Last year I was sitting at a friend’s funeral listening to what the Brother had to say about him. He was talking about how on your grave stone there will two dates with a dash between them. He said it wasn't the dates that would matter, rather than the dash between them. This makes sense of course, but I had never heard someone say it in a way I could relate to it like that. You see all the posters throughout your life telling you to make each day count, to live your life to the fullest, to be the best you can be everyday. Now you can be inundated with little uplifting pictures on facebook, pinterest and twitter. But do you ever think about for more than the 3 seconds it sits on your iphone screen? It was sitting in this funeral I had such a moment of clarity. I have been to many funerals, of older relatives, of friends, of my best friend. My granny often tells me that I have had to experience more than my share of funerals at the age of 24. But his one particular statement hit me so hard I think about it everyday. How are you going to be remembered? What do you want people to think about you? And the big you HOW ARE YOU GOING TO LIVE YOUR DASH?
He said it wasn't the dates that would
matter, rather than the dash between them.
Such a big question, but really every day that you wake up you are living your dash. You are adding another day between the day you were born and the day you will die. I am reading a book and one of the very first sentences is "Everyone on earth is the same, we all want to be happy and eventually we will all die." This is such a blunt statement, so simplistic and true. We all want to be happy, I don't know of anyone who wakes up in the morning and puts their feet on the ground and hopes for a bad day. On the flip side how often does what people will think of you after you die cross your mind?
One of my best friends died when I was 17, being 24 sometimes I have to sit really quietly and think hard about his tone of voice or what he sounded like. While it is heart breaking, I can still remember our stories and our friendship clearly. He lived his dash is such a way that he will always be remembered as a kind, loving, great human being. I doubt though that he woke up everyday of his short 18 year old life wondering what I would think of him after he was gone. His dash was so lively and full that the fact that his dates of life and death were so close makes it almost a little easier. Your dash is your life. What legacy do you want to leave?
My granny is one of the smartest people I know and she has these little sayings that I have learnt to live by. I moved out when I was 18, and I started to dream about what kind of house I would have and how neat it would be. I would go on these crazy cleaning rampages, even if someone was just coming over for coffee. I never wanted anyone to come into my home and see anything out of place. It was important to me.
Over coffee one day my granny said the same thing that it was also so important for her to have her house in tip top shape, and how now looking back it didn't really mean as much. I mean, a friend will love you whether your carpet is vacuumed or not right? Then I thought, as far as my 'dash" went, would I want to be remembered as the lady with the clean house that occasionally had people over, or did I want to be the woman with an open door for friends and loved ones?
Regardless on if I had laundry in the hamper or hadn't been able to dust. It is important to me that my friends and family know I love them and there isn't really a situation in my life where they are not the most important thing. That is my dash. My heart.
Your dash is your life. What
legacy do you want to leave?
"Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring". Proverbs 27:1
When someone passes away and they broadcast it in the news they usually say the name, the job that person had and their latest achievement. I feel like when you go to a funeral of someone you know, someone who isn’t' necessarily famous, it is about how that person lived their whole life. The family they had, the cool things they did, how big their heart was, what they did to affect the lives around them.
Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. James 4: 14
Every day you are living your life you are contributing to your dash, one day you will look back and see your life play back like story, the perfect story of your time of Earth, your dash.
Reginald Rivett over at Christian Thought Sandbox posted a great blog today titled, "Can this be redeemed too?" In the blog, Reggie aptly draws an analogy about the evolution and acceptance of Rock n' Roll music in the church. There was a time when the church had hostility towards the genre of Rock n' Roll. There were many that declared it, "the devils music". There was a change with people like Larry Norman who asked, "Why should the devil have all the good music?" Reggie believes that it's people like Mr. Norman that paved the way for the church to not only have a less hostile attitude towards different genre's; but to redeem it as its own.
I couldn't agree more. I think church music as a whole has improved with additions of many different musical genres. I must confess to a personal bias: I love rock n roll. A majority of the music in my iTunes library is rock or is in some way related to rock n roll. I also confess to spending considerable time playing electric guitar each week at church!
Reggie then asks a critical question for which he named his blog post: "Can yoga be redeemed?" It's a great question that deserves some reflection. If rock n' roll can 'get saved', can we say the same about Yoga? This is the question that I am going to spend the remainder of this blog pondering about.
This is definitely a heated issue for some in the church today. It's an issue that I have no personal investment in, as I have never done Yoga myself, but I do have friends and family that have participated in "Christian Yoga." I have had a few conversations over the years regarding this issue with those who oppose any Christian conception of Yoga.
I tend to first ask: "Is stretching and physical exercise wrong?", to which everyone has responded, "No".
The next question I ask: Is prayerful meditation wrong?" The answer that I receive is "No".
Then of course my counter question is, "Can I combine prayer and a variety exercises that include positions that are similar to Yoga?". You would think that the answer should logically be "Yes, you can", but I almost never receive that reply.
What is fascinating to me is that the underlying issues that are brought up to tell me why I am or others are prevented from prayerful meditation and stretching. The biggest objection I have come across: Yoga originates from the East as a form of worship in Buddhism and Hinduism and is therefore inherently irredeemable. Pastor Mark Driscoll summarizes this objection, "Yoga is a religious philosophy that is in direct opposition to Christianity. Thus, in its true form, yoga cannot be simply received by any Christian in good conscious."
Here is where I agree with Pastor Mark. If by Yoga, you mean blindly embrace all tenants of Hinduism, then of course that is antithetical to Christian practice. But from what I can tell those who practice "Christian Yoga" are not trying to promote an idolatrous synergism. A Christian approach to Yoga is not Yoga "in its true form". It's also likely that your common Yoga class at the community centre is likely not Yoga in "its true form". Doireann Fristoe explains,
Most Yoga currently practiced in [Western culture] only slightly resembles the original practice. In fact, most of what we call yoga in the West is not truly yoga at all—it is only asana, the physical postures, and pranayama, the breathing exercises. There are myriad schools of thought in modern yoga and to sum all of them up in a few paragraphs would do them no justice. Hinduism involves yoga; all yoga is not Hinduism. 
Can we incorporate asana and pranayama into the Christian's practices of prayer, contemplation and meditation? Here even Driscoll gives us middle ground at the end of long article denouncing Yoga, "feel free in Christian liberty to stretch however you’d like, participate in exercise, calm your nerves through breathing, and even contemplate the Scriptures in silence. But do so in a way that does not identify with yoga and non-Christian mysticism." It appears to me that the issue behind the issue is the inherent 'foreignness' of the term "yoga", which literally translates as 'yoke'. Call it "prayer & stretching" and everyone is okay with it. Call it 'Christian Yoga' or 'Holy Yoga' and there is a visceral gut reaction to the 'otherness' of the term despite the disassociation from any cultic practices and world views.
The second issue I have encountered: "Yoga's physical positions allow for the influence of the demonic." I am told that assuming the physical poses can allow demonic influence in your life. Objectors suggest that when you participate in Yoga, even Yoga that is based in Christian prayer and worship, you are unknowing worshiping demons and idols.
I am critical of the claim that a Christians can unknowingly worship a demon (idol or 'god'). It seems like a bit of stretch too me. (excuse the pun) I don't think the Apostle Paul buys this claim either as evidenced in the first letter to the Corinthians. When asked about eating meat sacrificed to idols Paul says:
"So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.” For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live." -1 Corinthians 8:4-6
Paul does not think eating meat that has been offered to an idol somehow defiles the Christian by consuming that meat. Paul believes this to be true because through Christ all things came and through Christ we live. (v6) God is Creator of the meat, not the idol god. So it appears that by thinking the meat is defiled might be giving credit where credit is not due. How is this connected to the Yoga discussion? Let me suggest that because our bodies came from God, and thereby any physical actions necessitated with having a body (i.e. eating, stretching, sitting, laying), I am in no danger of worshiping an idol. (I am of course not including actions done with the body, such as adultery or gluttony, within this category of normal human physicality.) A Christian who does a Yoga pose (like the downward facing dog) is no more in danger of worshiping an idol (demon/god) than a non-Christian is of worshiping YHWH by raising their hands upward in a yawn or of giving a gift at Christmas time.
To sum up my answer: If I can eat meat (a physical action) that is sacrificed to idols and still be faithful to Christ; cannot I not also assume a yoga position (a physical action) in prayer and worship to Jesus without worry of unknowingly worshiping an idol? To say "No" seems to suggest a frightening perspective that Christ is NOT "through whom all things came"(v6). Worse, it seems to suggest the equivalent of 'spiritual cooties'- the idea that I might catch evil through accidental encounter. "Mere possession of idols or consumption of food sacrificed to them cannot be detrimental unless one adds acts of religious devotion to the mix."  So my answer is: Yes, we can redeem Yoga, the asana: the physical postures, andpranayama: the breathing exercises, and direct our worship, prayer, and meditation to the Triune God.
BUT...(and this is important).
"Not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled."- 1 Corinthians 8:7
Paul understands that there are those who are weak in conscience. They are what Paul describes as those who are "weak in faith" in Romans 14-15. What is our reaction to those who do not agree with our assessment that Yoga can be redeemed? Paul goes on to tell us:
"Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall." 1 Corinthians 8:9-13
Paul teaches us that we need to:
1. Be careful in the exercise our freedom. (v9)
2. We should not encourage others to violate their conscience by our actions. (v10)
3. Wounding and damaging someone's weak conscience is a sin against Christ. (v12)
4. We should be prepared to deny ourselves our freedoms in order to prevent a brother or sister from falling into sin. (v13)
So does this mean that we should jettison the idea of a "Christian Yoga" in order to risk offending others? Not quite.What Paul isn't saying is to watch out against offending people. Paul is telling us not to put a stumbling block in the path of the weak in faith. The question we need to ask is: Who are the weaker brothers and sisters?
"The key issue in applying verses 7-13 involves recognizing those who truly have weak consciences. Nothing in the context justifies an association of 'weaker brothers/sisters' with those who are merely offended by a particular practice, notwithstanding the misleading translation of verse 13 in the KJV ("if meat make my brother to offend"). Even less justified is the application of theses principals to the "professional weaker brother"- the Christians legalist eager to forbid morally neutral activities even though he or she would never personally indulge in those activities. Rather, the weaker brother or sister is the Christian who is likely to imitate a stronger believer in some morally neutral practice but feel guilty about doing so or, worse still, be led into that which is inherently sinful or destructive. The strong believer's freedom thus actually has damaging consequences for the spiritual growth and maturation of the weaker sibling. Jack Kuhatschek points out that an adequate analogy to 1 Corinthians 8 must have three elements: (a) a threat to Christian freedom; (b) a potential stumbling block; and (c) a Christian brother or sister who might actually be led into sin. Application of verses 7-13 must also leave room for 10:25-30, in which Paul will stress the freedom of the "strong" more pointedly than he does here. If the strong should not hurt the weak, neither should the weak accuse the strong of sin. Romans 14:1-15:13, Paul's other major teaching passage on the topic, carefully balances these two commands. "
To wrap this up: I think it is totally possible to redeem 'yoga'- theasana and pranayama -within a Christian spirituality and worldview. I also acknowledge that this is a "meat topic" - a morally neutral issue. There are those who by their consciences could never participate with any activity, even if 'redeemed' , that associates itself with the term 'yoga'. I get that and would never think of less of someone who holds that position. It might be better, as Driscoll suggests, for Christians to ditch the word "Yoga" altogether to avoid any confusion and controversy. As with all things in Christian ethics, our approach should be grounded in love for other above ourselves. I am with the Apostle Paul when he says:
Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.- 1 Corinthians 10:32-33
The last words I will give to Bruxy Cavey:
4.Blomburg, Craig. The NIV Application Commentary: 1 Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, Location 3540 (e-version)
I grew up in a program that caused me to have friends everywhere from Vancouver to Greenfield Nova Scotia. It was the Royal Canadian Air Cadet Program. I had friends in the city from my weekly cadet nights and then friends from all over from all the weeks I would spend away at summer camp. I met some really amazing people and I feel like everyone I met I took a little piece from. They all had some cool stuff to offer me, from advice to wisdom to learning together as we grew. I had to boys in particular that I brought along with me in my life who I can still call my best friends. The one catch is we are never in the same area code for long. One of them is born and raised in Canmore, and the other in Stony Plain. Then this summer, Dustin from Stony plain left to go follow his dream and went to school in Vancouver, a much further drive from my house then Stony Plain Alberta! I thought it was a fair trade when Kyle, from Canmore told me he was going to get a place in Edmonton. I was really excited before I remembered that he still has to spend 3 weeks of the month up North at work. So to recap; one best friend in Vancouver and one in the city only spends a week here a month.
There is a point to my story. What is it you ask? I had the strangest revelation two weeks ago. Is technology helping or hindering my relationships? I am a person of the tech age, I have a Facebook, I use twitter, I have an Instagram account and I am always browsing on Pinterest. I send funny texts to all my friends and a lot of people communicate with me on a daily basis through Facebook chat. I have this weird sense that I am keeping up with people because I see statuses and pictures of new babies and neat outfits, when in reality I am not communicating with these people, I am merely spying on what little parts of their lives they want to share with the world online. I am not building on what that person and I share by liking a Facebook status.
I also realized that while I can send upwards of 100 texts a day, I almost never use my phone unless I am calling my mom or my sister to make a quick plan. I am still a little old school in the fact that I send Kyle and Dustin post cards and letters while they are away. I like buying note cards and sending things via “snail mail”. But even still, I never call. I always text. I realized how weird the world was the other day when my friend came to my house and stood on my front porch and instead of ringing the bell or knocking the door, he texted me. Of course I wasn’t holding my phone and he stood out there for a good 5 minutes before I realized he was there. Why couldn’t he feel comfortable enough to knock on my door? I have no idea. Are we that far removed from “the olden days’’ and “ how it used to be back it in the day?’’ I knew he was coming. He knew I knew he was coming, and yet there he stood. Just boggles my mind!
Two weeks ago I was in the middle of a crazy week at work splitting time between two stores and after a particularly insane day I really wanted to talk to Dustin. Instead of just calling and talking to him, I first texted him to see if I could call. As a friend for almost a decade why didn’t I just call? I still don’t know! There are message features and ignore buttons on phones for a reason. If Dustin wasn’t able to answer the phone he just would not have answered the phone!
So I texted him, and said, “Hey love! This has been a crappy day, do you have time for a call?” and he said yes. So I called, and we talked and it turns out we had both had a bad day. We talked for over an hour and we laughed so hard together. As friends you can have lots of inside jokes and you know the tone and inflection of a person’s voice. It is all lost in a text message. You never really know how to take the tone of a text, and if you know it is meant to be funny, sometimes it gets lost. Nothing is as good as hearing the laugh of a loved one. That night Dustin and I covered all the bases of a talk as if he was back home and we were out for drinks. I sat on the phone on my bed for an hour and just put all my time and attention into him. For that whole hour! I do not do that with text messages. I send texts in the middle of doing my hair, reading a book, on the bus, while talking to other friends face to face. It is never as sincere as I can be on the phone, and it is for a lot of reasons.
I was on a friendship high the whole next day. I was at another crazy day at that week of work and I had the track of inside jokes running in my head and memories of the last little vacation we had taken together playing my head all day. That one hour with Dustin on the phone in essence melted away my stress and reminded me that I am in fact a person and can laugh and joke around and that I was more than my job. I know for a fact I would not have felt that way after ten texts exchanged back and forth that night.
What I want you take away from this, (other than best friends are awesome), is that you should pick up the phone and call someone you love and tell them. Just call a friend and ask how their day is going. You will be very surprised at the reaction you get! I don’t want you to stop texting, but I do want you to start calling!
I had the privilege of meeting a dear friend for coffee this evening at a quaint coffee shop a few blocks from my house. I decided to walk there since it wasn’t far and for the first time since October I could be outside without a jacket on. I grabbed a scarf just in case it was cold later, plugged in my ear phones, cranked Mumford and Sons and began my stroll. It felt like spring. It finally felt like spring. The snow is gradually disappearing, the air is no longer cold and crisp but warm and welcoming. The sun was shining and I was basically skipping to the cafe. After my delightful two hour chat I walked my friend to her car and decided to take the long way home. It was slightly cooler than before, so I donned my lulu scarf and at a more leisurely pace, took the scenic route.
With Mumford singing my every step I began to sight see in my own neighborhood. I have lived here for just over 6 months now, yet I have never seen it this way before. So calm and peaceful yet full of life. I passed at least 4 families out for an evening stroll, kids of all ages giggling and chasing each other around trees while mom and dad walked hand in hand or arm in arm. Family… that’s what it felt like.
I drew my attention to the houses. I’ve always loved architecture and the idea that someone creates a building out of their imagination.
They plan the layout from the front door to the back door and from the basement to the ceiling. They picture the placement of the windows and the style of the door. They decide the elegance of a staircase or the simplicity of a yard. They can even get to the point where they guess at what kind of person, couple or family will occupy the building based on what they have designed. But even if two houses were built exactly the same, sat on the same sized lot, built with the same colour scheme, window treatments and garage, these houses would look and feel like two completely different houses.
Architects can plan and design and guess away when it comes to building a house but that house has never fulfilled its purpose until it has a buyer. Someone who decides that potential is there, they see beyond the paint on the walls and size of the rooms and they believe in what it can become. So they make the purchase, nay, the investment in the house. They move in and room by room begin to renovate. First it may be knocking down a wall or two, then adding paint to the walls and replacing the carpet. Changing light fixtures and picking art for the walls. Then furniture, and so on and so on. But here’s the thing, the house is never “finished”. Why? Because the owners are never “finished”. We are always changing and growing, so our homes grow and change with us. Each season we go through in our lives corresponds with our house. If there is a young family the furniture will be more durable, more child safe if you will. They won’t care about the colour on the walls because the kids will decorate them with crayons and markers, they won’t mind if the floor is scuffed or the carpet is stained. If they are empty nesters the first thing they do is purchase nice new furniture because they know the purchase won’t broken within moments of its arrival. If they are a newlywed couple most like you have a mishmash of new and old furniture because they are just starting out. People go through fads of style and colour, themes and inspiration, minimalistic and over dramatic. This could be the same person over 3o years of their life and yet it can all happen in the same house. It all depends on our season.
If only we knew how to be still… how to be in
the moment, soaking up every ounce of
pleasure that it offers.
The thing is, when we don’t recognize the season we are in, we can become distracted by the things that don’t matter. Imagine this, your house is filled with beautiful furniture like expensive suede couches, glass tables and one of a kind pieces of art… and two toddlers. You do everything in your power to ensure that your kids do not wreck your furniture. If they cannot sit nicely on the couch they do not sit on the couch, if they touch the glass table tops with their sticky fingers then they are learning to clean the table tops, if they knock over a piece of art they are no longer allowed in that room. If this all continues the kids move in the dog house… unless that was expensive too… By stressing over the furniture not only are you setting yourself up for a cardiac arrest but you are ensuring that your kids are missing out on being kids and you are missing them being kids. This analogy isn’t just for parents, what about those who don’t have kids yet? The young newlyweds who think only of their future five children but forget to enjoy this time of just being a couple? What about those empty nesters who now have to relearn what it means to be with each other after raising those five children? What if your a single woman/man who wants nothing more than the love of their life and refuses to enjoy the time they have for themselves? What if your in a season of being still yet you try and distract yourself with everything and anything else?
So what season are you in and are you actually allowing yourself to be in that season, or are you pushing towards the next season of life, like most of us are. Are you allowing yourself to enjoy all aspects of where you are in your life, are you enjoying the people God has placed in your zone, the joys and even the sorrows, the victories and the challenges. Are you able to sit, look around you and absorb all that is happening in that moment? Are you present in all of those things or are you trying to look into the future to what will be?
The thing is, when we don’t recognize the
season we are in, we can become distracted by
the things that don’t matter.
The funny thing is that we tend to go through these seasons only to look back later asking ourselves “how did that go by so fast?” or “where was I for that?”. We look so far forward that we forget that the very things we look forward to will eventually be the present… will you be in that moment or will you be looking even further to the next “I can’t wait until __________ happens”.
If only we knew how to be still… how to be in the moment, soaking up every ounce of pleasure that it offers. If only we knew how to blow out one candle at a time instead of rushing through the song to get to the cake. What if we dealt with pain when it happened instead of pushing it to the side and pretending it’s not there. When our kids are playing in the yard, what if we watched every smile, every giggle, expressed in the pure joy of throwing leaves instead of wandering what career they will choose. How about when we are hurt and broken it isn’t the pain that we focus on but the love we are surrounded with in every card, facebook message or visit we get from family and friends. Tell me, When will we start living the moments and stop assuming the future?
If every moment was a memory…
If every memory a picture …
If you invited me into your home …
What pictures would I see?
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I know I am late to the conversation, but I have been avoiding this like the plague. Even as I type away I am still uncertain if I should push publish once done. For the most part I have found myself avoiding giving any opinion on the topic publicly as I know no matter what I write, it would be unpopular with someone.
When discussing the topic of same-sex attraction and the debate on the topic of marriage, many extremists on both sides would have you unequivocally hold their position with no questions or debate or else feel the full force of their wrath. Not only is this polarized approach unrealistic, it is unhealthy.
I'm trying to figure out why taking a public stand on Noah or World Vision has become so important to so many people--myself included. I'm far from immune to such temptations, which annoys me almost as much as the incessant posturing that is currently "flooding" my Facebook feed. ...I can't help but feel that no matter what team I join, I'm in the wrong, because I shouldn't even be playing this game. Therefore, rather than take a stand, I'm going to seek to understand.
But with all the debates, arguments and hand grenades being thrown, I feel that something needs to be said--that I should add something to the conversation. But... I don't wish to add to the ongoing entrenched war that has been going on for far too long. I would like to take a whole different perspective on this conversation and maybe shine a light on something that has been lost. I hope you can hear my words with an open mind and understand the heart behind it. All I ask is that you put down your arms for just a moment and hear me out. Also, it is not my intent to offend or be disrespectful, as I hope you will see, it is quite the opposite. Well... here we go.
The thing that has been so concerning for me in everything that I have seen, heard and read is how this debate has dehumanized the conversation. With people on both sides so passionately holding their views, and with many opinions and debate circling around the question of if World Vision was right or wrong in either decision, I feel as though this whole debate has somehow become faceless.
It seems we have forgotten that real people's lives are involved in the conversation--real people are struggling, wrestling and making decisions about their opinions of Same-Sex attraction and the institution of marriage, their own same-sex attraction and the majority of this is forced to be done in secret.
When discussing the topic of same-sex attraction, both extremes would have you unequivocally hold their position with no questions or debate or else feel the full force of their wrath. Not only is this polarized approach unrealistic, it is unhealthy.
In my travels with people and my vocation as a pastor, I have met a lot of people who would not fit into either side of the debate and for the most part wouldn't be able to pick a side.
Think of the person who is in a Christian community, loves God and wishes to follow Jesus Christ, but struggles with a Same-Sex attraction and doesn't feel he can come out due to persecution and either never deals with these feelings and pushes them under the surface, which eventually manifest in self-destructive ways, or has to walk away from the community he wishes to call home, because he has no one to walk with him, or worse who choose to judge him as being less.
Or the person who is attracted to the same sex, yet due to her conviction does not act upon it, but she is faced with fitting in no where. The evangelical community sees her as untouchable while the LGTB community pressure her or worse attack her because they are unwilling to respect her personal conviction and demand she fit into their paradigm.
Or what about the person who calls them-self a Christian who is automatically seen as homophobic and hater of gays simply because he is lumped into a stereotype, or someone who struggles with what they believe on the matter while also feeling outraged with the hate that is shown towards her LGTB friends.
While we fight and argue and throw hand grenades at each other, real people, with real lives, real dreams, real struggles and real stories, are having to walk this out everyday, and what they need most is a friend, not simply an opinion.
All the stories above are real people with a real story, I know this because I know them all and so many more. And of course, these are unique stories and they don't always play out this way and don't have to be the general rule. In some cases, we see civility and open conversation--I have had many of those as well, and deeply appreciate that. But what has deeply saddened me about this whole debate is that it has been raging on for so long that in so many cases and what seems to be the overarching reality is we have forgotten that actual people are becoming the casualties to what has become a faceless war.
I doubt that this debate will be resolved anytime soon and we should wrestle this through with serious conversation, but, for goodness sake, let us not become people who diminish others in the process. Let's take the time to actually listen, learn, understand their story and journey and can I be so bold to say that we actively try to understand each other and first and foremost see our bond as humans as our foundations. One of my LGBT friends challenged me while discussing this post and it's content: "Actively find the face. Actively try to find the story." (if you are looking to better understand the LGBT perspective, check out her blog, she has some interesting things to say as she wrestles through this topic).
See, we have done a pretty poor job of how we have dealt with this topic, and I will be the first to say that we as Christians have set the negative tone in this war and something needs to change.
We need to step away from the cultural war that is going and instead actually interact and listen to people, hear their story and with wisdom walk with them. It is in the moments that we listen to understand and not listen to respond that we can truly get to the root of things. Now, I know that many who read this will be angry and disagree that I didn't take some position. You need to stand for freedom and equal rights! You need to stand for truth and traditions!
But please hear me out: whatever your opinion is about the LGBT debate, please hear my plea. While we fight and argue and throw hand grenades at each other, real people, with real lives, real dreams, real struggles and real stories, are having to walk this out everyday. This is someones daughter, sister, mother, father, son, brother.
So I AM COMING OUT! I AM COMING OUT for all those who feel that they can't, to be a voice for those who feel they do not have one (whatever their conviction is), who have been caught in the middle of this war and have become a casualty of it.
For the one who is struggling with your sexual identity and wrestling with what that means... I AM COMING OUT! For the one who has been hurt by those who call themselves Christians and made to feel less human... I AM COMING OUT! For the one who doesn't know what to think on the topic and is pressured to pick a side or else feel the full wrath on both sides... I AM COMING OUT! I AM COMING OUT for people, standing for human dignity, for love of one another and radical grace. I AM COMING OUT! It is only here that real conversation and healing can happen.
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by Charlotte O
“The book was better”
As much as I tried to reserve judgment on the Noah movie, it was impossible to be awake without running into some sort of opinion. After reading Cole’s thought-provoking article, I thought it was definitely something I needed to see for myself.
And after watching it, I can say that there were some things I enjoyed, notably the portrayal of the creation narrative, the fine acting, and the special effects. And part of me wanted to like the movie just to prove that I’m not one of those “judgey” Christians. But to be honest, I walked out of the movie feeling simply, empty.
Something was missing. And I think that something was redemption. I think the stories of the Bible are epic and I applaud the directors of our generation for trying to bring those to a greater audience. In Taiwan especially, where people don’t grow up with a Christian culture or much background knowledge of the Bible it can open doors for great discussions. In fact, I was surprised at how many people were in the theater watching it at 5:30 on a Tuesday afternoon.
I’m so glad I have more to go on than Noah did. I’ve got Christ’s example. I’ve got the lives of millions of believers before me. And of course, I’ve got the Bible.
But back to redemption. What we need to remember is that there are two different goals at work here. Hollywood is after the big story, but even more so, the big paycheck. Its ultimate goal is to make a profit, and hopefully entertain people in the process. God, on the other hand, is in the business of redemption, and his ultimate goal is to reconcile humans to Himself. And I think it’s possible that He may even use this movie to do just that, because, well, He’s God. And even though He was largely absent from this retelling, there are a few things we can take away from it.
1. Rock monsters are weird.
Ok, maybe this is not a theological point, but can we all just agree that rock monsters are never a wise choice? It doesn’t matter if your movie is The Hobbit, Frozen, or Noah. Rock monsters are never going to make your movie better. Fire that guy.
2. Sin is a big deal.
I think more than anything else, I got a very real sense of the wickedness of the people inhabiting the earth during the time of Noah. It was a dark, violent time, and I appreciated that Noah did come to acknowledge that it is inside of all of us. Even though he was chosen by God, it did not make him perfect. I think it is accurate to say that the closer we come to God, the worse sin looks, smells, and tastes. When we see the contrast of who God is and who we were created to be with what we are, and what we have done to this earth, we should be devastated. But unlike Russell Crowe’s Noah, God never intends us to stay there. Godly sorrow leads to repentance, a turning to God. Not guilt and despair.
3. We can be convinced of God’s will. And we can be completely wrong.
That was the thought that kept running through my head as things got tense with Noah and his family. But it is true that even those who have the clearest calling and purpose from God can still make mistakes. Can still fail. Can still misinterpret what God wants them to do. But thank God there is redemption!
In the end, Noah’s choice was seen as that: his choice. But that didn’t really satisfy me. The God I know is a God who saves. A God who is involved in our lives. If I had been making the movie, I would have done something, anything to show that it was NOT God’s will for Noah to act in violence. I was just waiting for Ham’s girl to miraculously have been thrown onto the boat in the deluge (I would have done it right at the moment Emma finds out she is pregnant – Noah walks outside to see her unconscious on the deck and realizes that God’s plan is to continue the human line through their family, but hey, I’m no Aronofsky). Or for the rainbow to come out the moment the babies were born. I wanted to see God show up, but instead people were left to fight their own demons, and make their own choices. And it is true that sometimes God is silent. But is then that we need to act on what we know of Him, on what He has revealed to us. It is then that we need to refuse to give up hope. I’m so glad I have more to go on than Noah did. I’ve got Christ’s example. I’ve got the lives of millions of believers before me. And of course, I’ve got the Bible.
Noah and his family were not proof that there was enough love in us to overcome the evil, but a symbol of hope, a message that God wasn’t finished with humanity, and that even marred by sin, God would continue to preserve those stamped with his image until the time when a Son of Man would come to fulfill history.
Movies can never do justice to the living, active word of God, but I’m glad there are people using this medium to tell these stories. Accurate or not, they give us something to think about, to discuss, and to engage with others. I hope that Christians will use this as an opportunity to engage the culture instead of just getting angry at a movie that never claimed or promised to be biblically accurate.
The movie took a very dark turn, and while it was well-acted, it never really came out of the gloom, even with the appearance of the rainbow. I remember watching a cable version of the Noah story as a youth in which Noah’s wife started to go mad on the ark. In this retelling, it seems as though Noah was the one who lost it. Now I can imagine that all that time on an ark would be enough to drive anyone a little nuts (a couple weeks of rain during Taiwan’s wet winter has a similar effect on me). But it really bothered me that Noah was so intent that God’s will was for him to be an instrument to end humanity. It shows a huge lack of understanding of who God is. Even at the moment of the Fall, there was a promise offered (Genesis 3:15). And Noah would actually become part of that promise. Noah and his family were not proof that there was enough love in us to overcome the evil, but a symbol of hope, a message that God wasn’t finished with humanity, and that even marred by sin, God would continue to preserve those stamped with his image until the time when a Son of Man would come to fulfill history.
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The Noah movie has gotten some really mixed reviews since its theatre debut. Which side are you on? Are you a pro Noah movie go-er? Or are you a Christian who has struggled with the way it portrays this story.
There are two polarized opposite views on it, the first one being that this Hollywood block buster did not do the story justice. That it was a long movie about characters it was hard to like and it not stay close enough to the real story of Noah.
The other one being that this was indeed, a Hollywood blockbuster that has beautiful cinematography. It has Noah portrayed by Russel crowe who in my opinion plays a character that has depth and shows a real struggle. I have similar views as my friend and colleague on this blog, Cole. You can see his blog here.
The movie makes the topic of faith a much easier one to break into when talking to my friends who don’t come to church, about church!
While they were writing and filming this movie they had a biblical consultant named John Snowden. Even he him self has said, “It isn’t perfect but there are ten good reasons to see it.” Here are his ten reasons:
1. Noah has a relationship with God.
2. Noah acts faithfully, yet isn’t perfect.
3. Noah sees and acknowledges his own sin.
4. It keeps closer to more of the text than you might have imagined.
5. Noah speaks, and the women have names.
6. Noah focuses on his family.
7. The story depicts (and personifies) evil humanity in Genesis 6.
8. The film embraces some really good, important theology.
9. The film shows that Bible stories are back—in a big way.
10. Twenty-somethings are disengaged from faith, and this can engage them.
I really like all these points. Noah has a relationship with God. It has been called out that since Noah never names God as God, but instead the creator. This is causing some serious backlash. But, as a movie watcher, watching a movie about Noah, did you not come to the conclusion yourself that when they spoke about “The Creator” they were referencing God?
Noah acts faithfully but isn’t perfect. I think sitting in the dark and watching this man who knows what The Creator wants of him and still struggles. This leads him to struggles with his family, as well as within himself. Noah also sees and acknowledges his own sin, which seems to be a big point of debate. How do you feel about it?
Now, my favorite one! Number 10, Twenty-somethings are disengaged from faith and this can engage them. As a 24 year old girl who went to the movie with 3 other twenty-somethings, I am an example of that. While it’s true that I went with my Church’s Youth Leader Team and we are not disengaged from our faith, seeing this movie has led to many conversations about Noah with people who are not of Faith. The movie makes the topic of faith a much easier one to break into when talking to my friends who don’t come to church, about church!
I don’t think any movie will ever do your thoughts about the bible stories justice, but I will say that they will produce a well done, beautifully filmed and well cast movie that touches on some very important topics and will make you think.
As someone who has seen this movie and went into it with an open heart and mind knowing that I was watching a Hollywood blockbuster, it did not disappoint me. I feel like you need to have expectations of going in and seeing someone’s view of the story portrayed in the Bible. But that’s the same of any other “book” that has been made into a movie! I have never ever left a theatre and thought to myself “well, that movie was exactly like the book, and it was everything I had been imaging.” I have not once left a movie that had been made from a book and thought that the movie had been better. In my experience the book is always better.
My one last thought for you guys today is something a pastor from the states said. He said “ If you want to explain to your kids the story of Noah then I suggest you go home, pop some popcorn and settle in with your bible and read the story of Noah.” I don’t think any movie will ever do your thoughts about the bible stories justice, but I will say that they will produce a well done, beautifully filmed and well cast movie that touches on some very important topics and will make you think.
I suggest you go out, see it for yourselves and join the conversation!
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Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah” will go down as one of my favourite movies of all time. Now this isn’t a movie review per se, but the acting was superb, the cinematography was unbelievable, and the message … well, let’s talk about that part.
A lot of people have had a lot of opinions on this recent adaptation of the Biblical story. Maybe you’ve seen it and you liked it, or maybe you’ve seen it and you want to burn Hollywood to the ground. Maybe you’re a Christian who has relied only on other reviews to make a decision on which side to stand on, or maybe you’re not someone who would call themselves a Christian who is a little curious or confused about the whole thing. Regardless, your first priority should be to see the movie because, in my humble opinion, Mr. Crowe hits it out of the park. But, again, this isn’t a movie review.
Let me set the stage for you a little bit: Mr. Aronofsky set out to make a blockbuster based on one of the most popular stories in the Bible. First of all, I think we need to say “Kudos” to him because that’s quite a balls-y move, especially considering how upset some Christians have been over the whole World Vision debacle recently. It’s not exactly the best time to get on their bad side. (If you’re unfamiliar with what I’m referring to, you can either wait for Bold Cup of Coffee to churn out a post about it or do some “responsible” googling.)
I encourage you to watch the movie for what it is, not for what you think it should be. Think about the message and what it means in your life. I know I did, and have been, and it’s added that much more to my journey with God in this life.
Now, I assume that (some) Christians will get upset about the movie because, well, sometimes that’s just what people do. They get upset about things. Why? I’d venture to say it’s because we as humans are emotional beings that aren’t any good at living only by logic. To say we’re not influenced by emotion is like saying that pigs don’t stink: they just do.
But you started reading this because you care only about what I think about the movie, right? (Right?!) Again, it was incredible, and it has a lot to do with Russell Crowe.
Crowe did an amazing job conveying some extremely intense struggle within the character of Noah. Why do I care? Because you don’t get that feeling when you read the story in the Bible. We don’t see or hear or experience at all any hint of Noah going through any emotional turmoil while constructing the Ark, never mind when he is riding it knowing that everyone else outside of his big boat is dead. The only action from Noah we get is this:
"And Noah did this. He did everything that God had commanded him." Genesis 6:22
That’s it. Now, there’s nothing inherently evil about that, but it doesn’t give us any evidence of Noah having an issue with the fact that God is literally wiping out every human being on the planet. In an interview, Aronofsky brings up the fact that even Abraham pleaded with God to save at least a few of the righteous among the wicked before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. But we don’t get that in Noah’s story. In the movie (and without giving anything away to those who haven’t seen it) Noah honestly seems crazy while he deals with this intense command from God. Multiple times throughout the movie, Noah looks to the sky, begging God for a direct answer to rid him of this emotional and spiritual strife. But, as many today would understand, that’s not necessarily how God speaks to us. We don’t get that in the Bible story either. It seems as though God is having a face-to-face conversation with Noah. Now, I suppose I’m not one to say that they didn’t in fact converse that way because I was not there, but I am simply comparing it to how God acts today and in my own life.
I think it’s an incredibly accurate portrayal of what those people would have wrestled with before their own destruction because I know most of us have been tricked into believing at some point or another that God has abandoned us when, really, it’s us who have left God’s comforting arms.
What hit me even harder in the movie is that Aronofsky gave a voice to the people of the world who would experience the death commanded by God. The main “villain”, Tubal-cain (not in the original Bible story of the flood), the king of the seemingly unrighteous people of the world, would stop at nothing to save himself from this wrath of God. It was amazing to me to see the antagonist in a position that wouldn’t necessarily be expected of him; most of us would predict the bad guy to have no belief in God, but that’s not authentic to the culture of the day. He did believe in God, and he had these similar struggles, especially when he found out that God chose Noah to survive over himself. His words in the movie still resonate with me:
"I am a man, made in Your image. Why will you not converse with me?"
Wow. That’s definitely not in the original Bible story. And it’s an intense idea to unpack. I think it’s an incredibly accurate portrayal of what those people would have wrestled with before their own destruction because I know most of us have been tricked into believing at some point or another that God has abandoned us when, really, it’s us who have left God’s comforting arms.
In writing this, I don’t mean to give you any sort of opinion to adopt. It’s merely an encouragement to view the movie in the light that it deservesto be viewed in. I don’t mean to impart an opinion of the movie being “better” than the story because the movie is not an attempt at an exact replication of the Biblical description. No, that would be boring and only about 15 minutes long. It is an interpretation of the moral and spiritual issues that crossover into so many aspects of our own lives today. Doubt, wickedness, mercy, suffering … the list goes on. I encourage you to watch the movie for what it is, not for what you think it should be. Think about the message and what it means in your life. I know I did, and have been, and it’s added that much more to my journey with God in this life.
Of course, the movie and the story invite concern and thoughts of contention on the topic of sin as well as a wrathful God. I encourage you, the reader, to comment or message any thoughts you have. Our goal as Christians is to engage in these issues that come along on each one of our own spiritual journeys, and to support each other to come to informed decisions.
In the words of Crowe’s character, “This is the beginning! The beginning of everything!”
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by Charlotte O
This past Sunday, my local church put on a Tomb sweeping service. It’s the first our church has ever done, and the first I have ever attended. And I found it to be deeply meaningful. Growing up in a Lutheran church for a while, and being part of this generation that seems to be moving away from consumerism and entertainment-driven worship and toward liturgy and a deeper connection to past, future, and community, I found it refreshing to be a part of this service. Now for those unfamiliar with the holiday, Taiwan celebrates Tomb Sweeping Festival on April 5. It’s a day off when families traditionally visit the family plot where their ancestors are buried, and, literally, sweep or clean it up. Cemeteries in Taiwan do
not, to my knowledge, have groundskeepers or other employees. Thus it is the family’s duty to make sure grave sites are maintained. Traditionally this would be accompanied with burning incense or ghost money, making food offerings, and prayers to the ancestors for blessings.
Personally, I love the fact that this holiday often falls around Easter time, as I think it can take on special meaning for believers. When I teach about the Easter story, I may even say that on the third day the disciples went to 掃墓, or sweep/visit the tomb of Jesus, only to find that He wasn’t there.
Understandably, believers in Taiwan can face a dilemma when it come to celebrating traditional holidays with pressure from their families to honor customs that may go against the teaching of the Bible. This is the very issue my church wanted to address. How can Christians still honor their families while not participating in idol worship during Tomb sweeping and other Chinese festivals? The pastor answered that in his sermon, and I’ll summarize below, but first I want to detail the service with a few reflections.
The service started of like a typical Sunday morning with a worship set, including one song mentioning the resurrection and Amazing Grace. The scripture reading came from Psalm 116:12-16 which was read as a congregation:
“What can I offer the Lord for all he has done for me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation
and praise the Lord ’s name for saving me.
I will keep my promises to the Lord
in the presence of all his people.
The Lord cares deeply when his loved ones die.
O Lord, I am your servant; yes, I am your servant,
born into your household; you have freed me from my chains.“
After that, there was a candle-lighting ceremony where the worship leader talked about the meaning, and then the people passed the light to each other. We had received the candles in an envelope when we entered the sanctuary. Once the candles were lit, there was a responsive reading. The basic gist was remembering our ancestors and being thankful that they gave us life, and being thankful to be part of their family line. In some ways, it reminded me of Christmas Eve candlelight services, but I thought it was a really neat way to visualize, as we symbolically passed the flame to each other, the way our ancestors have passed their lives and stories onto us.
After blowing out the candles, we were instructed to fill out a memorial card, which was also included in the envelope. It had us reflect on a loved one who has passed away, writing down a memory and talking about something we learned from their legacy. Once we were finished, they had trees at the front and back of the room for people to hang their cards on.
A few were selected to be read to the congregation as an expression of thankfulness for the effect they had on us and acknowledging their contribution to our lives. That was immediately followed by a moment of silence. It was understandably an emotional time for some. I reflected that just as we hung these memories on a tree, our savior, Jesus, was also hung on a tree. In my mind, there was some symbolism of us giving our pain and loss to Him, and remembering that He also gave His life for us.
This next part is a little hard for me to explain, but imagine a communion service, but with only the cup. Instead of wine, it was ‘water’ (actually tea) in the cups, and no bread was passed out. There were no restrictions on whether or not you were baptized; everyone was invited to partake. As the cups were being passed out, the pastor explained water represents that we all come from the same source and are united as humans who are born, live, die. It also reminds us that just as we need water to live, God is our source of life, and we are all created by Him. We drank together of that cup, united in our humanity, birth, life, losses, and hope.
Then it was time for the sermon, where the pastor shared some of his own experience of growing up in a family that participated in “bai bai” or a Taoist-based form of traditional ancestor worship. People do this for many reasons, including desire for blessing, a fear of being cursed, and simply out of habit or obedience.
He noted that in many respects, this ancestor worship is done out of a heart of love for family: a wish for blessings. But for him, the question was there – my grandparents say the same thing every time - do the ancestors hear? Do they eat the food offered? What does it really mean? When he became a Christian, he faced strong opposition from his family, especially as the oldest son. It was supposed to be his responsibility to keep up the tradition. A common view here is that if you don’t participate in “bai bai” you are saying you don't care about your family, you don't acknowledge who you are, you are showing disrespect for your parents, and you will bring bad luck to your relatives. In Taiwan, people may even be disowned for converting to Christianity.
He asked the question of why our ancestors would want to curse us, if they were our own flesh and blood. He also reminded us that our ancestors were human; they don’t in fact have the power to curse OR to bless us. That power lies with God alone. He emphasized, and I think that this is SO important: Obedience and respect for your family, and for those who came before is GOOD but worshipping them is not the only way to show that!
He then tied it back to the Bible, and talked about how important genealogies were, noting that a few other options for observing tomb sweeping festival could be to read out the name list of your relatives, here and gone, or to share memories of the things we still know about them. In the end, he asked, isn’t it more meaningful to love and respect them while they're alive than to prepare a banquet in their name after they're dead?
I loved the symbolism of the service and both the ancient church-ness AND Chinese-ness of it. I think it’s important for people to honor and respect both their families and cultures when they come to know the Lord. In fact, it’s more important than ever to do it then, to show God’s love. These kinds of issues need to be approached with love and sensitivity, instead of a right/wrong or us/them polarization. I hope that this was helpful to new believers in our church who may be struggling with how to be a Christian witness in their families without making them feel rejected. Idol worship is real in Taiwan. Superstition informs behavior in the daily lives of so many. But as Christians, we know something precious. We know that death is not something to fear, because the one we follow has already overcome the grave.
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