Chapter 4 + 5 – The Wilderness

I am finally home in Oakland. It’s weird to call Oakland home, but it does feel like home. My friends and life and church and Target and coffee shops and support groups are here. I love Oakland and I love my life, but goodness time is slipping away quickly. Over the Thanksgiving break I was looking over my calendar for the upcoming year and I will be leaving wonderful Oakland sooner than I think I am ready for. I am still seeking God in what he wants to have me do, but if any pattern has risen from the last few years of my life it’s that I like to flip my world upside down every year or so. God created me this way I suppose. I have recently begun to wonder how I can use this gift of easily being replanted to serve His kingdom.

When I was younger I would occasionally help in our families garden, I remember one job was to split onions. At some point during the life cycle of an onion you can split it off and turn it into two plants. Sometime I feel as if I am an onion, continually being split to give life to another plant. I have been involved in 5 churches in the past 5 years and each one has added and taken something away from my faith. I have been split by each experience, but continued to grow afterwards. 
These many church experiences were all careening around in my head while reading the last few chapters of Out of Sorts, my understanding of both the Bible and the Church (capital C church) have changed and been reshaped and split in the past 5 years, and will continue to split and grow as I proceed in my journey with God. 
So, without any more intro or ramblings, here are my responses to chapter 4 + 5 of Out of Sorts.
Chapter 4 

What basic expectations do you have about the Bible? What were you taught to believe about the words of the Bible?

The Bible was lauded as the literally word of God breathed scripture sent straight to us from God through his chosen saints. I grew up being taught that there were no mistakes in the Bible and if I found mistakes or contradictions it was due to my own misunderstanding. That is a huge part of the Southern Baptist Covention belief system. This is how they discibe scripture and how my mother church believed

“The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.” * 

Are there stories in the Old Testament you find yourself wanting to skip?

YES! Like why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart and cause the people, both Israelites and Hebrew SO MUCH PAIN. The story of Job always annoying hard to read. How does that guy do it? I generally don’t find the Old Testament as hard to read as I find it boring to read. There are so great stories, even great hidden stories that we aren’t taught in Sunday School, but generally I am much more into the New Testament.  

How might those stories be reinterpreted through the lens of the New Testament Jesus?

When I look at Old Testament stories thought the lens of Jesus it’s something akin to putting on 3D glasses after straining to watch a movie without them. As a modern Christian Jesus is the crucial 3D glasses we have to have to understand the full picture of God, the God we first meet in the OT. I understand a little more clearly the God of the OT when I understand his entire personality. I am still parsing together my thoughts on this, I still wonder if, like Sarah wrote, God was born again between the Old and the New Testament? How could one God be so different and still at the heart of his character be love? What Sarah said about this is starting to better shape my understanding of God:

“God isn’t a different God than He was in the OT; its just that Jesus gave us a new perspective, the true perspective, on God. And in stark relief, the Bible shows us this very truth.  Jesus came to show us the true God: God in the world and in our lives and in our relationships with one another. If we want to know what God is like, we can look to Jesus. And if we want to read the Bible well, we need to start with Jesus and remain in Jesus, and we need to let Jesus explain it. The Bible doesn’t trump Jesus; Jesus interprets the Bible”

Have you been given or taken on a life verse? What is that verse? How has it’s meaning changed for you over the years?

My life verse for years, many years, since I was a freshman in high school, has been Psalm 37:4: “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires.” It has ebbed and flowed in my heart, but it still holds a special place in my heart. When I was younger I was sure that this verse meant if I just called myself a Christian and did good things, then good things from God will follow. The more I proceed in my journey with Christ the more I understand that for this verse to be fulfilled in my life I must align my life, and my wants needs desires dreams and hopes with God’s will for my life.

These days two others verses I cling to are this, Psalm 20:4 “May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.” This verse has the same meaning and tone as Psalm 37, but I chose to interpret is as meaning that God will give me the desires that he wants me to desire. He will place wants needs desires dreams and hopes that he has for me deep in my heart.

The other is the oft quoted verse from the story of Esther, Esther 4:1 to be exact: “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

Because I move so often this verse has kept me company many times when I find myself questioning why the heck am I here God???

What do you love about the Bible and why? The psalms, the promises, the picture of Jesus? Take a minute to share if you can. 

What I love most about the Bible is it’s power to drawn us all together around the same narrative, to introduce us to the same stories of Jesus. I love the variety, the discover process, how it changes each time you read it like magic.  This is what I wrote in the margin after finishing chapter 4. It’s a good insight into my thoughts regarding the scripture now.

“We receive God’s spirit and the heart of Him through scripture — which is the story of how Jesus saves the world through his radical love.”

Chapter 5

Can you relate to Sarah’s journey through the churches of her past? What has your journey looked like, and where are you now?

My church journey was not so drastic as Sarah’s. I railed against God and Jesus and church and all that establishment, preferring science and Budda, to faith and mercy. Sarah was away from church for 6 years. I stayed away from church for a total of 18 months, maybe?

I went to college August 2009 and by January 2011 was plugged back into a church. I had been miserable in college so far, I had struggled making friends, I didn’t enjoy where I was at, and very so scrambled about my future. It was actually at the advice of a non-Christian cousin that I stepped back into church. I was bemoaning to him how lonesome college was for me.

“Have you joined any clubs, yet? That’s where people make friends in college! Remember how fun church was when we were little, and how many friends you made? Clubs in college serve the same purpose.”

So I thought about that, and I thought “well, why don’t I go back to church?”

Winter 2010 I went to a church unlike any I had been to before — you can read about my entire reemersion experience here.

Today I am a “local church gal” as Christine Caine would say. I love the church (lower case c) and I appreciate the Church (capital C) for it’s foundation and far reach into the world. Real change starts small though, and so I firmly believe in the work of churches around the world. You don’t need lights and a big flashy band to worship God, but maybe that works best for you crowd. Maybe you prefer low-key small gatherings. Find what works for your community and then seek out God to see the next steps for your gang.

How would you describe your “mother church?” Do you feel a need or desire to remain loyal to that church?

My mother church church and I have issues. Lots of them. They lean far right and I lean far left. For years I hated returning to my small town Southern Baptist because I thought they were so closed minded! I was always so frustrated by what they taught and believed and how they understood God. How their God and my God seemed so different. Now I know they were and are different, because like Sarah wrote about with the Bible and how we interpret it thought our beliefs, the church is the same. Church doctrines and laws, rules, etc stem from humans seeking to put God into their own game rules. Sure, most are true and righteous ideas that come from God and from the Holy Spirit, but many times they are people making God play by human rules.

These days I love visiting my families church, sure I would change a million things if they would let me, but it works for them. It’s the small c church for Glen Rose, Texas and they truly are seeking God’s heart for them in their community. I am happy to have come from that place, I love the emphasis on missions and evangelism it created in me. I am thankful for the focus on the Bible and God’s promised fulfilled and proclaimed in scripture.

Are there specific issues with the church that you struggle to reconcile? Share one of those issues, if you’d like. 

I go through periods of annoyance with big huge mega churches, then sometimes I love them and appreciate how they are moving and working in their cities. This is something I am still wrestling with, but for now I will just say: I love when anyone comes to having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and if that happens inside the walls of a mega church — I rejoice! I will praise God whenever anyone comes to salvation, regardless of location or the pastors salary. 

Can you approach your church questions, doubts, or frustrations as a pilgrim on a journey through the wilderness to a place of healing you can’t yet see? What would that approach look like? 

I think I have been a sojourner for many years in church/Church, because I’ve had the opportunity to be apart of so many communities I scavenged bits and pieces I love about certain churches and added them to my “Church portfolio.” I have been healed and hurt and frustrated and overjoyed by many, if not all the churches I have been apart of in the past few years. That is apart of being in a community. Iron sharpens Iron and that means getting whacked by iron sometimes. Being in an intentional community of believers is so important, but it’s not always the comfiest place to be. It’s one of the safest, but not the comfiest. I can see vaguely how God is healing me thought this process, but thankfully he isn’t done with me yet.

I want to close with this today, this passage from Out of Sorts had me weeping on the airplane yesterday, I hope it touches your heart as much as it did mine!


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