Monday, February 25, 2008

Decline of Faith

I read an article on called "Survey: Americans switching faiths, dropping out." It was an interesting look at religion in America. We once thought we were a Christian nation, and 78% claim to be Christians, but this survey of 35,000 participants notes that "nearly half of American adults leaving the faith tradition of their upbringing to either switch allegiances or abandon religious affiliation altogether." You can read this article at the link at the right.

I have contemplated this exact issue. I have even lived this issue as I am no longer part of the faith tradition in which I was raised. Many people today have either been disappointed or hurt by 'the church.' How do we share God's love, when people have not felt that by God's people? I would encourage you to read this article and share your thoughts on your faith experience and how we can reach those who have "abandoned religious affiliation altogether."

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Why do we do what we shouldn't?

Have you ever been know the place, where you come to a realization you are on the wrong road, and yet you stubbornly and defiantly go forward in that direction - damn the consequences! You know that what lies at the end of the road isn't good for you - worse, it isn't even what you want, but rather than admit you have made a mistake and turn around, you just stubbornly keep plodding along. Don't you hate that! You end up hating yourself for your stubbornness and you hate the fact that there isn't a decent way to blame it on someone or something else, because your friends, your family, your God, has tried to lovingly and gently guide you in a better direction. But do you listen? NO! You just keep your stubborn chin up and keep on going, or if you are really good at it, you pretend you cannot hear what everyone is saying. 'What God? I can't hear you, God! Lalalalalala,' as you have your fingers firmly planted in your ears!

Why do we do this? Why does it seem to be human nature to stubbornly continue on with those things that are bad for us. Like smoking. We are educated in the dangers of cigarette smoke, we have known at least one person who has suffered some disease as a result of smoking...cancer, emphysema, heart disease, etc., and yet, year after year more people begin smoking, most of them are pretty young. I guess we feel immortal, invincible and wise when we are young. Maybe that's where we get in the bad habit of not listening to good advice, even though we do it when we are older as well.

So what do we do about it? Do we say, "well, it's human nature, nothin' can be done 'bout that. Might as well go ahead, stubbornly down the road." One thing I have found is that unless change is desired, change does not happen. Whether you come to an intelligent realization that change is needed, or you are forced to look hard at the problem and change is the only way you will survive, one must want to change in order for it to happen. No one can force it on you, even though they may try. No one can do it for you, even though you may wish they could. It must be between you and God.

So, I guess we must decide to change, and stick by our decision. Often we decide many times, but go back on our decision. We must stick by our decision for change for the better, following God's desire for our lives. We must choose it, intentionally and willingly. My prayer is that we will all make such good choices.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Observe a Holy Lent

To observe a "Holy Lent." It is one of the things we are advised to do by clergy, friends, etc. Most of us do not necessarily think of terms of "holy" or not. We might give up something for Lent; we might be more diligent in our spiritual practices during Lent. But most of us do not think about ourselves as being "holy." However, 1 Peter 2:9 says, "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light." We are to be a "chosen," "royal," "holy" people, but do we live up to these expectations? We really tend to shy away from such high expectations, instead opting for being "pretty good" or "not too bad;" "holy" sounds entirely too unattainable, and we do not want to be set up for failure.

But the God in whose image we are created is "holy," and chooses us to be God's own people. Being "holy" simply means that we are set apart. That, of course, begs the question, what are we "set apart" from, and what are we "set apart" for?

We are set apart from the world. John 3:16 tells us that God loved "the world" and provided a way that "the world" might be saved. But "the world," that conglomeration of humanity, still prefers to go its own way, rather than God's way. Individually, we may live as "a holy people," but on a whole, we tend to stray. If this were not true, then the social pressures we would face would be to live generous lives or to be in service to others rather than seeing to our own desires. The advertisements on t.v. would not include "what happens here stays here," but may have more the flair of, "the choices you make effect others." If the world no longer pulled away from God, we would be witnessing stories of how the Kingdom of God has come on earth.

Therefore, since "the world" obviously, isn't getting it, individually, we are set apart to promote that message in a world that corporately rejects it. We must live set apart lives. We must promote the Kingdom of God, live lives in service to others, and spread the message of good news and hope that Jesus came to share.

So, I would admonish you to observe a Holy Lent. Live as people set apart by your faith and relationship with the living God. Go into the world and share the good news that God so loves...

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

What Matters to You?

As we begin the season of Lent, and I am continuing to share my thoughts and struggles on the journey of faith, I would appreciate knowing what struggles you have. Do you have questions? Are you wondering how to make faith-sense of something? If so, I would appreciate hearing from you. As I write these blogs, of course, I have many in my own life to choose from. But rather than keeping a journal myself, I am sharing these things with you so it can benefit you in your journey of faith as well. To that end, if you have something you are working through and would like to know my take on it, let me know. I will blog on it, with all names but my own removed. You will not be baring your own soul on the internet, but only are supplying ideas on what is really going on in your lives so I can address these real concerns.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Rev. Sonja

Monday, February 4, 2008

Lent - Not just the stuff in your bellybutton!

Well, this Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the day we kick off Lent. Lent is that time of self-examination and reflection in which we prepare to walk the road with Jesus to Jerusalem. Often we might give up something for Lent; things like chocolate, or coffee, or meat, or chewing gum (some of the things that have been given up in my household over the years). We give up things so that when we miss these things in our lives, we remember that sacrifice made for us.

Lent is coming early this year with Easter falling on March 23. I feel like it is here before I am ready. I keep thinking thoughts like, "but, I just need a little more time and I will be ready" or "I can't do this right now, I'll think about it later." Then I think, what if Jesus thought these thoughts. What if Jesus had said, "yeah, Dad, I'll go to earth later, I'm not ready now," or if in the garden, Jesus had prayed a prayer that went more like, "no God, I don't want to do this," rather than "not my will but yours."

Lent is as good a time as any to put our will away, to put our selfishness on a shelf. The world today would tell us to take care of #1 meaning self, but those of us who claim faith know that true happiness, contentment and peace comes from putting others first. We can trust that God will take care of us, and should trials and tragedy come along, we can trust that God walks with us through them all.

Blessings to you all for a Holy Lent in which you examine, "is this my will or God's?" You ask yourself "am I living the way I know God wants for me?" And regardless of whether your answer is yes or no, may you begin down the road on the journey of faith to renewed closeness to God.