Saturday, February 11, 2023

Some stuff I maybe should have just googled?

After having been at an Evangelical church for 35 years, it’s quite the novelty to be in a mainstream denomination again. I was raised Methodist, but for some reason, it all seems new and makes me ponder things in a different way… 

At this new church, the service is very, um, structured. Like it’s the exact same things in the exact same order every single week. Of course the songs are different, and the (20-minute!!!) sermon is different, but other than that, it goes the same every time. Maybe that’s why it’s called the “order” of worship? I’m guessing this is why I can feel the timelessness of the Christian faith while I’m at this church… completing the same rituals, over and over… 

Anyway, one of the things that’s ALWAYS a part of the agenda—and the thing that has me thinking right now—is the Lord’s Prayer. You know: 

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.

It’s how Jesus recommended we talk to God. Simply—hitting all the basics—praising God, praying for the world, asking for food, forgiveness and to be spared from sin and evil… 

It’s in the Bible twice, and if you read it in context, you get two different angles. In the Luke 11 version, the disciples ask Him to teach them to pray, and He gives them an outline of WHAT to pray for. Then he sort of says that God is waiting around to hear and answer prayer. He says, 

As bad as you are, you know how to give good things to your children. How much more, then, will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13 GNT)

Ask for bread—get CAKE!

Which is interesting… because the prayer He taught them didn’t say, “Give us the Holy Spirit”… did it? Maybe… if He gives us the Holy Spirit, we can live out the world described in the Lord’s Prayer? And voila! Prayer answered!

Or maybe… food and such are things it doesn’t hurt to ask for, but the Holy Spirit is what we NEED, and it’s an even better answer!! Like we’re asking for bread, but He knows we need—and gives us—CAKE! In Matthew, He says, 

“ concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what he requires of you, and he will provide you with all these other things.” 

I notice that asking for bread is just one line in the prayer and the rest is spiritual stuff, so maybe He's trying to give us perspective. Sure, ask for bread, but don't forget what's REALLY at stake here.

And in Matthew’s version of the prayer, it’s in the context of teaching HOW to pray—attitude-wise. Like, don’t be a show-off, don’t spew out tons of words… Be private, be short and sweet: 

“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites! They love to stand up and pray in the houses of worship and on the street corners, so that everyone will see them. I assure you, they have already been paid in full. But when you pray, go to your room, close the door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen. And your Father, who sees what you do in private, will reward you.

“When you pray, do not use a lot of meaningless words, as the pagans do, who think that their gods will hear them because their prayers are long. Do not be like them. Your Father already knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:5-9)

It’s funny that here Jesus says God already knows what we want… but in Luke, He says, ask away! Maybe He just wants to chat? To hang out with us? Maybe when we pray we acknowledge where all the things come from?

Another thing I notice here is that He tells us it’s a private matter, but the prayer itself is PLURAL! OUR Father, give US, forgive US, lead US not… So we’re supposed to pray for everyone, but … by ourselves?

I wonder why somewhere in church history someone decided that we should all say it together? Maybe it’s just a bigger version of the disciples sitting around praying together back at the beginning of the church? 

Maybe it isn’t at all like “praying loudly on the street corners” for all to see… When we do it at our church, everybody’s just being kind of humble and looking down and mumbling it. Not in a reluctant “I don’t care” way—but in a more reflective, thinking about it way. No one’s acting all hammy to call attention to themselves.

Again, I have no idea what any of this is all about or if I’ve said anything new or true. Just kicking some stuff around in my noggin. I supposed I could have googled it before I put it out there, but where’s the fun in that?

Sunday, February 5, 2023

Myself in a Nutshell

I’m baaaaack!! Believe it or not, I’m here once again to disgorge the stuff that’s cluttering my head for your reading pleasure!

Sooo… earlier in the year, my husband went to the movies without me! Not unusual, as sometimes there’s stuff only one of us will like. In this case, though, he went to see Everything, Everywhere, All at Once (hereafter referred to as EEAAO)… which I also wanted to see! Not that I’m mad or anything!! It actually kind of helped me out since I was a little bit in the doghouse since I had watched some stuff on Netflix that he wanted to watch together.

All that is to say, I finally got to see EEAAO last night. I know I could have gone at any time, but Tom’s review had been a resounding, “Meh.” So even though I know our opinions can differ greatly, and he hardly likes anything, I wasn’t in a hurry, and what with one thing and another… I just never got around to it!

If you haven’t gotten around to seeing it either, here’s a brief synopsis: Evelyn, a Chinese-American immigrant is having no end of problems—she’s being audited, her husband keeps trying to give her divorce papers, her daughter is trying to leave the nest, her dad is an a**hole… you get the picture. And then a version of her husband from an alternate universe shows up and tells her how to access the abilities (kung fu, knife skills, sign-spinning) of versions of HERself from alternate universes—and she’s got to do it to save the entire multiverse.

Crazy, right? Late in the movie, I figured out that it might be more about her relationship with her daughter, but what I mostly saw was … myself! And maybe all women? We’ve got so much going on that we need to do and care about and juggle... or hold down? Work and the home and relationships and interests and spiritual life and physical health… 

Our pastor told a story this morning about a time when his family was planning a celebration and his wife took care of everything but asked him to pick up the cake. And he did pick up the cake… but he forgot to bring it to the party! He called it a classic example of the “You had one job!” trope. What I thought while he was telling this was, “it’s never the woman who ‘had one job!’ ”

Early on in EEAAO—maybe the opening scene?—Evelyn is sitting in her super cluttered apartment with all her receipts and papers she’s gathered for the IRS audit in front of her… frustrated and overwhelmed… and it’s just… like… a visual representation for what my life feels like sometimes.

Hold that sucker down!

I remember hearing a story about a little boy who was autistic and went into a room with a carpet that had a big loud pattern on it. It was just too much for him to take in so he flattened himself out face down on the floor and fanned out his arms and legs and tried to hold that busy sucker down! Another good picture of what my life feels like!

Maybe others feel more together and capable than I do, but I often have to summon abilities and perspectives, and power from someplace outside myself. And while I do ask for and receive help from the people around me, the resources of this dimension are not enough to cover all the stuff that (I think) needs to happen. Sometimes I just gotta call on God!

I have no idea if He will help when I ask for the stuff that overwhelms me—like, “Please help me organize this closet.” Or “Please help me meet this work deadline.” But… I ask, because like Paschal and his wager*—I’d rather ask and not be helped than not ask and not get the help that might be available! And maybe asking is just makes me feel better... like that old hymn says: 

Oh, what peace we often forfeit,

Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!**

French philosopher Blaise Pascal
suggested we all bet on God.
 He also had nice hair!
And maybe God’ll answer, or… maybe He’s more concerned with my soul than my garbage closet or my work deadlines. Maybe being messy or late is what keeps me from getting a big head! Because, in the economy of God, it may actually be that the more inadequate I know myself to be, the more room there is for His help. In Evelyn’s case, she’s told that SHE specifically was chosen to save the multiverse because of her ginormous amount of unfulfilled potential. Her tendency to start projects and never finish them… to never be quite good enough at anything. If I’m going to put myself in a nutshell, that would be the one!

Our bro Paul was talking about this when he said “My [God’s] grace is sufficient for you, for My [God’s] power is perfected in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me.” (2 Cor. 12:9)

So when I’m trying to hold everything down and painfully aware of my inadequacy, it’s helpful to think about all that power… to enjoy the notion that the phrase “everything, everywhere, all at once” can also be used to describe God!

*According to Wikipedia: Pascal argues that a rational person should live as though God exists and seek to believe in God. If God does not exist, such a person will have only a finite loss (some pleasures, luxury, etc.), whereas if God does exist, he stands to receive infinite gains (as represented by eternity in Heaven) and avoid infinite losses (an eternity in Hell).

**What a friend we have in Jesus / Author: Joseph Medlicott Scriven (1855) / Tune: CONVERSE