Saturday, April 7, 2012

Food and family - an example of daily christian failure

Well, I have officially realized, once again, the depth of my ignorance.

Something I have felt pretty passionate about (and still do), is eating good food, that comes from good stores and hopefully, grown locally. I like fresh, and not processed, and try to support small business when I can. When Tyler and I lived in the city, we tried to make as much of our own food as possible, buy from local growers, and support our local economy. Why? Well, read any of Michael Pollans books, or just do the research yourself. More than just being healthy, we felt like this was one way we could exercise our christian values. We have friends who we wish so much to be like- they try to minimize waste by buying as much as they can in bulk, eat good delicious organic food, hardly buy meat... the life man.

 But, now that we live in Chisago with Tylers parents, we no longer buy our groceries (which is awesome). But Tyler's parents, who don't exactly like the work of making everything from scratch, don't have the same buying habits as us. We have been complaining non-stop for a few months now. What's there to complain about? We don't buy our own food...thats a pretty neat gig. Yes, thats what the obvious response to this situation is. But Tyler and I have surely found ways to complain.. "the food isn't 'healthy', it's frozen, it's packaged in more plastic than there is food, it's processed, it's not organic, it's bought at (insert store name here) and they don't have moral practices, it's not locally grown.."blah blah blah.

While these may be good things to be mindful about... they are missing a big point.

Tyler and I eat like kings. Kings!! We have more food than we know what to do with, at our fingertips, anytime we open our pantry or fridge. In the famous words of Britta from Community, "There are kids starving in Uganda for goodness sakes". Who am I to complain that the food I don't buy for myself, isn't good enough? Can I afford to buy better food? Not right now. When I can, will I? Yes. Until then, should I complain about the abundance of food I do have?

Sadly, it has taken me 9 months to realize this. I wonder what else I am being an idiot about. Sometimes I get my values mixed up. Being grateful for what I am given, and loving my family, should come before the 'quality' of my food (which I don't buy...) Duh.

Yep, still working on getting there Jesus.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

I am the Problem

Reading Blue Like Jazz, and loving it. On page 20 Donald Miller reminds me of something so obvious, I almost forget it every day. It brings me so much healing to remember. The world is a messed up place, but it's because it's filled wih messed up humans - like me. I cannot change the world, unless I first change myself. Like Gandhi once said "Be the change you wish to see". So simple. But I am really, the only thing I can change.

"I started wondering whether we could actually change the world. I mean, of course we could-we could change our buying habbits, elect socially conscious representatives and that sort of thing, but I honestly don't believe we will be solving the greater human conflict with our efforts. The problem is not a certain type of legislation or even a certain politician; the problem is the same that it has always been.
I am the problem.
I think every conscious person, every person who is awake to the functioning principles within his reality, has a moment where he stops blaming the problems in this world on group think, on humanity and authority, and starts fo face himself. I hate this more than anything. This is the hardest principle within Christian spirituality for me to deal with. The problem is not out there; the problem is the need beast of a thing that lives in my chest." (Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz, Pg. 20)

Yes, indeed. It is within ourselves we must first look to change the world. This is why I think Christ taught so much on having the right heart. All of the 'rules and regulations' of organized religion, I think, are intended to help grow the right heart, but they get in the way a lot too.

It's also what's at the core of the meaning of having a 'fallen state', of the 'fall of man', of 'original sin'. You see, we are each responsible for the horrible things in this world. We are all called to deny the way within us that tells us to be selfish and hoarding, and instead to choose to be selfless and loving. But it takes work, because there is a beast within us, the "ego'' or 'original sin' or 'devil', that tempts us. We must learn to be good, teach each other and love each other. That is how God intended it to be. We have to work to make it so. Live like Christ. I really believe if everyone lived with Christs heart, lived the way he taught us to live, the world would be blissful. It would be perfect. It would be how God intended it to be. So I am a christian. I want to live like Christ, try to live with his heart.

I am the problem. Christ, in me, is the solution.

Organized religion and the devil

I know so many people turned away from christ because of religion it makes my heart sink. I know so many christians far from christ because of religion it makes my heart sick. I once wrote in my journal

"I wonder if organized religion is the devils way of tricking us into distracting us from God. As if to keep our minds busy about the rules and regulations, things to divide us, so we aren't just living like Christ and loving others and God, things to unite us."

I am reading Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. In it he writes"
"I believe the greatest trick of the devil is not to get us into some sort of evil but rather to have us wasting time. This is why the devil tries so hard to get Christians to be religious. If he can sink a man's mind into habit, he will prevent his heart from engaging God." (Miller, Donald. Blue Like Jazz,  Nashville Tennesse, Thomas Nelson Inc., 2003. Pg 13)

Interesting. Apparently, I am not alone.

"Forget the church, follow Jesus"

I've been reading a lot lately. Lots of Christian books. My latest reads include
Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra and That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis
The Hole In Our Gospel by Richard Sterns
The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an ordinary radical by Shane Claiborne.

I have been really encouraged by these books. They are great books that I think get at the heart of a lot of what I think it really means to be a christian and live like Jesus. They are convicting as anything and make me want to sell my possessions and live on the streets. Seriously, I had thoughts of raising money to buy a house to start a ministry in the poorest neighborhoods of St. Paul or Minneapolis. I almost emailed my pastor to ask for the money, it was radical. I still really want to do this, but I will wait until the time is right. But these stories, these books, have reminded me how hard it is to truly be christian. How scared I am to really follow Jesus. But I think something is changing. I even read a recent artilce in Newsweek, the cover story actually, titled "Forget the Church, Follow Jesus", by Andrew Sullivan You can read it by clicking here. Yes, indeed people are waking up. I am not alone in claiming back Christianity in the name of Jesus, not the 'church'.

But what about the church? Can I say something obvious? The church is not a building. It is the individuals who follow Jesus. I love this quote,

"Christ has no hands on earth but yours,
no heart but yours, no feet but yours. 
Yours are the eyes through which Christ's compassion for the world is to look out,
the feet for which he is to go about doing good"

So don't be too quick to forget about the Church, your body is the Church. You can decide not to go to church (little c, the building church), but the real Church (capitol C), is you, it's me. It's our bodies, our hands, our feet, our eyes, by which Christ continues to live, if we choose to let him live through us. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

He or She? Why is God 'Male'?

Update, 5/6/2012:

Recently I have done more reading and more praying on this issue, and I have come to a new understanding; God is both male and female. Because God created all things in His image, including gender, God is both male and female, as both genders are images of God.  Furthermore, because male is no greater than female, and female is no greater than male, God is equally male and female. I believe in  English, the Christian God is referred to as male because the Old Testament Jews viewed Him as their King, and so addressed Him as 'Male'. The below theories are still entertaining. Interesting how so much thought can go into something, and yet you can still change your mind. I will continue to call God He, because He is my Father. I have not completely reconciled this. Guidance and ideas are much welcome.

Published 4/3/2012::

Recently, I began thinking more seriously about why god is 'He' rather than 'She', and if it really matters. Indeed, in my very first post I originally wrote He/She everywhere I called God He. My husband quickly sat me down to talk to me, to tell me that God indeed refers to himself as He, therefore he is not a she but a he. OK, I was intimidated and believed that God is "He", but I was not entirely convinced on his logic. Faith I told myself, have faith. SO I quickly changed all my posts to 'He' and erased any evidence of the S/He's, so as not to be embarrassed in front of all of my loyal die-hard christian  readers (there are so many..) and of course, my husband. Then I prayed for understanding.

Now I am convinced, God is 'He'. The following are some of my realizations.  Warning, it gets philosophical. My reasoning may not be sound, but it has convinced me.

In a nutshell, I believe God is 'He' because

1. The bible says so, he is Father.
2. Gender is different than sex, I do not believe God has a sex, but I do believe his gender traits are male, not female, thus he is He. (I will address the creation aspect, the "mother nature'' nature of God as I talk about this).
3. Out of male, came female. The rib of Adam can be metaphorically seen as the X Chromosome (this kind of has to do with point 2, and is by far the most philosophical part of my discussion as well as the biggest stretch).

1. The bible says so, he is Father.

So first, God is male because the Bible says so. He describes himself as male and tells us to call him Abba, Father. Fathers are male, so God is male. Simple enough.

Unfortunately, I am not always convinced by things in this way (a huge shortcoming of my faith by the way), so I also looked to some other arguments.

2. Gender is different than sex, I do not believe God has a sex, but I do believe his gender traits are male, not female, thus he is He.

I do not believe God is male by sex, but by gender. I believe sex is most likely designed for reproduction, and God has no need for sex because he creates simply by speaking. So I don't think god is male in that he has male genitalia. But, I do think he is male by gender. What do I mean? Well, I recently read Perelandra, by C.S. Lewis, in this book he explains gender as follows;

"Our ancestors did not make mountains masculine because they projected male characteristics onto them. The process is the reverse. Gender is a reality, a more fundamental reality, than sex. Sex is, in fact, merely the adaptation to organic life of a fundamental polarity which divides all created beings. Female sex is simply one of the things that have female gender; there are many others. Masculine and feminine meet us on planes of reality where male and female would simply be meaningless. Masculine is not attenuated male, nor feminine attenuated female. On the contrary, the male and female of organic creatures are rather faint and blurred reflections of masculine and feminine." <C.S. Lewis, Perelandra, (New York: MacMillan 1965),  200.>.

In this explanation, the male and female sex characteristics are an expression or "reflection" of male and female gender. Socrates explained similar phenomenon in his theory of forms, which I won't go into here. Gender is greater than sex, it’s the traits of male-ness or female-ness.

In my understanding, one of the most  female traits include nourishing. Two traits that are male include providing and protecting. WOAH woah wait a minute, gender role bias!! Yes, yes but I am not saying men or women need to act masculine or feminine, just that these are traits of the gender which surpass sex. Don't get the two confused.

Why are mountains male? They protect. Why is the earth female? It nourishes.

God provides (both creation and the mechanisms for creation to continue) and protects his creation. His creation (mother nature) nourishes that which he provides for.  Male protects, female nourishes. I will continue below.

3. Out of male, came female. The rib of Adam can be metaphorically seen as the X Chromosome

I started thinking about sex, the fun kind, how the male provides the sperm, which then connects to the egg and then life begins. A woman does not create life. The woman nourishes the life created in her womb until it is birthed into a newborn baby. It is the uniting of male and female, with the miracle of God's breath, that creates life. After birth, a woman continues to nourish the life by breast-feeding. This process, I believe, is one of the ultimate expressions of gender. The male provides the catalyst for life, the female nourishes it. In the same way, God created the world. He was the catalyst for life, the provider. Mother nature (the earth which God created) is what nourishes the life, by the will of God. Since god (male) created life and mother nature, male must have come before female, or out of male must have come female. Can this be argued? I think so.

It’s kind of like the chicken or the egg question. But, the Bible teaches that out of Adam, came Eve. God took one of Adam’s ribs, and with his breath created Eve. Then my brain got all biological on me, could science, indeed evolution even, support this? I think so.

Warning, this is purely theoretical and mostly metaphorical, and way way over simplified. But think about male and female sex, represented in genetics as two X chromosomes (XX female), or an X and a Y chromosome (XY male). Female gametes (egg) are always (in normal conditions) filled with one X chromosome, male gametes (sperm) can contain one X or one Y chromosome. The combination of the female X with either an  X sperm or Y sperm, determines the sex of the offspring (XX female, XY male). This is why males are 'credited' with 'determining' the sex of babies (obviously they don't choose the sex consciously though).  So which came first, male or female? 

I started thinking that maybe the X chromosome was the metaphorical equivilant of Adams rib. I think because male has X and Y, it had to come first. It’s as if an X from XY was permanently ‘donated’ to create female. You see, you can get X from male (XY), but you cannot get Y from female (XY), female XX has no Y. So, therefore, XY had to come first, because otherwise there is no other way to get Y. If XX came first, XY would not be possible, but XX is possible from XY. I know this is confusing, and a big stretch. But think about it. Where did Y come from if female existed first? ((NOTE::In no way am I suggesting that a male X and another male X would create a woman, this is preposterous. Obviously, much more than just an x and a y chromosome is needed to truly create life. Indeed, God need not only the rib, but also to provide the breath and design of woman. He took the rib (or maybe the X chromosome) from Adam (male) and 'breathed' life into it to create female.)))

Yes, God took the 'rib' of Adam (male), breathed life into it and created Eve (female). Maybe the rib is the X chromosome. Maybe god took the X chromosome from male, Adam, and breathed life into it to create female (XX) Eve.

In this way, I see some vague glimmer of some possible theory (albeit very overly-simplified in it’s current form) of a biological explanation of the gender of God. I think that it shows that it’s possible to get the female sex from male ‘parts’ (XY), but not male parts from ‘female parts’ (XX). If sex is a reflection of gender, then the mechanism of female sex being derived from the male sex migh represent a possibility for female gender to be an extension of male gender. If female is more likely to be derived from male, rather than male from female, if female came out of male, and if everything came from God, then I think it follows that God is more male, or rather male-ness is more like God in that it existed first.

However, this doesn’t mean that men are more God-like than women, that would be getting sex mixed up with gender. They are simply reflections of one another, and this is simply a fool’s theory. But maybe the rib is symbolic of the X chromosome. Man, created in God’s image, is therefore a reflection of God, just like sex is a reflection of gender. It could be possible that something like this exists or did exist. Indeed, think of how God provides and protects the Hebrews in the Old Testament. Think of how God is provider, Abba Father, and how his creation, an extension of himself – mother earth – nourishes the life that God provides for and protects.  Like a biological father, God gives life and protects His children, and Mother Nature nourishes the life – providing the conditions and nutrients to Gods children, much like a pregnant and nursing mother does for her own offspring. Indeed, a mother does not ‘create’ life, God creates life. A mother simply provides a safe environment (a womb) and nutrition for the life to grow.  A father provides the seed, which starts life growing. He then is responsible for protecting that life as it grows. Much like God. Mother earth would have no life to provide for, if Father God did not breathe life, and design the mechanisms for life to continue. They are all extensions of himself, designed by Him, for life. Much like Eve was created out of Adam, so was the world and universe created out of God. Think of Adam as the human representation of the epitome of male-ness, and eve of female-ness. Indeed, they are two separate creations, but from the same origin. Something like Yin-Yang, from Yin comes Yang, from Yang comes Yin. Two separate, but both one. Female from Male, different but both female and male are Adam, both are created by God. If the rib of Adam was used to create Eve, if the X chromosome was used to create female, everything female then must have ultimately have it's origin in Male, and Male it's origin in God; the same way Eve has her origin in Adam, and Adam in God. Mother nature and the entire universe, can be thought of as the 'Eve' of God. 

Food for thought.

"I like your Jesus. I don't like your Christians. Your christians are so unlike your Jesus."


I couldn't have said it better myself. I love Jesus, I want to live like him, to follow after him. For the longest time I resented christianity and christians, because they are so un-like Christ. I wouldn't call myself a christian for years because of this discrepancy. But now, I've re-claimed my Christianity. I will no longer let others who claim to be Christian, define for me what a christian is, or what christians believe.
I don't believe the same thing a lot of christians today believe, especially here in the great US of A. But I have learned there are others out there who see things the way I see them. They give me hope.

So, what is a christian? To me, a christian is someone who tries to live like Jesus, follow in his example  and live the way he taught people to live.

How did Jesus live? In poverty, serving others and loving others, regardless of who they were or what they had done. He was homeless, giving, loving and non-judgmental.

I think consumerism is counter-christian.
I think it is wrong to go to war, Christ taught non-violence.
I think it's wrong to have more than you need, of anything, when others have none or not enough. Christianity teaches this.
I think it's wrong to be attached to material goods, whatever they are. Jesus taught this.
I think it is wrong to be wasteful. Christianity teaches this.
I think it is wrong to be judgmental, especially to tell others they are sinful. Christianity teaches to love, and not to judge or condemn.
I think the most important way to share your faith is not through preaching and condemnation, but by living by example. Christ taught this.
I believe there are evil forces out there, trying to get us to turn away from what God wants for us, pushing us to be self-serving, selfish and hoarders. These forces are both in and around us, and it is against these forces we are to fight, to be loving, selfless and giving  of all things, to all people. I believe most suffering comes from these forces, or us following these instead of God.
I believe all people are equal, even the 'bad' ones.
I believe in the power of forgiveness.
I don't believe Christ chooses you, you choose Him. There are no 'special' chosen ones, we are all children of God.

Yes, I believe these things. The bible, teaches these, Christ teaches these. The more I read the bible, the more I see how much I fail, and realize I can't blame 'the christians' because it's really, really really hard  to be a christian. I fail. I fail miserably.

I hoard. I judge. I hold grudges. I am attached. I am selfish and greedy. I don't forgive. I am wasteful. the list of failures goes on.

But I am working on improving. Every day is a struggle. To love others, to see them as equal, or even better than me, to give without expectation of receiving, to consume less, to live simply so others can simply live. To live by example rather than preaching. Not to boast. Not to consume things that have the price of human blood on them. To treat others fairly.

To be honest, I am now ashamed to call myself a christian because I so badly fail. But I keep the name because I believe in living like Christ. I must keep trying. Christ knows I will fail every day, but He forgives me. To me, this says that we should never give up trying, especially not because we fail. We must keep working on it.

In this world, I think the real followers of Christ, the real Christians, the ones who actually do what Christ told us to do, are on the streets. They are probably living in poverty. They are definitely helping those who need it most. They are fighting along side them, they are serving others. They are on the battlefront of injustice, telling people who feel forgotten that they are not, that they are loved. They are reliant on God for everything, from food to shelter to safety. They are warriors. They do not spend money lightly or needlessly. They do not own expensive things for they know their money can be, should be, spent on the needs of others not their own luxuries. They consume only what they need and rely on their community. They are peaceful. The take in and love everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, race, gender, ability and health. They love God above and before all else.

I one day hope to be that kind of Christian. Today I fail, but I am working on it.