Monday, June 18, 2007

Spiritual Mothering and Fathering

"Pain in times like this, I believe, is not simply something to be escaped, resolved, fixed. Instead, it is something to be suffered, something that must, in a sense, crash over us like a wave or knock us down like a fever, shake us so that we truly feel our feelings and name them; so that we can speak of them and share them and feel an exchange with others of sympathy, empathy, common grief, and common sorrow." Brian McLaren

Happy Father’s Day. This is a celebration for many, a bittersweet day for others.

For many this is the ideal gift: picture of the Harley Easy Chair.

Father’s day gift for my step dad: a case of beer. Some of us had a great father- some of us had dads, or step-dads, or no dads that left us with a need to unlearn certain things about life and parenting that we’re still working out.

This past week I was channel surfing and caught a brief glimpse of the guys from American Chopper. Paul Sr. and Paul Jr. build custom motorcycles, choppers, for people like David Letterman and the Peavey guitar guy- they are very special bikes.

On this particular episode they were building different bikes, got into a competition, seeing who could get their bike built from the ground up started and running. Paul Sr. did it first. Then Paul Jr. had it all ready to go but his wouldn’t start. There was no reason it shouldn’t start, so his team was disappointed. Paul Sr. wanted to show a little fatherly love so he went over to start his again and rev it really loud to show who’s the boss and also who’s the best.

His wouldn’t start either! You can imagine how that made Paul Jr.’s day. Pretty soon it was ugly in the shop. I couldn’t find that clip but did find another one illustrating the father-son relationship. Have a look:

There are so few examples of good fathers & godly role models. Way too often there are relationships like that in our past, or in our present!

Twenty years ago I became a Christ follower and the pastor I first met says to me, ‘I wasn’t discipled’. That simply means grown up in the faith. For too often some have thought it’s been a paint by numbers path. Not so. There are no checklists for it.

There are just relationships that God gifts us with to help us grow up in the faith and to help others grow up, too.

Joe Heller
True story, Word of Honor:
Joseph Heller, an important and funny writer now dead,
and I were at a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island.
I said, “Joe, how does it make you feel
To know that our host only yesterday
May have made more money
Than your novel “Catch-22”
Has earned in its entire history?”
And Joe said, “I’ve got something he can never have.”
And I said, “What on earth could that be, Joe?”
And Joe said, “The knowledge that I’ve got enough.”
Not bad! Rest in peace? Kurt Vonnegut

"It's easy to make a buck. It's a lot tougher to make a difference." Tom Brokaw

Godly fathers and mothers teach those kind of lessons. Most don’t as we watched in American Chopper, but we learn as Christ followers through our spiritual mothers & father’s important life lessons such as these.

1 Corinthians 4:14-16
I am not writing this to shame you, but to warn you, as my dear children. Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me.

1 John 2:12-13
I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, dear children, because you have known the Father.

1 John 2:15-17
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

Paul identifies three groups: 1. Spiritual children, orphans. Those who have never been fathered or mothered. Many baby Christ followers have never grown up. Our chronological spiritual age may be 20, 30, 40 or even 50 years but we may still remain on milk. We make fusses when we don’t get our way, complain about not being fed, and haven’t yet taken spiritual responsibility to help others know, love and obey Jesus.

2. Spiritual young men and women, according to the Bible, have the living life of God, the Zoë life alive inside of them. They have overcome the evil one, learning to feed themselves but haven’t yet become spiritual mothers and fathers.

When you’re a kid you think your dad is next to God. When you hit the teenage years we discover there’s a few things dads and moms don’t know. We discover a place of youthful arrogance thinking our parents are from the Dark Ages. Then we have our own kids and become amazed at how learned our parents suddenly become! In reality our perspective is what has changed. Having spiritual children also changes our perspective.

When we have spiritual children we become more aware of our own need to learn from others. We want spiritual moms and dads to mentor and coach us.

In my twenties I wanted to change the world. In my thirties I wanted to reform the church. In my early forties I discovered I was the problem. Jeff Iorg

One of the great catalysts to maturity as a Christ follower is to become a spiritual mother and father. This is the third group Paul mentions.

Because of our many poor fatherly examples, we have a hard time grasping this stuff. There is no hierarchy here; no abuse of power; when Paul calls himself a father he doesn’t use it to convey authority but affection- love. He doesn’t call his children the obliged, but his beloved. He models what God the Father did in sending Jesus for us.

This is what Anola and I have been called to do. We seek to cultivate a community of friends who really love each, who grow up in the faith.

Church is people, ordinary people, living their lives for Jesus. No hype, no being mad at anyone, no special revelation or new doctrine or charismatic leader- its friends obeying Jesus together. Do you want to be a part of something like that?

“…’I am a nut about community, and what is missing in the Church for me is any realness between people. So many communities want pseudo-community and are not willing to do the work to have real community. They don’t want authenticity and reality. They want to hear a sermon that is going to make them feel better, but they don’t want to get real with each other and hear each other’s pain and talk about that kind of this. They don’t want to talk about the real stuff of life. That is very sad. Jesus said, ‘I have come that they may have life and have it more abundantly.’ Many churches I go to are not very [alive] places. You get the feeling that, beneath the smile and the singing and the clapping, there is no real life underneath.’ …” M. Scott Peck

The anger of man still can’t work the righteousness of God. Ralph Moore

We love Jesus, we love each other, and we reach out to the many people around us in our family, our neighborhood, our work and school.

Last Sunday night our communion service and foot washing was an amazing God time. Many tears were shed. For Anola and myself we saw that we’re ‘getting it’ as a community. We all need touches from God like that.

"Whatever comes our way, whatever battle we have raging inside us, we always have a choice. ... It's the choices that make us who we are, and we can always choose to do what's right." Peter Parker, Spiderman 3

Difficulties Pre-Jesus
Find out which friends stick with you
Personal growth or deflation
More questions than answers
Difficulties After-Jesus
Find out which friends stick with you
Find out which Christians will stigmatize you
Find out which Christians will demonstrate the love, grace, and forgiveness they received from Christ
Knowledge that Jesus will never leave you or forsake you
Personal growth or deflation
More questions than answers

Spiritual mothers and fathers help us learn how to reflect on scripture and what God is saying and life and grow personally through reflection.

This is not easy, unless we surrender to the life of God. Listen to just a couple of examples:

Love your enemies.
Love those who love you, and those who don’t.
Love God not money.
Love Jesus more than those whom you are to love deeply.
Love everyone in the way you love yourself.
Love God with everything that you are.
Love others in the same way that Jesus loves you.
Love people to death.

1 Peter 1:1-3
So clean house! Make a clean sweep of malice and pretense, envy and hurtful talk. You've had a taste of God. Now, like infants at the breast, drink deep of God's pure kindness. Then you'll grow up mature and whole in God.

1 Corinthians 4:9-13
It seems to me that God has put us who bear his Message on stage in a theater in which no one wants to buy a ticket. We're something everyone stands around and stares at, like an accident in the street. We're the Messiah's misfits. You might be sure of yourselves, but we live in the midst of frailties and uncertainties. You might be well thought of by others, but we're mostly kicked around. Much of the time we don't have enough to eat, we wear patched and threadbare clothes, we get doors slammed in our faces, and we pick up odd jobs anywhere we can to eke out a living. When they call us names, we say, "God bless you." When they spread rumors about us, we put in a good word for them. We're treated like garbage, potato peelings from the culture's kitchen. And it's not getting any better.

Are you allowing God to help heal you through spiritual mothering and fathering?

Have you committed to inviting people into your life to help you learn to love and live more like Jesus?

Are there relationships around you where you are being invited in to help them grow in grace and love?

Jesus hath now many lovers of his heavenly kingdom, but few bearers of his cross.
He hath many desirous of comfort, but few of tribulation.
He findeth many companions of his table, but few of his abstinence.
All desire to rejoice with him, few are willing to endure anything for him, or with him.
Many follow Jesus unto the breaking of bread; but few to the drinking of the cup of his passion.
Many reverence his miracles, few follow the ignominy of his cross.
Many love Jesus so long as adversities do not happen.
Many praise and bless him, so long as they receive comforts from him.
But if Jesus hide himself, and leave them but a little while, they fall either into complaining or into too much dejection of mind. Thomas a Kempis

God, today I die again.
In order that I might live,
and that others might also.
Be in my heart,move in.
Kick out the neighbors of
jealousy, hurt, anger
and fear.
Love, move in. Hurry.
Before I screw it up again.


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