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Monthly Archives: October 2012

Emails to God – Supporting my Wife Going Catholic, Part 1

My wife has started posting a series on her blog about how she ended up “converting” to Catholicism (www.meganwillome.com). I decided it might be good if I posted corresponding posts to describe my own church journey as it corresponds with hers. I think mine will probably be longer and less succinct than hers, so if you’re game you can read along.

It starts when I was eight years old, and my parents were trying to reconcile after a six-month separation. They found themselves at a marriage retreat at Laity Lodge, which is in the Texas Hill Country about an hour from Kerrville. A Catholic priest lead the retreat, and it was through that process and a prayer my father prayed with the priest during one of the breaks that my father became a Christian. When my parents came home and my dad moved back in (the exact order of events is a little fuzzy for me), we all joined the First Baptist Church in our town. Now, many Baptists grow up with anti-Catholic sentiments, but I never did because of my dad’s experience with this priest. My dad, for his part, grew up Methodist, but during the separation had started attending a Baptist church in San Antonio, so joining the Baptist church in our little town seemed a natural fit.

So I grew up Baptist, absorbing more Baptist theology than I realized. I won’t go into the whole story about my own developing relationship with God, but, suffice it to say, by the time I met my wife 23 years ago I was a discipling Christian as was she. Neither of us felt like we had cornered the market on theology and approached our adult lives post college in a very ecumenical way. We usually drifted towards Baptist or non-denominational churches (which are usually theologically similar to being Baptist), but we remained open to different Christian denominations.

After we moved to our current town nearly seven years ago, we looked for a church our children would enjoy. They were both in grade school, and we were trying to replace a church with a vibrant children’s program. After visiting seven different churches, all of differing denominations, the children chose the Methodist church. This suited us fine, and the kids were happy.

Unfortunately, three years later the church went through a terribly divisive time. We tried to stick it out, but it was difficult because nearly all of the families left. The final straw was when we took our son, who was then in the 7th grade, to the youth room on Sunday morning only to find that it was locked and the lights were out because there were no youth to serve. We needed to find something else.

We visited a Lutheran church for a while that my wife, daughter (three years younger than our son) and I liked, but our son didn’t. They were doing confirmation and he had trouble getting into it. Having grown up in a confirmation-free Baptist world I didn’t know how to coach him through it. So we tried giving him the freedom to go to other churches on his own. He tried the Evangelical Free Church youth group for a while, but he didn’t end up liking that.

This is where I’ll end this part of the story since this is about where my wife’s blog post today ends, but, in summary, by the end of 2009 my wife and I were attending a Lutheran church with our ten-year-old daughter, and my son was visiting the Evangelical Free church’s youth group. Something was about to happen, however, that would send my wife on a spiritual journey that God led me to support.

 

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Emails to God – Salvation through Grace (Ephesians 2:8-9)

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

Dear God, the idea of salvation through faith vs. works is still a difficult one for all of us. I am a big proponent of the idea that our brains are hard-wired by the age of three, meaning that whatever we know in the first three years is hard to change for the rest of our lives. In this case, for most of us, our parents expect us to perform in one way or another, rewarding good performance and disciplining bad performance. After three years of conditioning to this, how can we not expect the same of you.

The ministerial association asked me to preach at a community-wide Thanksgiving service in a few weeks. I’ve been thinking a lot about the topic I want to choose and what I want to say. My topic is going to be finding you in tragedy, and being thankful for what you do for us in the midst of strife. One of the ideas that will undoubtedly come up is whether or not you cause negative things in our lives or simply work through them when they happen. Do you reward and discipline us based on our behavior, or simply pour out your blessings continuously, supporting us in the difficult times as well as the good—they just look different. I hadn’t thought about it before, but I think this verse will work as one of the verses I will use. It reminds us that our relationship with you has little to do with works because you simply cannot tolerate the best of us without grace.

Father, use me during this sermon in a few weeks as well as today. Use me as I work with our staff and board. Use me as I present to a group of donors who are coming to hear about the Center. Use me as I meet with patients, do my work, and represent the Center. Use me as I love my wife and parent my children. Use me as I write, speak, and, most importantly, listen. To the best of my ability, I offer myself to you.

 
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Posted by on October 30, 2012 in Miscellaneous

 

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Emails to God – A Living Sacrifice? (Romans 11:32; 12:1)

For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all… Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.

Dear God, I don’t think I have ever seen these two verses linked together before, but after reading it again, they below together. Paul didn’t separate his letter into chapters. He wrote it all as one unit, and so if I look at 12:1 without looking at what came before it, then I am missing something. It’s the word “Therefore” that told me I should look at what preceded it, and what precedes it is Paul talking about the Israelites having their hearts hardened and you going to the Gentiles. Now all of us, in our disobedience, can receive your grace and mercy. So now I am supposed to offer my body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to you. This is how I can worship you.

So what does it mean to offer my body as a living sacrifice? What does that look like? And how am I doing? It’s funny how some days are better than others. Yesterday, for example, was an interesting day. I woke up with zero motivation. I went to church with my wife, but then I came home to take a nap. Then I watched my favorite football player play, followed by another nap. Then I spend the rest of the day reading a book. I had things I intended to accomplish yesterday (exercising, writing, paying bills), but I did none of it. I just let the day go. Did I make a mistake? Was I being selfish? Was I getting some rest that I needed? Did I fail to sacrifice myself to you?

Father, as I go through this day, help me to remember that I am choosing right now to completely submit myself to you as a living sacrifice. I am giving you all that I am for all that you are. During the day, as I start to take my life back, please remind me that I agreed to give it all to you. Be glorified through me, and help me to be the man you need me to be for the sake of my wife, my children, my coworkers, and everyone else with whom I come into contact.

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2012 in Miscellaneous

 

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Emails to God – Submitting to Scripture (2 Timothy 3:14-17)

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Dear God, this is my first “email” to you in several days. Where has my head been? What has made me so buy that I couldn’t stop to do this? Sure, I traveled quite a bit (900 miles in 8 days), but I had time to do other things that I wanted to do. Why didn’t I discipline myself to stop and meditate on scripture? I have no good excuse. I am simply sorry.

I suppose this “verse of the day” from Bible Gateway is appropriate because it reminds me that I need to be mindful of scripture in my life. Each day’s reading almost always has something to say to me about how I can align myself more rightly with you. I’m not talking about being aligned through your grace, but aligned through my own thoughts.

Father, the first person scripture needs to be about teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness is me. Yes, I can use it to encourage and teach others, but only after I have submitted to its wisdom and authority myself. So here I am to worship. Here I am to bow down. Here I am to say that you’re my God. You’re altogether lovely. Altogether worthy. Altogether wonderful to me.

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2012 in Miscellaneous

 

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My wife’s blog from this morning.

Megan Willome

ROYAL WORCESTER
 

In this world

we must handle injustice like fine china

it must be kept safe from our fancy appliances

washed by hand

dried with a linen towel

packed in bubble wrap
 

In the next world

injustice will be flung aside

each child will receive a place setting of unfairness

to smash against the pearly gates
 

God tosses a gravy boat to an eager toddler.

He does not count the cost.

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Posted by on October 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Emails to God – Is it ever enough? (John 14:8-14)

8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

Dear God, Philip had good intentions in verse 8, but he was wrong. Jesus could have transfigured right there and shone in all of his glory for them, and the impact would have been gone in hours and days. Think of Peter, James, and John watching the transfiguration. You would think that seeing Jesus transfigured and speaking with Moses and Elijah would have been enough to keep them courageous during the crucifixion, but at least two of them were nowhere to be found.

Frankly, our human hearts can never be satisfied because Satan comes like a thief in the night and steals the memories of the glorious works you have done. He steals our faith, not it big chunks, but through erosion over time. My wife reminded me last night of a time that our church group prayed for a woman with cancer in her back. The prayer was in our living room and we all laid hands on her. The next day when they surgeon got in there they found the tumor was gone. They could see where it HAD been, but it wasn’t there anymore. A miracle had taken place in my own living room, yet how often does my heart doubt your power?

Father, thank you that Jesus knew, even in that moment, that Philip didn’t know what he was saying. Jesus knew it wouldn’t be enough. He knew that performing miracles and giving the Pharisees a sign wouldn’t be enough. He knew that faith is about us making a decision to submit ourselves to you and then pursuing you diligently and humbly. It isn’t about us being wowed and having our emotions manipulated. It is about us persevering even when the emotions are gone (see Mother Theresa). So I offer you my submission to your authority and ask that you please help me to feel your presence in my life today. Work through me. Love through me. Lead through me. Help me to represent you well.

 

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Emails to God – On what does my heart meditate? (Psalm 19:14)

“May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

Dear God, one of the bad things about just looking at a verse here or a verse there and then studying it is that I lose the context. For example, with this verse this morning I found it in the “Verse of the Day” section of www.biblegateway.com and had one thought about it. Then I looked up the entire Psalm and found out important information. Firest, it is the last verse of the Psalm. It is the wrap-up. He doesn’t say, “May THE words of my mouth and THE MEDITATIONS of my heart be pleaing in your sight.” He says, “May THESE words of my mouth and THIS MEDITATION of my heart be pleasing in your sight.” While I don’t think the psalmist would disagree with the first thing I wrote down, this vese is specifically about the Psalm that is in verses 1-13.

What’s my point? Honestly, I’m not exacty sure except to say that I’m not sure many Christians are very effective at knowing how to study the Bible, including me. It’s such a complicated book. It’s not just something you can sit down and read. Some books you can: Genesis, Exodus, Joshua, Samuel 1 & 2, etc. But others are meant to be read that way: Leviticus, Psalms, Proverbs, etc. Then there are the ones that are just too esoteric and vague for me: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Revelation, etc. In a lot of cases, I need a commentary to help me figure out what it might be that you have for me in these different books.

Father, help me to not be intimidated by studying some of the more difficult books of the Bible. Help me to find a way to learn more about you and find a piece of you where I have been too overwhelmed to look before. And may THESE words of my mouth and THIS MEDITATION of my heart be pleasing to you.

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2012 in Miscellaneous

 

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