Sunday, February 04, 2007

open letter to my mother

for some reason, i find it so much easier to speak freely here. it's sort of become my dumping ground for thoughts and ideas. a place to get them out in the open and look at them and see what they look like in the light instead of just rumbling around inside and taking shape alone in the darkness. anyway...

i heard you say that ben's such a special guy. that you're really proud of the person he's become. but that you just wished that he knew god. and i wanted to say something, but i didn't. i held back. for the obvious reason that such comments as these have garnered heated debate, as of late, instead of heartfelt discussion. i should trust you more, and i didn't, and i'm sorry.

i think ben already knows god. he just doesn't know it. and that's not necessarily a bad thing right now. if you know the definition of "holy" then you know that it means "set apart" rather than the modern doctrinal concept of purity. you know ben, being the person he is, and the choices he has made from his heart. the choices that have lead him to be the person he is today among the people he finds himself among. i would wager that there is not a single person in his common daily life who doesn't acknowledge that he is truly set apart. set apart from the rest of humanity. different. odd. an alien. a stranger. yet the every guy. the guy you love and get love from. the guy who'll take you where you're at and love you no matter what. and that, in my own personal understandings of what the scriptures are trying to lead us to as an everyday lifestyle, is the way the people of god are supposed to be. at heart. and then asking on that day, "when? when did i love you? when did i go out of my way to help you, lord? i didn't know it was you?"

and we already know what his response is going to be...

and whether someday in this life, or not until the veil is removed and he sees it then, he will know who it is in his heart that he's been following this whole time and he will be glad.

and so will you.

and then the two of you can share a dance of joy together on the dance floor at the big party that's being planned for all of us to kick it off. i'll see you guys there. and it will be good to see you... but this time we won't ever have to say goodbye again.


Nate said...

To my mother. When Dad came to pick me up in Grand Forks and found a pyramid of beer cans 2,000 strong stacked to the ceiling. When withnessing my strange behavior while detoxing from the effects of too much alcohol. When watching me from afar wondering, "what is he doing?" Knowing that I was not what you wanted me to be. Begging and pleading with me to be what you thought I ought to be. When telling my father that I was engaged, and getting in return, "How does she feel about that?" Going to part of my reception but not all of it because you did not want to hang out at the bar where the free keg was. How could you marry someone that is not a christian? On and on and on.... But Look at me now. Life's path is never one of your planning, but God's. Pray and have faith. He will be there.

Susan said...

I think God continually works in our lives even when we were unbelieving or part-believing as well as when we are fully believing. And sometimes we see that happening in the lives of others as God draws them to Himself, which is very encouraging.

At some point though I think we need to address the question Jesus asked in Matthew 16:15 "Who do you say I am?"

jON said...

thanks, both of you guys, for weighing in. yeah, the "beer-amid." i've heard about it many times before. and while it stands as a momument to what was an unhealthy lifestyle for you... it's still an impressive structure to hear about.

susan, this is something i am really questioning right now. something that started last year, and was fueled through our study of acts, and is now gaining renewed strength with a reading of eternity in their hearts by don richardson. the people who i would call "inbetween people". people who find themselves knowing and loving and worshiping and serving the true god unawares. (ghandi?) a hard place for people to discuss because we want so much for people to join the church. and one tactic that has been used is to scare people that if they do not agree and join, they will be lost forever. (not looking to debate that point right now) and so for some, a person who has been raised in church and walked away, they are "lost." but the more i read and study these people with a renewed passion this past 16 months, i'm not so sure i agree with that anymore. because it would seem to me that in many cases, including this one, the person involved has not rejected god himself, but rather the characature of god that has been displayed for them. i know it can be hard to understand, but many times, people who are raised in the church can get a very twisted view of god and at some point they reject this twisted version as untrue. (as they rightly should) but what is left for them? ALL language that is tied with the way a church explains god has already been damaged and used to explain this false god and is no longer useful.

i think this is where my brother finds himself, unknowingly. having rejected a false god and stumbling into service of the true god who is always calling us whether we realize it or not.

and is it a "decision" that is the base of our coming judgement? because in my studies, the main issue, according to jesus, always seems to be "what their deeds deserve." and if you have ever met our brother, you know that love is simply flowing straight through him into the world. and i think god loves a vessel like that. and perhaps, if he were to have his eyes opened right now, it would hinder the work that is already being done. i know that when i "came around" and "got saved," it actually started a 7 year long journey of me turning into a colossal asshole. until i had a wake up moment.

and i don't think any person, of their own accord and effort, can force someone into having one of those moments. only god can do that.

because sometimes it is useful to god to have people doing the work he needs done blindly. like paul... god needed him to be a ruthless, murderous asshole so that the gospel would spread far and wide. and then, once the damage was done, god opened paul's eyes to the truth of his actions and paul had to spend the rest of his life bearing the brunt of the persecution that he started. but thank god he started it.

where am i going with this? i don't know. just thoughts and questions right now...

Wendy ftfs said...

:-) it is the Lord's work ... always and forever, that will never change. We are God's children not our parents' children ... and that was a hard one for me as a mother ... I thought if I taught my kids everything they needed to know they would just automatically serve God but that wasn't the case ... the scriptures say train up children in the way they should go and when they are old they will not depart from it ... but God also tells us about the prodigal son. After the training period is over your kids are released into His hands and He takes over completely and we have no more to do with our young ones except to continue to love them ...
This is where a parent must understand that God loves you and He will reward the work of your hands ... He loves your children as well and when that deep love sinks in to our minds and hearts then complete trust rests in our hearts ... He loves me and will give me the desires of my heart because I delight in Him and please Him. Why do we please the Lord ? works ???? No ... because we love Him and delight in Him and trust Him. That is what pleases the Lord ...

Remember how deeply He loves us ... how can we not rest completely in those loving arms of grace.... and how can we not open up our hearts to know that God loves everyone and meets them where they are at. And that is in every culture and country and to everyone who has never heard of the gospel of grace.

Dena G said...

Jon--Eternity in Their Hearts rocked my "safe" little evangelical doctrine. And my whole belief system. Or, at least, my whole "professed" belief system. After I survived that shaking, though, I realized that what I really, down deep inside, where no one, including myself, could see, was what I had truly believed all along.

I know those "in-between" people. And I love them. And, in some ways, I'm jealous of them. Because they ARE embracing "the one TRUE God" and not our Americanized, watered-down, pimped-out, fast-food drive-through version...and He is pouring Himself out through them, whether they realize it or not.

Wendy ftfs said...

Malcolm X came to this realization that all men and women were his brothers and sisters. He was a civil rights leader and was killed in the 60's along with JFK and Martin Luther King Jr.... the difference being that he was killed by members of his own religious affiliation for looking better than they did and for believing that all men and women were his brothers and sisters ... as the story goes the FBI were watching him carefully and warned him that he had been targeted for assassination. He was murdered for freeing himself ... by his own Muslim "brothers".
His father was a Baptist minister in Michigan and was suspiciously found dead one day ... their home had been burnt to the ground ... the Ku Klux Klan paid them a visit when Malcolm was in his mother's womb ... what did white Christians of his day do for them then. Why are white Christian churches still separate from Afro American churches in the Southern U.S.A. the land of the "free" ???

I believe that only God is the judge of whether Malcolm knew who the one and only true God was ... he very well may have realized that Christ had been misrepresented in his youthful days ...

"Power in defense of freedom is greater than power in behalf of tyranny and oppression, because power,real power comes from our conviction which produces action, uncompromising action."

Malcolm X

... he adopted X as his last name to signify the loss of his native African name ...

Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and there are many more who are not as famous but gave themselves .. freedom fighters ... hats off to them all ...

In every nation and in every walk of life and in every religious affiliation there are freedom fighters ...those who make those around them aware of the truth.

God is love and those who live in love, live in God and God in them. 1 John 4:16

Where the spirit of the Lord is there is liberty.

"Therefore having such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech, and are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away. But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart;
but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

II Corinthians 3:12 ...

Listen to the Holy Spirit our comforter our conviction left to guide us into all truth when Christ took His place in the heavens ...

Susan said...

I wasn't raised in church. When I was in the US last year one of the speakers was talking about how he was taken to church from when he was a baby saying, "for which I am profoundly grateful and deeply scarred." Later I told my children, who were raised in church, and they understood his sentiment completely.

But for me, coming from a different place, I know that for a while I only gave mental assent to God and it wasn't until I made a "decision" that I really came to understand God at all.

I think God calls us all on an unique journey to knowing Him better and thankfully, it is not up to me to decide where someone else is on that journey, but rather to encourage them to keep going wherever they are.

jON said...

multiply the scars times 10 when you are the child of the pastor. i don't know why, but the people i have met who have been the most consistantly fudcked up by the politics of the doctrinal organizations have been pastor's kids.

my wife is another who has not been raised in the church and it is almost fascinating sometimes to watch her not be labored down by the reflexive guilty conscience that so commonly plagues us church kids.

i'm sure we'll have more conversation about "inbetween people", lord willing, in the future. it is a subject he has really laid on my heart and opened my eyes to see. that many people whom we would classicaly label as "lost" are not necessarily that. that since the cross and resurrection have torn open the veil and the spirit has been poured out, many are able to respond to said spirit. but do so in ignorance of whom it is that they are truly serving. at least, in my observations, i have found this to be the case and i could be truly mistaken.

but i look at a guy like, for example, mohandas ghandi, and i wonder. really? here is a guy whose life was turned upside down when he embraced jesus' teachings and acted on them. it was almost as if he was "born again". and walking in this new path, he was able to be a vessel through whom many captives were set free and an oppresive government was overthrown. did it last? of course not. it never does. but that doesn't change the fact that, for me, i find it hard to swallow what many pastors have actually said from their pulpits. "ghandi is the nicest guy in hell."

would satan really cast himself out? didn't jesus address this issue when the pharisees accused him of casting out demons by the prince of demons? jesus then follows this up with one of the most difficult passages for modern people to read and understand. he actually claims that there is a sin that will never be forgiven. the sin of blaspheming the holy spirit. so, is it possible that when we miss what god is doing through other people and claim it is the work of the devil, when in fact it is of god, that we will not be forgiven this?

because in contemplating this whole issue and looking at this passage in Matt.12:22-37, jesus points out that people can say anything they want against him, and it will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the spirit will not.

which seems to me that there is a clause in here for people who serve god in ignorance, even if they think they are at odds with him. if they are obeying the spirit who has ahold of them, they are okay. they will be forgiven. even while saying bad things about jesus.

but those who denounce such people and call them evil and try to convince others of the same... well...

you do the math.

Nate said...

The scars come from the doctrines in the DOs that make DOs function. Most of these Doctrines are hundreds of years old. Back when they were breaking away from the Holy Catholic Church. Catholisism is stritly regimented, and tells people exactly what to do. If you did not do it, you were bad and had to confess. (The word confess means "to agree with", why it was contorted into "telling the priest that I was bad" I do not know) This meant that you had to know you were bad, and know that you were NOT forgiven until you DID SOMETHING to get the FORGIVENESS again. What crap. Anyway, that stigma has never left oprganized religion, and is still preached to this day. Running into these wacko Calvinists who apparently believe we are monsters barely contained in our skins and we are barely tolerated by God, just confirms that the teaching is alive and well. Again what crap. God felt us worthy enough to send his son to ransom us. That makes us very valuable indeed. More valuable than any earthly possesion. So the way I broke the chain of self inflicted scars, is to look at myself through Gods eyes. A clean of sin, completely devoted servant with whom I am well pleased. One that I know is not perfect. One that I must teach. But one that is worthy of my time to teach. One that is worthy of the love I am offereing. One of my family.

That normally gets me through the day. Believing that my God looks at me like that.

Wendy ftfs said...


Anonymous said...

Hi, Jon --
(This is your sister Leah.)

I was just catching up on your blog, and I thought I'd jump into this conversation about what Mom said. Because I think you misunderstood what she meant.

I don't think she was looking at Ben as being on the 'outside' and we're on the 'inside', when she said "I wish he knew God." She knows that Ben knows God (even though, as you said, he may not know he knows it...) and she knows that he's an incredible person.

I think what she meant, is that she wishes he felt -- right now -- in this lifetime, the joy of feeling God's love with you when you wake up, of being able to share your burdens with Him and feeling them lifted, of finding Him personally meeting your needs in incredible ways -- as Nate experienced last year with the money coming every month.

I think she was just saying, that in her love for Ben, she wishes he could feel that joy TODAY, that you speak of him finding when the veil is lifted at the end of his life.

I agree with you, that there are many who follow God, without knowing it's Him they are following (I also read Eternity in Their Hearts and loved it).

However, isn't it much better when you do know who you're following!? :-)

I think Mom said it, not because she was judging Ben, but because she loves him, with a mother's love, and wants him to have all she knows is available in God. I think she wants us all to have that.

I'm enjoying reading what both you and Nate are writing about on your blogs.

Have either of you read "The Ragamuffin Gospel" by Brennan Manning? It totally talks about everything you're saying -- grace, and more grace.

Also, you should check out a website called It has different videos that were put together by a pastor who agrees with everything you're saying.

Our pastor showed one of the videos in church today -- called "The Bullhorn". This guy, Rob Bell, talks about how he sees a man on the streetcorner with a bullhorn talking about sin and hell and fire & brimstone, and he says, "all of us Christians who love God want you to just PUT THE BULLHORN DOWN." And he ends the video saying that the important thing is to Love God and Love People, and that when we love people, we're obeying God.

But my favorite video of his is called "Lump". It's about how his son felt bad about something he'd done wrong one day, and he ran upstairs and hid under the covers on his bed. And when Rob went up to find him, all he could see was this lump in the bed. And he relates it to how all of us feel at times that we've done something wrong and we want to hide, but we need to realize that we don't need to hide, because our Father (just like him as a father) only wants to find us in order to lift us up and give us a hug, and let us know that nothing will ever change his love for us.

As Nate said, "God felt us worthy enough to send his son to ransom us. That makes us very valuable indeed."

These are short videos, but very powerful. I think you'd like them.

I love you. Wish I could see you in person. Maybe this summer...

And once again -- I want a Zaavan update!!! :-)

Nate said...

Nice that you could join us sis.