In The Hands of God

Martin Luther by Lucas Cranach. The Protestant...
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I’ve had quite the week.  

DOWN: How do I describe promoting a concert for three months only to find out the Non Profit putting on the fundraiser never had a signed contract?  

UP: I was upset over this deal gone bad when a  friend calls me back – from the airport mind you – while he’s traveling, to talk me through the whole contracts and clauses issues. While it doesn’t fix the problem I experienced, they still make me feel better because I know I am not alone, nor am I the first person on the planet to ever get into a pickle. Talking to my friend, left me feeling blessed and dearly loved.  

BIG DOWN: Then I find out there is a slight possibility that someone may try to have me excommunicated if I participate in an event that I have been participating in on and off since 2000. Why? Because our synod doesn’t agree with their synod therefore – no playing together in the sandbox. You can call it politics if you want, but I call it being a self-righteous uhm.. donkey.  

I wasn’t in a good mood the day I was told I might be kicked out,  and I made our music director cross himself when I stated — What can man do to me? My salvation is secure so, tell them to Bring it!  

Can I let you in on a little secret here – being kicked out of the church has always been my biggest fear – until this week. I’m not afraid anymore. For the first time in my entire life, that fear has no power over me.  

It’s been a roller coaster week full of joy and deep hurt for this body of Christ. I’ve been praying, reading, talking, and trying to listen to God. I was also complaining a bit about how silent I thought he was being here. I mean did he want me to sing or not? Can I live with the consequences of my choices or not? Will he be there for me or not?  

Some days I look back over my life, remembering all the times the church said no, and I was on the outside looking in. Time and time again I see how “the church” or whomever I was associating with the church seems to fail me. I’m selective in my reverie at those times and tend to leave out all of the good that comes with the church as well.  

 Monday was one of those selective memory days. It was also a peanut butter and hot-fudge sundae for dinner kind of day.  At least it was before God reached into my broken and hurting heart in a way only He can. I was sitting in my truck, waiting for my son to come back with our sundaes, and talking to God about all of the mess of it. I was wondering if they really will kick me out and how will that impact my family, and it’s just a rumor God, but could they really do it? Why do all these things happen? Will I ever find peace in the church? How do I get through this?  

 Out of the blue I’m hit with this realization:  

Satan was afraid of me.  

In that same moment that my heart remembers a song I haven’t heard in ages: In Christ Alone.  

Those two truths hit me with such emotional force that all I could do was cry.  

God not only heard me, but he speaks to me as well.  

Just when I thought I was ready to bag the whole Lutheran thing, God brings me to a web page I didn’t now know existed in Synod called Jesus First Leadership. JFL appears to support the same causes and mind-set towards missions that my husband and I hold dear. I don’t know enough about them yet to really know anything, but for today it was enough.  

And just in case those things weren’t enough, God also brought me to this quote today in my readings:  

Once when Martin Luther was at the height of his struggles with the Roman Church, someone asked him what he would do if the princes and their supporters deserted him. “Where will you be then, Martin?” he was asked. The bold reformer replied, “I will be where I have always been, in the hands of God.”  

My hope isn’t found in things, concerts, non profits, or man. My hope is found in Christ alone. The God who not only hears my heart, sees my pain, but responds to me with Grace, love and an affirming touch.  

Have you ever felt like Satan was out to get you?   

Did you ever stop to wonder why?   

Where do you place your life, your needs, your hurts and your hopes?   

Do you place them in food (like I can), alcohol, work, relationships, yourself?   

Or do you place them in Christ Alone, the author and protector of our faith.  

Oh No She Didn’t

I am an absolute failure at telling people I disagree with them.  I hate conflict and I hate making people feel badly.  Assuming people are going to feel badly about themselves because I have a different opinion than they do is an arrogant assumption I know. I’m working on it. It’s that angle or I don’t want them to feel badly about me… I get those two confused some times.

It really is all about me most days. I just hate debating issues. I’m not good at it and I rarely win. I can tell a person what I think and feel, but if I have to defend that in such a way that it feels like the other person wants me to convince them I’m right? That’s another story all together. Most times I chose not to say anything at all and that situation has me in hot water a lot these days.

I’m in hot water because now I have all this feeling behind the opinion. And I have opinions people aren’t used to hearing. I am getting better though.

One thing I need to work on this year — getting over the whole pastor phobia deal. No seriously, you know how some people have snake phobias? Well, I have pastor phobias… especially if they are wearing that black and white death suit of theirs.  Reminds me of Darth Vader… chills.

Imagine having a pastor phobia, being in a speech class under a pastor and you hear her say THIS… to another student, loudly enough that she is obviously engaging the class:

“Well you know that Martin Luther doesn’t believe in works, right? I mean EVERYONE knows he wanted the whole book of James removed from the Bible. Lutherans only believe in Grace.” —

It really seemed like one of the pastors adamantly agreed with her. And now I am faced with two pastors on one side and I felt like defenseless cheese. 

We’re talking feelings here and not necessarily facts.

I didn’t agree with her and I wanted to throw up.  Pastor phobia, remember? That and I was wracking my brain trying to remember the REAL story behind Martin Luther and the book of James.. 

What struck me though — after I sifted through the names I wanted to call her adn how I sat there and said nothing, but stewed for two days — is I had paid almost $2,000 to be in the particular class.  My instructor is erroneously bashing Martin Luther and as a result, I feel insulted to the point that I missed every thing else she said. She had my bio, she knew I was Lutheran. My anger at her comments had rendered me speechless.

I spent a long time being angry with myself for not speaking up and now I also realise that:

1. She was incorrect not only in her theological history but in her attitude as well.

2. Her actions were  unprofessional.

And I felt powerless to do anything about it.

I want to handle things differently next time. I’m not sure how I’ll go about it yet. But I’ll figure it out.

Have you ever been there? What would you have done? How would you have handled it?

It’s just not “Lutheran” unless…

Galatians 4:8-11 “
Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you. “

Do you know that I grew up less than a block away from a Lutheran Church. They were so secretive and so seclusionary that our neighborhood honestly believed them to be a cult. Today, I’m an LCMS Lutheran at first by marriage and now by confirmation. I believe in the tenants of faith. I believe in scripture alone, faith alone, and grace alone. I believe in one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

I love what I’m seeing LCMS do. The missions, the outreach, the hope in Christ. We serve a greater purpose today than just to ourselves. We’re following Christ’s words – we’re out there – proclaiming the Gospel. I love it!

Synod allows for autonomy in our individual congregations. Some congregations are very High Episcopal in worship style, while others are more open and contemporary. And we have everything in between. What’s intersting to me, or disconcerting depended on your view point is how often we as a body bicker back and forth about what is and isn’t acceptable to God when it comes to worship styles. I was really disheartened by that until I looked at Galatians recently – the bickering goes back a coupla thousand years. I also found this Martin Luther Quote – on a blog (I’ve forgotten where and I’m sorry to the author I thought I’d bookmarked it) – and low – this “argument” existed in his day as well.

I wanted to simply share the words of Martin Luther with you today. Considering that he is the guy who wrote A Mighty Fortress is Our God – to the tune of a modern day bar song – he’s been on the receiving end of a lot of guff himself. His thoughts facinate me.

Martin Luther, from his Lectures on Galatians (CPH 1963), re: Gal. 4:8-11
“There is no middle ground between human working and the knowledge of Christ; if this knowledge is obscured, it does not matter whether you become a monk or a heathen afterwards.

“Therefore it is completely insane when the papists and the Turks do battle against each other about religion and the worship of God; each contends that he has the true religion and worship of God. In fact, even the monks are not in agreement among themselves; one wants to be regarded as holier than another merely because of some foolish outward ceremonies, when in their hearts the opinions of them all are more alike than eggs. For this is what they all think: ‘If I do this work, God will have mercy on me; if I do not, He will be wrathful.’

“Therefore every man who falls away from the knowledge of Christ necessarily rushes into idolatry; for he must invent a form for God that does not exist anywhere, as the Carthusian trusts that because of his observance of his monastic rule, and the Turk that because of his observance of the Koran, he pleases God and will receive from Him the reward for his labor.

“A God of this kind, who forgives sins and justifies in this manner, cannot be found anywhere. Therefore it is all a vain imagination and a dream, the invention of an idol in the heart. For nowhere has God promised that He intends to justify men and save them on account of religious orders, observances, and forms of worship that have been thought up and established by men. In fact, as all Scripture attests, nothing is more abominable to God than such self-chosen works and forms of worship; He even overthrows kingdoms and empires on account of such things.

“Therefore all those who trust in their own ability and righteousness are serving a god who by nature is no god but is a god only in their opinion. For He who is true God by nature speaks this way: ‘I am not pleased with any righteousness, wisdom, or religious observance except the one by which the Father is glorified through the Son. Whoever takes hold of this Son and of Me or of My promise in Him through faith—to him I am God, to him I am Father; him I accept, justify, and save. All the rest remain under wrath, because they worship him who by nature is no god.’

“Whoever defects from this doctrine will necessarily fall into an ignorance of God and an ignorance of the righteousness, wisdom, and proper worship of God. He will be an idolater, remaining under the Law, sin, death, and the rule of the devil; and everything that he does will be lost and condemned.”

Our Christmas Tree

There are many stories surrounding the origin of the Christmas tree – all ranging from pagan rituals to Martin Luther. While the Romans and Greeks may have decorated with evergreens for the new year, and pagans may have used the trees for sacrifice and worship during the Winter Solstice, it is Martin Luther who is credited with bringing the first tree indoors.

“The Christmas tree comes to us from Martin Luther, who is credited with being inspired by the starry heavens one night and expressing his feelings to his family by bringing a fir tree into his home and attaching lighted candles to its branches. Fir meant fire—and fire is an ancient symbol for spirit. The tree also pointed toward the heavens. Eventually, decorative balls represented the planets, while the star that radiates from the top reminds us of Bethlehem. The entire tree with its decorations teaches us that the universe is witness to the Incarnation. In fact, the Christmas tree is just one more sign of Jesus’ birth. It is a means of retelling a miracle in a colourful and beautiful way, so that we can further understand and appreciate Jesus entering our world.”
From Charlie Cleverly, St. Aldate’s, Oxford

It’s interesting to me to find out that Christmas was once illegal in the colonies. Early Puritans considered it pagan – Christmas and Christmas trees didn’t become popular in the US until the 1800’s. The tradition was brought over by German Immigrants. Early trees were decorated with candles, fruit, flowers, and home made ornaments created to symbolize Christ.

Today’s Christmas trees are as different as the people who own them. I’ve seen some of the most beautiful trees ever in the homes of my friends. They decorate the trees themselves and they flow with symmetry and design.

We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, so my trees were always decorated with hand made ornaments, popcorn and cranberry strings, and a few glass balls. My husband grew up with a tree only decorated by his mother and it was just glass balls and lights.

We’ve combined our tastes and have a tradition of decorating the tree as a family. Does it flow? Is there symmetry? Probably not. But it IS beautiful. And the memories we have created by doing it together, are irreplaceable.

One of my many angels tucked inside the branches

Our angel on top of the tree. We used to have a star, but it broke and we couldn’t find another one that we liked.