Reading for Feelings

I’m taking a college class at the moment about inductive Bible study.  Today my professor asked us some questions about a passage we had been studying, Psalm 1.  One of those questions was about how does the passage make us feel as we read it.  We somewhat decided we’d studied it a bit too much, so it was harder to think about feelings instead of just meanings and such.  But when I was really focusing on feelings, I realized it really just made me feel sad and regretful.

Psalm 1:2 – “but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.”  This verse makes me sad, because I don’t feel delight in reading the Bible.  I don’t even do it most days, unless someone asks me to for some reason, like this class, or in church or small group or for homework.  Whenever I do it’s because I’m told, or because it’s work I must do.  I don’t feel delight when I do read either.  Even if I do it of my own free will.  So the passage makes me feel sad and regretful.  And I would say I don’t know how to fix it, but I suppose I do.  All that is needed is to read.  To choose and to follow.

The real issue is to desire.  To have delight in it.  Even if I choose to do it, I can’t just choose to enjoy it, or to desire it.  But I guess that’s how reliance on God works.  If I can’t turn my ambivalence into desire, then I have to be willing to let him.  And really, isn’t that one of the important pieces I’m having trouble with anyhow?  Allowing God.  Giving up my control for what is better.

Another discussion we had today was about the Holy Spirit.  We discussed how each of us had been taught about the Holy Spirit at our churches growing up.  And some of our current opinions now.  I thought the question would start with discussion of the basics, but because the first response went straight into a discussion of charismatic direction, with speaking in tongues and prophesy stories.  Interesting topic to be sure, and one I’m really inexperience with.  I think of the Holy Spirit as more of a claim of ownership and special guide within us when we become a Christian.  Helps us to make right choices if we listen, and can guide our speech in witnessing.  But I don’t normally think of things as dramatic as the Holy Spirit literally taking over my voice and me not even knowing what I’m saying.  Or speaking in a non-language, or speaking about things I shouldn’t know and being right.  They are something I’ve not experienced, so I feel unsure about them.  I think that’s okay.

Also had a conversation with several friends about interdenominational versus non-denominational.  Hard words to define.  Can a single church be interdenominational?


New Churches, Reinvented Thoughts

Today I visited a church with a friend.  I just pulled this churches website off a list of area churches, looked around their website, and decided to visit.  I’m glad my friend was willing to go with me.  I don’t like to do new things alone.  Which is one of my greatest weaknesses.  It makes me nervous to do new things that require meeting new people, or involve new experiences I don’t know how to plan for.  I like to plan things.  People can’t be planned.  And you can’t know everything about the best way to prepare for some new trip or experience.  I like to know what is going to happen and know how I can prepare to feel the most comfortable.  I’m somewhat obsessive about such things actually.

The visit went really well.  The people were extremely welcoming, which helps me a lot to feel more comfortable and less awkward.  It happened to be a day with a pitch-in meal after the service, and my friend and I decided to stay for it so we could get to know people more.  One of the main focuses of the service was prayer and how we need to do it more in our lives, and how listening is also a part of prayer.  Good reminder, not sure how well I will carry it out.

One really helpful thing during this visit was talking with the pastor at the end of the lunch.  He came by to introduce himself since he thought we were new faces (always a good thing to see in a church, that the pastor knows who is visiting versus the regulars).  We asked him a few questions and learned about the history of the church and how sermon topics are chosen.  I approve of what he described, and what he explained about the reasons behind the church activities.  They don’t do things because it’s how churches work, but because there is a good reason behind it.  And if there isn’t a good reason, they won’t do it just to “look like a normal church.”

He also explained some of his personal background in how he came to start this church.  One of the things he talked about was how he became a Christian and felt called as a pastor while still in middle school.  But he didn’t do anything about it for years.  Some days I feel like that.  That I know what I should be doing with my life but am simply pretending I don’t.  Some days, I just have no idea.  I don’t know if I’m just hopefully thinking I feel a call towards it, so I can know what I’m doing, so I can feel like I’ve heard God speak in my life.  I’m trained in Psychology, I immediately tend to analyze myself and everything I do or think or say.

I know this.  I have a strong desire to have a family and raise my kids in a certain way.  I read about different methods of raising kids and how to teach them and how to guide them and be trusted by them instead of resented.  I think part of it is that I want to do better than I feel about my own childhood, but also I just want to do it.  I want to fast forward to the point where I have my own family.  Everything feels like it’d be more straightforward then.  There is so much to know, and I’m sure it will scare me when I get there.  But I still feel like there are so many resources out there, and it’s a positive thing to want.  I understand the concept of having a family and how the positive family looks.

I don’t understand how to live on my own.  I mean, I do, but I also don’t.  Right now, I have a roommate and that affects everything, because we are both home so much and actually share a room, so we don’t really have individual personal space as much.  Even now, I write this on one couch as she sits on the other.  She’s so much quieter than me.  And she doesn’t share her life thoughts very much.  Or she doesn’t think that far ahead as much?  I don’t know exactly.  I know she’s thought about the future and what she wants to do, but I feel like she doesn’t focus on it much.  I think about it every day.  I want to talk about it, to discuss life topics and thoughts with others.  I want to talk to someone, all the time.  Just talk about society and God and everything under the sun.

Perhaps I’ve just gone full circle.  The sermon was about prayer, and whenever I think to myself about how I wish I had someone to talk to about these things, I think that I should talk to God.  But to me, he doesn’t talk back.  So it isn’t a discussion.  Not how I understand it.  I feel like I shouldn’t feel that way, but I don’t know how to move on from that thought.  How to hear.  I know how to listen, I can listen.  But I don’t know how to hear?  Not from God.  And that’s another thought I’ve had before on calling.  I want to answer questions.  Online there are so many places that people ask questions about God, or even just questions that can be answered with God.  Or even just cries for help.  I want to provide that discussion for others.  It’s not the direction my current job goes, or the direction I’ve thought about going most recently.  Not exactly.  I do have a fascination with the idea though.

Relationship Building… With God

I’m at the age where a lot of my friends are in relationships, some serious, some still pretty new.  It hurts to be alone.  I am not unhappy, not at present, with my life and how things are moving.  But I don’t know if I’m really that happy either.  But I’m scared to actually try to push forward and put myself into a position where I will meet new people, people that could be potential companions.  Because I need to rely on God.  I need to be right in that side of my life, before I go out to meet people who I want to be ready for.  I need to get ready, and be ready, and be strong, before I meet that person.  I don’t want to meet someone the way I am now.  Mostly.  I’m worried that it would be the wrong time to meet them, I wouldn’t be ready, and so I wouldn’t want them to know the only partially put together version of me.  I’m alright, but I’m not.  I’m not doing what I need to.  I’ve fallen back into some of my old habits that are unhelpful and unproductive.

God before all else.  Isn’t that how it is supposed to be?  But that is so hard.  It’s hard to put my focus on that, and I’m back to fighting it now.  I’m trying to make myself happy with reading, with chocolate, with insignificant things.  And it’s taking its toll on me.  I’m nowhere near where I was when I started this blog, not feeling so completely lost and helpless.  But I’m falling into my own personal addictions again.  I like reading, going off into someone else’s world.  But sometimes, a lot of the time perhaps, it’s bad for me.  It’s an escape, and I don’t need to be escaping so much now.  I read a 600,000 word (equivalent to about six novels?) fanfic this weekend, over the course of three days.  That’s too much, too fast, and to the exclusion of a lot of things I should be doing.  I also hung out with three close friends for a nine hour period one evening in there.  And I was so giddy from the extraversion overflow the next day.

I need God.  And I need to put that into time and effort.  I need to think about it, and wrestle with it, and read the Bible and prayer.  I need to build that first.  I need to be strongly in place with that.  I’m also concerned some of this feeling has become a “I’m not good enough” self-confidence issue.  And it probably is.  But working on my Christian identity should help that.  So I’ll stick with this plan, even if it may not make sense to everyone, and even if it’s hard.  Someday, I’ll need to move on regardless.  Move on, to a new place, with new things to learn, a new focus, and someplace where I can grow from more difficult situations.  Situations that stress my new-social situation shy extraversion.

I want a relationship.  It hurts to see those around me progress, as I feel stuck in the mud.  Physical touch is most definitely one of my love languages, and I miss the simple things, like hugs.  I don’t get enough of those in my daily life, and that hurts.  I just don’t want a relationship too soon.  Somewhat because the last one ended up being wrong, and not quite right, and I wasn’t quite right going into or coming out of it.

To end on an encouraging song that just played on Pandora.

Friendship That Lasts Forever

“As much as he liked occasionally seeing his old friends he didn’t feel entirely comfortable with them anymore, probably never would. They were just acquaintances now, and any prolonged encounter got strained.” – Fanfic Changes in a Time of War

This is exactly how I feel when I visit my best friends from high school.  Too much has changed, at least for me, and I think for them too.  We are still friends, and we can continue as friends as long as we all put effort into it.  But it actually takes some effort to continue.  We all live in different places, and mostly, we don’t talk much between visits.  Some interaction on Facebook, the occasional phone call.  But nothing substantial.  We are missing the easy camaraderie, on some level.  We aren’t wholly awkward together, we can still have fun, do things together, be amused, be supportive.  But it’s a strange separated version of life as friends.

Gender Differences in the Eyes of God

As a Psychology major, I have always found myself interested in differences between the genders and peoples perspectives on them.  In the Christian world, the topic of what women can do is as bit a deal as it has been in the secular world before.  Are there specific rules for how a woman should behave versus a man?  Is there a status difference?  Can women lead?  Does a woman have to listen to her husband in a different way than he should listen to her?  Does he have more authority over her?

I have always felt uncomfortable with the idea that the proper family was where a man worked outside the home, and the woman did the housework and raised the children, and the woman was to listen to the man in all things.  This felt uncomfortable to me because it never felt like my father was the one with the authority in my home growing up, like he was head of household.  My mother did keep the house for the majority of my life when I was living at home, and my dad worked out of the home.  But, my mother planned our family excursions, what we did together as a family, if we should play a game together some night, go to a movie another night, what shows we should watch, if we should do a devotional as a family at Christmas, if we were allowed to spend the night at a friends, when we should go visiting family.  All these decisions were for my mother.  When we went shopping, what we ate.  Everything in my life seemed a decision of my mother.  She organized our chores, when we should clean the house and who should do what.  She told dad when he needed to fix some thing in the house, help her paint a room, if one of us kids should be mowing the lawn sometimes.  If there was some other task he needed to do.

Don’t get me wrong, my dad would have opinions, he would have spoken up if he disagreed with something that was being done if he felt strongly about it.  I have no idea what discussions they might have had behind closed doors, if dad had more input in the things my mother would tell me or my sister to do than I ever thought he did.  My dad tended to be more in charge of the bills and such I think, but mom at least did some recording of her receipts and such.  Dad was the key bread-winner of the house, but he actually worked at home from an office in the lower level of the house.

I’m a strong-willed individual.  I like my independence.  I sometimes worry that I’m somehow intimidating to the guys I know, but I’ve no idea if that’s true or not.  Probably not, just my own insecurities talking.  I want to have a matched passionate person with me in my life.  Someone who will stand up for themselves and have that kind of independence too.  I don’t want someone who lets me make all the decisions and refuses to make any of their own.  Of course, I want them to trust me in my decisions, but I want someone who can challenge me in my beliefs and attitudes and behaviors.

Most recently, I had the chance to hear from Rachel Held Evans on the subject of women speaking.  When she was relating some of the opposition she gets when she goes to speak in a church, it surprises me to hear how much people are against her speaking and her views.  Now, I don’t know everything about what she believes.  I’m sure there are things I would disagree with somewhere in the things she’s said or written.  I’m only a few chapters into her book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, so I don’t know a ton about her opinions.  From hearing her speak, I know she is a thoughtful and insightful person who has a good heart and wants to remind people of how to follow God and experience Him and share Him with others.

I grew up in a church of the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination.  Thinking about it today, I was pretty sure they don’t ordain women and won’t allow women to the highest positions of authority.  I looked it up, and discovered that my memory of my experiences and training there as a child are correct.  Women are not allowed to be elders, pastors, or President/Vice President/District leaders within the denomination.  Women are allowed to teach, just not as the main face in front of the church.  I find this an odd concept, that they are allowed to be missionaries who are thus the primary teacher for converts in another place, they are allowed to be primary teachers of children.  They are however, not allowed to be the primary instructor of the entire group of the church.  Oh, but they can teach an adult Sunday School class.  What is the difference between those things?  How is being the teacher, and mother, and caregiver, and friend of many people in the church that much different from allowing a woman to teach the whole church as a congregation and lead them together on the path of Christ?

And that my mother, as strong-willed as she is, and as educated in the Christian faith, and as many people she guided through growth as a small child in the faith, could possibly agree with this denomination that disallows women from preaching in front of the church and acting as their highest leaders… I don’t understand.  She worked for the denomination, there is no question that she agrees with this edict.  She wrote curriculum for teaching children about God.  Now I’m not saying I think she’d necessarily make a good pastor.  I don’t think she’s open-minded enough to necessarily perform that task as needed in this culture.  Rachel Held Evans also spoke on that topic, about millennials and their desire for truth and inclusion and to find Jesus in church.  My mother is not good at the lack of judgement of people who are different than her.  I’ve inherited issues with judgement, but I judge differently to some extent.  I think I’m better at not agreeing with some of the popular lifestyle choices in this culture, but not showing disdain for them to the exclusion of any love of one’s neighbor.

Rachel Held Evans spoke about how encouraging it is to think of how many women are mentioned in the Bible with leadership positions, and in the company of Jesus.  Jesus applauds Mary for learning at his feet, a woman learning from a rabbi’s feet as if she were a close disciple in a society where such a thing wasn’t done.  Martha tries to pull Mary away to proper duties of hostessing, but Mary is desirous of knowledge and time with Jesus.  And he doesn’t think that’s wrong.

This topic does bother me.  But I know that in the end, it doesn’t matter what you believe in these details.  These details won’t keep us from heaven.  If people chose to believe women shouldn’t preach, then alright, that’s fine.  They are following their beliefs and it is not (hopefully) destructive for us to disagree on such things.  We need to remember to care for those who have differing beliefs, regardless of what they are.

(Of course, there is a level where some differences of belief get dangerous and hard to adopt that attitude about.  But perhaps that’s a continual topic for beyond this particular day.)