Archive for April, 2009

I have been concerned about some youth camps and their influence on churches through youth ministries in churches.  One such organization is Youth Front.  At one point the web site actually had prayer “exercises” called the “Sacred Gateway.”  This can still be found via google cache on the Youthfront web site.  Here is a link to the Sacred Gateway page itself: http://www.sacredgateway.org/

Despite taking this off their site, Youthfront clearly is teaching breathing exercises and prayer along with the “silence.”  Youthfront lists Youth Specialties on one page as a partner. 

It’s one thing for Youthfront to be a camp kids can attend, but it’s more than that.  It has history (used to be Circle C and L bar C).  I may have attended Circle C as I can remember it from somewhere, and did go to a few church camps as a kid.  These camps not only are a stop for kids in the summer, but there is training for youth ministers and also overseas missions.  Churches are filled with staff and connections to Youth Front, and it helps push spiritual formation/emergent themes into churches. 

 reveal-devo-packetweb1 is just a sample of what high school students are asked to do at Youthfront. (still learning how to do this, so click the link here, then click the icon on page you are taken to…)


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Today, my church got together (and some others) and we sang for the woman who is dying of cancer.  She’s off treatments, so she’s actually temporarily feeling better…but she’ll eventually have the cancer take over or her ruined bowels (from the treatments) will give out…or an infection will win.  She has been given 2-8 weeks to live.  We sang several very tradtional old hymns such as “It is Well,” “How Great Thou Art,” “My Jesus I Love Thee,” “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow” and many more.  We recorded this for her as she cannot come to church anymore for worship.  The time was a worship set, and it was to honor God.  She doesn’t want us to sing to her, but to God so she can have that exerience of being with the body in worship.  I so hope it blesses her in these days.  My littlest decided she was going to fuss and fidget, so we went in the hallway for part of the time (no one would have wanted to hear a toddler crying MAAAAMAAAA in between several songs), but I was able to sneak back in for a bit longer.  We then were able to leave her a message on tape, so she could be encouraged.  If there was more to do, I would do it.  We have provided meals for the husband and daughters each week, and helped the family move things from a storage shed.  Still, we cannot take away their pain, cannot make mom live longer.  In light of that, singing and recording it for her was a way to make the most of the time that is left.  I really like how this church loves this little family and has served in their time of need.  This is the body….

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We have realized many people in the church we now attend used to go to our former church.  One such family attended when some of my little ones were in Awana at the former church.  L was the Cubbies game time leader, and he always made it fun for my children.  J was the song leader (I don’t remember if she was in Cubbies, but she did it with older kids).  J also helped with children’s choirs and likely in other areas.  Both are serious about their faith in Christ and about raising their children in a Christian environment.  They left a few years ago.  I have since learned some of the issues for them involved their children.  They wanted a sound Biblical foundation and it just wasn’t quite there at the former church.  You have to actually go to a church with a good Biblical teaching sometimes to see the difference, and they say they have.  J is not only a servant to children in the church, she also is a public school teacher.  The children adore her, she’s a wonderful teacher.  

 J has leukemia.  It’s been a battle, and L says J hasn’t been able to attend church since Mother’s Day last year.  She’s had ups and downs, and the doctors have fought for her.  The family has gone out of it’s way to also not expose her to germs, sometimes not visiting her for fear of making her ill.  They have taken every precaution possible.  Now J is loosing her battle and has been given a few weeks to a few months to live.  Her body is fighting with host cells, and it’s caused damage to her bowels.  They stopped treatment, and of course the cancer cells are showing in tests.  The doctors are now at “we cannot do anything but keep her comfortable.”

The family has been visiting J and spending all the time with her they can.  So far she is actually feeling a bit better given that treatments have stopped, but this will not be for long and better is relative to how terrible she felt before.  The prayer L passed on is for the girls, that they will not weaken in their faith in the Lord because of this.  I have no doubt actually that they will be okay, but it’s his prayer.  I also pray for the family that they will have great times in the last weeks ahead.  If God would provide a miracle, wonderful!  We can pray for that.  However, if He decides to go ahead and allow J to die, I pray for her family and their adjustment to seperation from such a great mother and Christian woman.

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Because these are promoted by my former church, I am suspicious of Perspectives classes.  I have no firsthand knowledge of these classes.  A friend of mine is taking them, and has mentioned a point or two made in them.  She has said it’s opened her eyes to the way Christians have reached cultures.  Usually, they have gone in and asked the culture to change rather than being like Paul and changing to fit the culture.  I guess I’d have to wonder if this is actually what Paul did.  She talked of how Christians go in and might expect people to dress a certain way or worship in a certain way that is not part of their culture.   Maybe it’s just a cultural thing rather than a Christian thing.  I personally think there is a point to this in that American or European Chrisitans can go in and become missionaries without actually serving the people they are in mission with.  I really would have to wonder what exactly is the best thing for missionaries to do.  It’s good to get to know people, share the faith and talk with them.  Translation of the Bible is very important also.  Still, I’m careful of comments suggesting Christians are bad in this way or that way.  Yes, we have sinned, we have done things the wrong way at times.  However, ancestor bashing is beginning to frustrate me and is often a sign of the agenda to deny our heritage outright.  Rethink, revise, rewrite, cut down the past…etc.

Another point my friend brought up is that many groups that have torn apart the moral laws in America have a plan (like on the abortion issue or marriage).  They had a plan 15 years ago, and now their implemented plan is taking shape.  Christians should have a plan and a vision, according to what she’s being taught in Perspectives.  I’m not sure where they get this in the Bible.  Should we be doing something  just because the enemy does?  I mean, really, shouldn’t our 15 year plan be to study the scriptures, Love the Lord with all our hearts, souls, and minds and love our neighbor as ourselves, and go and make disciples?  That sounds like plenty to me.

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Sometimes I feel so uneducated in all things biblical.  I have read the Bible, been through different Bible studies, taken a course called “Understanding the Bible” which was taught in a secular institution but it was good in that it forced us to look at the harmony of the four gospels and more.  I come from a background where I attended the church of the family I was with or ended up at a nearby congregation with a grandparent, step grandparent, on a bus, or walking by myself.  I have attended services in Nazarene (the first I can recall from ages 5-10) and then a Methodist by myself for over a year.  I went to Disciples of Christ Christian and Presbyterian for a two year time period (and my Bible on promoti0n Sunday is from the Presbyterian church).  I also attended a Christian church in middle school alone (with friends but not my parents).  Also from 7th grade through high school I attended a Lutheran church with my step-mom and father when they did go once or twice a month.  In high school I was in a Youth For Christ group that met every other week.  In college I went to a Free Methodist church with my Navigator friends.  I attended Navigators for four years regularly.  I switched to a Disciples of Christ church when I started “courting” with my husband and we were there for a few years.  We moved out to the west coast and ended up in a “non denominational” church which used materials such as “homebuilders” for small groups.  I think I first came across the “Willow Creek” materials there.  We lived there for three years, and then moved to the midwest and began attending a “Bible church” here.  I recalled the kids from the Bible church in my home town (well, from 7th grade onward) and they were always the ones that never danced and didn’t go to movies in high school.  They were “serious” in their faith in my estimation.  This Bible church was more lax on these rules than I recalled, but then again, so was the Nazarene church by this time. 

Throughout my years, I read my Bible off and on.  I would often read a passage, write a summary in a journal, wrote a few prayers for others in the journal (just basically a list of who I was praying for and their concerns…not a “journal” as some get into in some contemplative circles).  I studied also, and bought a Strongs concordance.  I used notes in the Bible frequently when growing up.  I also eventually got a Greek/NIV/NASB interlinear New Testament which I love.  I grew up reading out of RSV, King James, and NIV.  I memorized some scriptures when I was younger but never enough.  No one really pushed me to do this, and so I recall working on the the 23rd Psalm on my own.  I kept my faith throughout, but certainly have always known I am not perfect.  I was terrible about cussing in high school, and also had issues with a long term dating relationship I should never have begun.  I recall thinking I should just stay friends but let myself get sucked in.  Thank God I was able to keep my virginity and my clothes on, but we did cross lines of intimacy I would not have had I not been with this man in a dating relationship.  Besides, he claimed to be a Christian and went to church and Navigators with me but didn’t really have a changed life.  Three years of trying to work out something that was wrong, what a waste of time! 

So, my growth as a Christian has been slow, and has been pretty much hit and miss.  I did learn a lot about cults in college as I ran across them frequently and even dealt with them as a resident assistant in the dorms.  Later, as a new mom, it seemed Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons would come to my door within the first six months of the birth of a new baby.  I spent over a year challenging a Jehovah’s Witness (she was in her 60’s) and then several months talking with some Mormon women.  I scared away a few sets of Mormon men too.  I also read “The Dangers of the Rainbow” in college which opened my eyes to a lot about the New Age movement.

I write all of this to share my past experiences, and it is sure varied.  There were some overlapping trends.  The Disciples of Christ, Presbyterian, Methodist, and Lutheran all had creeds.  If I recall right, they all recited the Lord’s prayer in service.   I recall there to always be an order to service.  There’d be music hymns, announcements, sermon, reciting of prayers and creed, standing, sitting, and a benediction.  The Nazarene church always had an altar call after an emotional sermon and set of songs.  People could “get saved” week after week (from my recollection as a child).  Some churches had communion often…some weekly and others on a schedule of some sort.  I recall the Lutheran church had an order of sermons and schedule for everything plus all the repeating after the pastor.  

I learned very little about church history in my life.  I never heard of Spurgeon, Calvin, and others.  I did not know how all these different denominations formed except that Luther caused a split off from the Catholic church.  I knew that some denominations didn’t like Catholic beliefs but didn’t know why exactly.  I really never learned TULIP and only really only began exploring predestination in college during spirited discussions with other young Christians. 

This is getting a little long and so I will cut for now.  I think I’ll write questions I have been pondering…

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With all the homeschooling families out there, and considering the state of indoctrination in public schools these days, I’m beginning to wonder if there is a viable way for some reformed conservative types to start private schools?  Probably, there are some out there already.  I believe private school tuition would be prohibitive for us (we have MANY children).  We homeschool and use virtual public school at home.  So far we have a lot of control of the public school part of things, but I suspect this gap of control will be closing whether little by little or drastically I cannot say. 

The “Da.y of S-ile.nce” sponsored by the g&b&l&t& whatever group really bothers me.  Below is a part of what this day is about:

  • Adopt and implement a comprehensive anti-bu.lly.ing policy that enumerates categories such as race, gender, ethnicity, religion, s.e.xu-al orientation and g-e.n.der exp.res-sion/i.de-ntity.
  • Provide staff trainings to enable school staff to identify and address anti- name-calling, bullying and harassment effectively and in a timely manner.
  • Support student efforts to address {anti-g&l&b&t} bu.lly-ing and har-as–sm.ent on campus, such as the formation of a G…a-y-Str–ai..ght {group that allies together}.
  • Institute age-appropriate, factually accurate and inclusive curricula to help students understand and respect difference within the school community and society as a whole.
  • I do not think name calling is right no matter what.  However, what would constitute bullying?  Would expressing a dissenting opinion be bullying?  Would teasing a boy who dresses like a girl be bullying?   When training occurs in schools that is against the what the Bible teaches, what are Christian children to do?  I feel very strongly that we must stand up for our children and the right of Christian parents to teach that these behavior choices are wrong.  Would schools be supportive of Christians having a day to remember with tape on their mouths or face paint or whatever protesting all this special training?

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    I come to Thee
    a wretched case
    lost in the mire
    of my disgrace
    for all my shame
    I hide my face
    I’m unworthy
    Friend of sinners
    be my friend
    and comfort me
    I’m unworthy
    Hope of the hopeless
    be my hope
    and rescue me…
    by Christianlady

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    Today I saw a woman from our former church.  Last time I saw her we were about to leave the former church but did not share this information with her and her husband.  We were not openly plunking reasons out in the lobby of the church on that last day to everyone we saw though it was tempting and we wanted to so badly.  Well, our kids are both taking some standardized tests, so we had a little time to chat.  We both just talked about our children and lives.  She was about to leave (of course there were many mothers in this area too, some may or may not be going to our former church…you never know) but said to me, “where are you going to church?’  I told her, and she realized some others who went to our former church had made their way to this particular church.  She then commented that it sure seemed like a lot of people have left my former church (can I just say I leap a little inside when I hear this, but then recall that people leave for good reasons and bad reasons and for no reason at all).  She talked about how many reasons seemed like conflicts with individuals or specific personal issues.  She opened it up.  I did share a bit, that we really had been asked NOT to share why we left.  I did also say that it was the teaching that we struggled with.  I then backed up saying many elders and one pastor were great to us (which is true) but I was trying to soften the issues.  I then said that each family has to decide for themselves.  Also true, but again it’s a way to give her comfort for attending a church that needs a lot of redirection to get back on focus to Christ.  I hate when I lay it out there, and then don’t really do what I should which is stick 100% to what I said.  I do want to be careful, but sometimes I get asked why I left and out pops some right to the point statement that I can tell shocks.  Then I begin to soften it.    Uncomfortable.  I didn’t expect her actually to ask, so I really wasn’t prepared.

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    I am so glad

    Someday we will no longer think about the errors, the problems in the church and the terrible tarnish of sin everyone carries around in this world.  Someday we will only know a sinless life, and we will no longer have the gulf that keeps us from God and eternal life.  We who believe and are saved will eternally be with God.  To see the scars, the glory of Christ, wow.  To know that I will no longer offend my Lord, imagine that!  To know that death is dead, and to know we will no longer be fighting the battles of the flesh and won’t be divided in our hearts and minds, that will be wonderful (and this language cannot really describe how that will be).  We won’t have to worry about whether someone is teaching incorrectly or not, whether we’re being lied to.  We won’t have a burden for lost souls any longer (I am not sure how this will be, all those we loved in this life who weren’t born again…).  Someday…

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    I once wrote my pastors and asked not only who they were reading but who they would recommend.  There were many who did recommend Dallas Willard.  Apprising Ministry linked to this page.  It further confirms my squeamish feelings for this man’s influence in the church.  I must admit, when I began my research on this man (I came across him after researching Steve Smith who spoke at our church…he mentioned Willard as a big influence on him), I thought that discipline sounded good.  It was like a weight loss plan that I wanted to buy into.  If I would only be more disciplined, I could be a better Christian.  Time passed, I read more, and it just sounded too good to be true (and it was).  I couldn’t pin it all down, but I began to realize Dallas Willard’s thinking was not quite right on.  I do not believe I really had some magic insight, just that my pastors were preaching unbibilically, and Willard was their influence.  As I read more, I did finally learn Willard was part of the Spiritual Formation crowd (and he’s a leader).   Read the link and just think on scripture and what is taught about Christ.  He’s the narrow gate, no one comes to the Father except through Him. 


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