT that Word of the Lord. Thus, you as a man of God should NOT be preaching that. 

The second comment came in the second portion of your message, in discussion of your wife’s pregnancy. Pregnancy changes your appetite, you said. When we’re pregnant with God’s dream and plan for us, we’re hungry for God, and the things that used to fill us don’t fill us anymore. A wonderful point. And one that could have been demonstrated without the following harmful comment. Your wife was hungrier during her pregnancy. When you and your wife were out to dinner during her pregnancy, you hoped the night might end with some married intimacy. She finished her plate, and what was left of yours after you finished. According to you, she scarfed down the meal, with food dribbling down her chin - “Nah, now I’m turned off,” you said. 

A woman’s hunger is unattractive to you. The mention of this comment communicates that women are accountable to you for their attractiveness, that women are to be attractive to you at all times, even when sustaining normal bodily functions. Your message communicates that in order for a woman to be attractive, she must not be human. She must not hunger. She must not eat. She must not desire. 

And what a harmful message. It is the God-given nature of humanity to hunger, to fill ourselves with food, to choose food that pleases us, to enjoy the food we eat. God made us to enjoy food. But your comment teaches that this is not the case for women. Women are not to enjoy food. Women should suppress hunger and not enjoy food. Women should ignore and suppress their humanity. 

This is a message that, frankly, contributes to female oppression. In this comment, you position yourself as the head and command that woman deny her humanity in order to please you. You command that women live not for herself, but for your pleasure. 

Now, you may argue that “that’s not what I meant.” That’s okay. I’m sure you didn’t. I’m sure these things were said as jokes, to lighten the mood. The problem with that is that these jokes are harmful. Maybe you didn’t know that or hadn’t thought about these issues. That’s okay. The point is not to worry about what we did or knew in the past, but to concern ourselves with what we do and what we know now and in the future. Maya Angelou wrote, "I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” That is my concern. That after reading this letter, you will be equipped to improve and build a better world. I come not to chastise in hatred, but to correct in love. 

These kinds of comments are hurtful, plain and simple. 

As someone who has suffered from an eating disorder, I must react to and call out messages that shame people because of their body size. 

As a woman, I must react to messages that imply women are to remain small, silent, and hungerless - that women are to be anything less than fully human. 

As a follower of Jesus Christ, I am required to call out injustice and oppression wherever I see it. Comments that shame people for their body type and women for their natural hungers are unjust and oppressive. Christ came to break every chain, and comments like yours keep people in bondage. 

Thank you for your time, Pastor. 


Sincerely,

A Jesus Feminist in Recovery 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A New Thing

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? 
I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” 
Isaiah 43:19


God is always doing new things. God has been doing some new things in my life for several years now - always taking me somewhere I didn’t expect to go.

I began this blog as a place to recount my adventures as a young Mormon woman.

Then, I left the church, and religion altogether.

Then, God started pulling me back to something more, something new, something deeper.

Recently, God set me up as a teacher to Methodist children. Much of what I read now is from a Methodist perspective. I study Methodist theology in depth, digesting it enough to simplify it so first graders can understand.

Other than that, I read books authored by Baptists, Jews, Catholics, Muslims, nondenominational Christians - and I agree with all of them. I attend Jewish shabbat services, traditional Christian masses, energetic Pentecostal worship services. I visit God when I do yoga in the forest. There is no tradition that completely satisfies me. Rather, I visit and learn from many people.

Mormonism is my spiritual home. I do not believe everything the LDS Church teaches, and I do not agree with all of its policies. But it is my home. I did not choose it; it chose me.

Nevertheless, I am no longer simply a young Mormon woman. This blog is no longer about the life and lessons of a true-believing Mormon convert.

The Mormon waters are rough. I love the Church, but it is not all that I love. I experience and learn form many teachers. I want this to be a place where I can write about all the places I find God - not just the Mormon places, and maybe even not just the Christian places.

Because of this, I have decided to relaunch as “Sacred Sprinkles.” This is a place where sprinkles are holy and heaven is found in a bowl (or cone) of ice cream. God is everywhere. Let’s not limit God. Let’s believe that God will show up wherever God sees fit. Let’s learn from God everywhere - in churches, in synagogues, in mosques, in temples. God is not confined to our temples or our churches. God is sprinkled all over this great big world.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Abundant Life: Ananias and Sapphira

A man named Ananias—his wife, Sapphira, conniving in this with him—sold a piece of land, secretly kept part of the price for himself, and then brought the rest to the apostles and made an offering of it. Peter said, “Ananias, how did Satan get you to lie to the Holy Spirit and secretly keep back part of the price of the field? Before you sold it, it was all yours, and after you sold it, the money was yours to do with as you wished. So what got into you to pull a trick like this? You didn’t lie to men but to God.” Ananias, when he heard those words, fell down dead. That put the fear of God into everyone who heard of it. The younger men went right to work and wrapped him up, then carried him out and buried him.

Not more than three hours later, his wife, knowing nothing of what had happened, came in. Peter said, “Tell me, were you given this price for your field?”

“Yes,” she said, “that price.”

Peter responded, “What’s going on here that you connived to conspire against the Spirit of the Master? The men who buried your husband are at the door, and you’re next.” No sooner were the words out of his mouth than she also fell down, dead. When the young men returned they found her body. They carried her out and buried her beside her husband.

By this time the whole church and, in fact, everyone who heard of these things had a healthy respect for God. They knew God was not to be trifled with.


Acts 5:1-10 (MSG)

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Recently, I read a book entitled Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism (authored by former Anglican Bishop John Shelby Spong). The thrust of his argument was that modern scientific inquiry and wider, less tribalistic morality was causing us to rethink how we look at the Bible. There are two options. First, we take it literally, discounting science and worshipping a God who commands slaughter of many people throughout the text - fundamentalism. Or, we revere the Bible as a work full of rich symbolism and metaphor (which is likely the way that early Christians viewed at least the gospels) that leads us to an experience of the divine - a progressive approach. 

As I read the above passage in my scripture study recently, I found myself thinking, "What the heck am I supposed to learn from this? That our God is the kind of God who will kill anyone who lies or fails to donate money to the church? Wow." It struck me that this was against the God of forgiveness and grace found in other parts of the New Testament and preached by many Christian churches today. Where is grace? Where is the forgiveness brought about by Jesus? Shouldn't these new Christians, of all people, have an understand of the radical grace given by their God? Or is grace a lie? Is this God a killer, or one who came "that you might have life, and have it abundantly"? 

This morning, I read a passage in John. Here, Jesus said, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work" (John 4:34). Wow. His food is doing God's work. Jesus is saying that he gets nourishment and sustenance from doing God's work, from serving others. Doing God's work, for Jesus, wasn't something draining or energy-consuming, but life-giving

And, we are children of God just as much as Jesus. And our faith calls us to live Christlike lives. What if that means that we, too, are to find nourishment and sustenance in doing God's work? Doing God's work will fill us up and give us life abundant. Wow. 

Then, this evening, I was listening to a talk by a local preacher. On a tangent, he mentioned this story in Acts 5. He didn't really teach on it, just acknowledge it's existence. A sidenote to a passage I'd just been reading and questioning. 

And then I realized. Something spoke to my soul, and said - "This story isn't about actual death. It's not about Ananias and Sapphira literally falling to the ground, physically dead. Think metaphorically." So I thought. 

Then - boom. They died not a physical death, but a spiritual death. The story isn't about God smiting people for lying or not sharing. This story is about where we get our food. Ananias and Sapphira weren't contributing to building up the Kingdom like they should have. In their case, it was a financial lapse. Since they didn't contribute the way they could and the way God had asked of them, a part of them died. They lost some of the abundant life, because they were not walking in the way lined by the Light of the World. They died spiritually. 

The lesson for us, is that when we fail to contribute to the Kingdom of God in the ways that God has asked, in the ways that we are capable of, part of us dies. We walk away from God. That's death. The story isn't about God killing people, but about us failing to look at God. Ananias and Sapphira didn't believe that serving God would be all the food, all the nourishment, all the sustenance they needed. Either they were anxious about material needs, or they thought that worldly riches would satisfy the hunger in their hearts. Wrong. Only life with God can fill us up all the way. When we walk with God, we're fed. Inside and out. Our God is the Great Provider.

May we trust the Abundant Giver. May we look to this Holy Source to supply all our needs. May we be free of anxiety, knowing where our food comes from. May we follow Light and live to the fullest.