The Value of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

After finding it at Goodwill for less than a dollar, I decided that I was going to read “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” partly because I think it is the coolest book title ever, and partly because it’s a bestseller and I feel like as a writer I should read at least some of the bestsellers, and mostly because the book intrigues me, and appears like it might actually be an intellectual piece of work, you know, completely unlike “50 Shades of Grey”. I’m not sure in what universe “50 Shades of Grey” sounded like a good idea, but I think it is a sad social commentary that we actually happily consume such stories. However, I’m not writing this post to complain about “50 Shades of Grey” although I can’t pass up having a good jab at it when I get the opportunity. So far, I’ve only read the first few chapters, and the book has proven to be a fascinating read.

“However, it was not Lisbeth Salander’s astonishing lack of emotional involvement that most upset him. Milton’s image was one of conservative stability. Salander fitted into this picture about as well as a buffalo at a boat show. Armansky’s star researcher was a pale, anorexic young woman who had hair as short as a fuse, and a pierced nose and eyebrows. She had a wasp tattoo about an inch long on her neck, a tattooed loop around the biceps of her left arm and another around her left ankle. On those occasions when she had been wearing a tank top, Armansky also saw that she had a dragon tattoo on her left shoulder blade. She was a natural redhead, but she dyed her hair raven black. She looked as though she had just emerged from a week-long orgy with a gang of hard rockers.” Larsson, Steig “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, p. 38.

The story basically says that it was rather unusual that a woman like this would be working at a professional job, because she wasn’t very conservative. I have to wonder why people value conservatism so much. Rather than seeing the value in all people, we tend to write off some people as worse than others, sometimes based solely on appearances. Just last week, I showed up to work in a neon yellow lace top that had a black cami underneath, a long leather skirt, a leather vest, and black flats that had square silver studs on them. My hair was jet black fading into purple. Although I was the same person that I always am, someone decided that my outfit was “offensive” and that person complained to management. I was completely within my company’s dress code, and the manager even told me as much when she informed me that someone had been offended. I did have about five customers tell me how amazing they thought I looked, also. Anyway, my purpose is not to complain about someone choosing to take offense to an outfit of mine, my purpose is to say that you can’t tell what a person is really like just by looking at the way they present themselves.

I’ve heard the argument that if people respected themselves, they wouldn’t have certain piercings, or tattoos, etc. I don’t think it’s really about self-respect, I think it’s more about symbols and meanings and art. There are a lot of piercings and tattoos that I don’t care for, but there are also piercings that I like. I have three holes in each ear and intend to get a nose piercing eventually. I don’t mind the look of tongue piercings although I would never personally get one because it’s not worth it to me. I’m planning on getting a tattoo soon, and when I do I will most certainly post about it. However, this post isn’t about my piercing and tattoo preferences either.

What this post is about is about not judging the character of a person based on their external appearances. We shouldn’t assume that someone wouldn’t fit into a professional environment because of their tattoos and piercings, or because of the cut and color of their hair, or because of the style of clothing they wear. The fact that in the story “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” Steig Larsson had to write that Lisbeth Salander was different and didn’t fit in shows the sad state of our society where appearances mean more than character. We all have our own preferences and our own prejudices, but for me I have been trying to put aside my prejudices and see through to who a person really is. I’m not perfect at it and I do judge based on appearances, and it should not be so. The value of a person is not determined by how they look, their value is that they are them.

I think that I will probably have more to say about this story as I progress through it, it appears as if the author was very savvy about culture and I look forward to digging further into this book.

Reference:

Larsson, S 2008, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Black Lizard, New York. 
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Rachel Held Evans’ Year of Biblical Womanhood

I finally received my copy of “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” by Rachel Held Evans in the mail after months of the suspense of having it on pre-order. I can tell you that I prefer her first book “Evolving in Monkey Town” but “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” is a valuable read also.  My favorite chapters were “July: Justice” and “September: Grace”. To be honest, parts of the project seemed rather silly to me, but I do appreciate the overall idea that inspired the project and I do appreciate the many insights that I gleaned from the book.

I really appreciated the information about fair trade that was in the chapter on justice, and I believe that it is an important topic to talk about and am glad that it was included in this book. Imagine my horror when I learned that some of my favorite candy is made from cocoa beans that were produced through child slavery. I have mixed feelings on the fair trade issue. I would really love to buy fair trade products where they exist, but I wonder if, like boycotts, doing that really helps anything? But now I can’t eat a package of pretzel M&M’s without thinking about some kid in Africa in forced slavery on the cocoa farm.

So I wonder if the fair trade issue is really about wanting to make the world a better place by not consuming products that were made as a product of the exploitation of other people, or if it is just about making ourselves feel better about the exploitation of other people by assuming that because we choose not to consume such products, that we are somehow superior. If I buy everything fair trade, yet I don’t speak out about the exploitation of other human beings, am I really helping to change anything? Should I get involved in some kind of movement or just file the entire fair trade topic under the “social justice” file in my brain? I know that social movements can cause revolutions, and this is a topic worthy of being pursued as a social movement. I guess my thing is that I am wondering what it is that I am supposed to do with the information that I have been given. To pretend that I never learned such things would be a betrayal.

I have to say that I think the book is worth the money just for the social justice issues that it raises, because the issue of child slavery isn’t the only social justice issue that Evans talks about, and I believe that the church is lacking greatly in social justice issues (as the presidential election is showing us).

I also appreciated the arguments that Evans makes for the role of women in the church and their importance to the church. It is a sad thing that in this day and age, women are still being restricted in what they do for the church even though all throughout the Bible women worked in the same positions as men.

She begins the book with the “ten commandments of Biblical Womanhood” and ends with ten resolutions that she emerged from the project with. If Rachel Held Evans didn’t have a book deal, the project would still have been worth it for her personal growth and development by the things she learned and the resolutions that she made as a result.

I like how throughout the book, Evans shows how “Biblical Womanhood” as the fundamentalists choose to interpret it, is an impossible task, and even more, that we weren’t ever supposed to live like that. It was good to read about the valuable things that she learned during the project and the things that she was going to continue doing after the project was complete. Not everything about the notion of “Biblical Womanhood” is bad, it’s the concept that there is only one right way to please God as a woman that is the problem. I think that Evans represents the distinction between the two very well. While I prefer her first book, this one is a worthy read. 

Eight Years

I have finally reached the final year of my three year undergraduate degree. It has taken me eight years, and at first I regretted not finishing my degree right away, but now I’m actually glad that it took this long, because I went through so much growth doing it this way. I first started my degree in 2004, while still a fundamentalist; actually I was actually getting to the peak of my fundamentalism. The main reason that I dropped out after a pretty good first semester was that the fundamentalists told me that studying sociology and psychology was wicked and that I would start to doubt the Bible if I studied those subjects because sociology and psychology were worldly wisdom designed to tear the Bible down. Well, I believed them, for a while at any rate.

The problem was that I longed to learn, I longed to be educated, and in the end, my longings won out. The fundamentalists would say that I allowed my flesh to win, but what really happened is that I finally realized that learning was a wonderful thing, and that sociology and psychology actually complemented the Bible, and that it was ok for a woman to be educated. Last year I finally felt free to pursue finishing my degree. A year from now, I will be a graduate of Central Queensland University, and will hopefully be working on a master’s degree.

When I first resumed my studies, I chose to major in sociology and psychology like I had originally chosen. But I soon realized that God had something far more exciting for me, and I switched my majors to sociology and writing. I have chosen my elective classes very carefully, and I have learned what my strengths are, and what my weaknesses are, and I have learned to develop new skills. I have studied enough now to know that I have interests in particular fields. It’s now time for me to start working on some research projects in my topics of interest, in preparation for studying a master’s degree.

This semester I will be undertaking the first of those research projects. I’m really excited about it. I will probably have a whole lot more to say about it on this blog once the details are all worked out. 

My Five Year Old

I have many groups with which I identify; one of those is that I am a mother to four great kids. I want to write today about my five year old son, my oldest, to preserve some of the funny things that he says and does forever, and for the world to see what a great kid he is!

Today he told me that he could do an “Elvis cheer” and I asked him what an Elvis cheer was and he said “mommy, it’s when you turn up your collar and grab your microphone and you say: thank-you, thank-you very much”. He was so proud of his Elvis cheer and I had no idea that he even knew who Elvis was. He has also figured out that in the real world, people have jobs, and that people get paid for working. So today he asked me if he could help dry the dishes, and I told him he could. So then he dried them and he said “since I did work can I get money to buy ice cream at school tomorrow”? He was so cute I just had to say yes! I guess it’s time to start giving the little fella a little bit of spending money from time to time, especially if he helps with big jobs.

My son loves music, he loves to sing, he loves guitar even though he doesn’t learn it formally, he loves drums, and he loves to dance when his daddy plays music for him. He also likes dressing up. I bought him his Halloween costume the other day and he was so excited. Costumes were $3 at the local salvage store, so I came home with a total of seven costumes for four kids. I knew that they would play with them a lot and not just use them for Halloween. So my five year old has been running around with a double-scoop ice cream costume on, although he says he’s going to be the pumpkin for Halloween, and he hasn’t even gotten to wear the duck or the dinosaur costumes yet. He adores the costumes and he’s so excited. This will be his very first Halloween even though he is five. (In fundamentalism, Halloween was bad, you see).

A couple of weeks ago I was taking him to children’s church when he saw a desk decorated with crabs in the children’s area. He shouted out “look mom, those are crabs. Crabs turn into gumbo.” This was just a few days after he told me that french fries turn into potatoes (yes, French fries to potatoes, not the other way around). He also told me that fish turns into fish sticks. Ha. The little dude is just so stinking cute! He’s an amazing little boy and I love being his mom.

New Direction

As Google makes libraries obsolete due to being a global electronic library, and Facebook becomes more involved in our interactions with others, we must look at the internet and its effects, both good and bad, on the church. I’m thankful for the internet; it’s one of the main reasons that I am no longer involved in the religious cult of Independent Fundamental Baptists. In some recent interviews I conducted for a feature story for school about women who left the Christian patriarchy/quiverfull movement, one of the key tools that each woman mentioned as being extremely influential in their choice was the internet. It was the internet that caused them to be able to do their own private research on issues; it was the internet that opened their eyes to the fact that the world was a much bigger place than they had been taught it was.

Technological changes have much to offer the church, but on the flip side, they can also be a detriment to the church if used wrongly. We must be wise in our uses of technology and media and make sure that our goal is the edification of other believers. I feel that lately I may have been using the small platform that I have here to cause division rather than edification and unity. That was never my intent. I am not going to stay away from controversial subjects completely, but I want to focus more on edification. If feel that a controversial subject will be edifying, then I will write about it. But if it’s likely to cause more hard feelings rather than edification, I’d best leave it alone. I never intended to cause discord and division, and the reason I often write about controversial subjects is merely to offer differing perspectives and challenge people to think. I totally still want to do that. I’m still going to talk about politics and feminism from time to time because those are an important part of my faith, but I’m going to focus less on those issues and more on issues relating to the intersection of faith and culture, media, and technology.

I’ve found that this area of study is fascinating, and I plan to hopefully complete a thesis on a subject relating to this theme in my final year of my bachelor’s degree next year. This theme is quickly becoming a passion of mine particularly in relation to worship. I do intend to keep this blog at a semi-intellectual level because that is my style and it is how I think. But I want it to be understandable to the average reader also, so I want it to be intellectual without using big words that nobody understands.

I’m thankful for the fact that God has channeled my interests and my studies into a particular area where I can be of use to the church. So there’s going to be more talk of cultural issues and how they relate to faith, more talk about pop-culture, more talk about communications and faith, and writing and faith, and art an media and their impact on the church, and the uses and effects of technology on the church. I am focusing a significant amount of my reading and research time into such subjects. I hope that this blog is edifying to the church. 

Worship Experiences

Several times during the past year I’ve mentioned worship experiences from church that really spoke to me. I am blessed to be able to help behind the scenes in Sunday morning worship at my church. I operate the video mixer or run media or lights for our services, with a great team of other people and an awesome band and worship pastor. Surprisingly, helping with production has also created a couple of great worship experiences, and taught me some things about worship. Running equipment to help in worship means that I am there for a practice on a weeknight, a practice on Sunday morning, and two worship services, and I can tell you that even though the band is singing the same songs in worship and the pastor is preaching the same message, I often get different things out of each of those two services even though they are basically the same.

It is with the production knowledge I have been gaining, along with some reading and studying that I have been doing, that I offer the following thoughts. The general idea was coined from Jeremy Begbie who contributed a chapter on the future of arts in worship in a book called “For the Beauty of the Church” edited by W. David O. Taylor. Jeremy Begbie said that “the Spirit unites the unlike”. (Begbie, 2010 p. 167). He talks about the miracle on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 where Peter was preaching and many people of many nations were together, and each heard the message in his own language, and comprehended it, and 3,000 people accepted Christ that day. This was a crowd of people who had nothing in common and couldn’t even speak the same language.

This happens in modern churches as well. God uses different things to speak to different people in different ways. Words and music are the “languages” that I speak and understand, and so God usually speaks to me through either of those. I have a friend who dances. I personally don’t really understand dance, but that’s the “language” that she speaks and God can speak to her through dance, and other visual displays, whereas visuals often just leave me confused. Anyway, Begbie says to take the Biblical account in Acts 2 and insert the word “media” where the word “language” is used. (Begbie, 2010, p. 170).

So, that passage would look something like this (passage from the NIV with my changes in italics):

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be different media that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to produce other media as the spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one saw them performing in the style of media that they most understood. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are performing Galileans? Then how is it that each of us sees them in our own media? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judiaism); Cretans and Arabs – we see them performing the wonders of God in the way each of us understands it most!” Acts 2:1-11 (NIV), italics mine.

Please know that I am not trying to change the Bible and make it say something else here, I’m merely trying to illustrate a point. I have spent the last two years studying different media and writing techniques, and I have spent the last couple of months learning how to operate production equipment in the context of worship services. I’ve been studying technology and culture and I’m interested in its uses in Christian culture, for the benefit of the church, and for worship. I believe I want to focus my master’s degree research in this area.

The thing is different types of media speak to different people in different ways. None are “better” than the others; the fact is that God uses all forms of media and popular culture to speak to people. While we corporately worship together in church and sing praises to God, our acts of individual worship may indeed be much different. Only God could bring together a group of people who are so different, who have different lives and different stories and from different socio-economic backgrounds and have different preferences and different ways of understanding things, and have one worship service speak to many people in many different ways. 

Begbie, J in Taylor, W 2010 For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Teaching Children the Bible

I don’t tend to teach my children a lot of “Bible stories” even though they were taught to me as a child by Christian parents who wanted me to know and love the Bible. I want my children to know and love the Bible but more importantly I want them to know and love God. For me, the Bible is too important of a document to be reduced to highly sanitized stories and cutesy flannel graph or precious moments pictures. I do have a couple of story Bibles, they are good for the kids learning to read, but I don’t use them a whole lot. I don’t give them “cute” pictures of Noah’s ark and animals or use it as a bedroom decorating theme. I know many, many good parents who do take the Bible story route, and they are doing what is right for them and anyone teaching their children the Bible should be commended for that. I just choose a different route that I hope will serve my family better.

I also don’t teach my children a lot of the cutesy Sunday School songs either, for the same reasons I don’t teach them highly sanitized Bible stories. The thing is, I want God to be real to my children. I want the Bible to be real. For a realist such as myself, sanitized Bible stories and cute ditties don’t work for me, and my autistic children in particular are realists as well. Another reason is that I don’t want to hide some of the ugliness contained in the Bible from my children. I want my children to appreciate the Bible as a whole, the bits that they think are good, and the bits they think are bad. I want them to see the bigger picture on what, or rather, who, the Bible is actually about.

So then, what exactly do I teach my children when it comes to faith? I teach them worship songs, so they can worship, so that hopefully they will gain a glimpse of who God is. I read to them straight from the Bible, I help them memorize Scripture. We have discussions about faith and morality and character.

My point is that I want my children to have faith, and I want their faith to be real. I want them to grapple with the tough stuff, the questions, the doubts, I want them to bring them all to God. I want them to be able to be honest with God and with themselves about the things that they don’t like or don’t understand.

For me, seeing the Bible presented as flannel graph and in sanitized stories helped me to fake faith. It made me look like I had a lot of Bible knowledge, when in reality, I knew nothing. I didn’t even understand the Bible’s most basic concepts, nor did I understand what the Bible was really about. My approach probably wouldn’t work for everybody, but I am hoping that it works for us. 

Ten (Plus a Bonus 5) Good Things About This Week

So today I just want to list ten awesome things about this week (particularly to prove to my friends and to myself that I’m not negative about *everything* and to perhaps start a new pattern).

1. My little girl looks totally amazing in a cute shirt and jeans.

2. I have the most beautiful little boys on the face of the planet.

3. My husband has a scar that I told him qualifies him to be Harry Potter for Halloween; I love the scar because it means he’s alive. I might get annoyed with him sometimes but I’m not ready to lose him.

4. I love stores that have lay-away. It means I can put stuff on lay-away on pay-day and therefore payments are scheduled for next pay-day and it means I can pay stuff off BEFORE I get it.

5. I’m learning to accessorize…I thought the day would never come. I decided to simplify and stick to wearing a few colors that I love and that look good on me, purple, black and silver. I do buy things in other colors but not a whole lot. Makes accessorizing and matching easier, and I look great.

6. My sisters are going to be here from Australia for Thanksgiving.

7. I have started working on writing a book, which means a lot to me.

8. I’ve gotten to read some really good material this week (like “For the Beauty of the Church” by W. David O. Taylor, and “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” by Stephen King, and my Message Bible that some friends bought me for my birthday).

9. I am thankful right now that I live in town. It means that I can walk places when I don’t have a car.

10. I am enjoying walking places, it slows the pace of life down, gives me time to think and pray, and I’m assuming that if I continue to walk more places even after we get a car, then I will get cute, sexy legs. :p

11. The bank refused to finance another loan for a car even though they have to (according to their rules), which means they are forcing us to buy a car in cash. Buying a car in cash means no payments, yay!

12. I just made it through my most intense semester yet in college and my grades are looking good!

13. Taking only one college course this next semester means more time to read and study the things I want to read and study, and it means more time to work on my book!

14. I have a job where I have to dress up. I enjoy dressing up, it makes me feel more confident. I don’t know why, but hey, it works so I’ll take it.

15.I love Prozac. That stuff is amazing. 🙂 So thankful for people who can develop medicines for those of us that need a little extra help.


The ten awesome things ended up being fifteen awesome things. So that means I found five extra things that were great about this week, so I’m going to keep them on the list even though that made it more than ten.

I hope you enjoyed this list, I’m actually thinking of making it a regular Friday feature. My friends are right, I do tend to be negative, but I’m sure I can find ten things about every week that are good. 

Individual Worship: Being an Individual

Lately as I’ve been thinking about worship, both individual worship and communal, corporate worship, I’ve had several epiphanies.

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NIV.

Or didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 The Message.

I used to think that these verses meant that I had to dress in socially awkward ways to please God, that I had to have a neat and clean and perfect appearance, only have one set of piercings (ear lobe only), never get a tattoo, and people who had tattoos were supposed to be ashamed of them, and dress in approved clothing, being careful of styles and appearances. However, I recently began thinking of these verses in relation to individual, personal worship.

The Bible says elsewhere that God basically handcrafted us (well, that’s my paraphrase of Psalm 139:13-16 at any rate). Things that are handcrafted are unique; no two of them are the same. And that’s how it is with us. What this means is that I am the only me that will ever live. God handcrafted me, I’m authentically me and I’m an original. (I hear you all saying “praise God!” Ha). I am supposed to honor God with my body, and worship him with my body. The way I express this worship is going to be different to how other people express worship. I’m moving beyond the definition of worship as simply being participating in a praise and worship service at church on Sunday. It’s great that I participate and worship in those, but worship is so much more than that.

God is a creative God, and he has bestowed upon the human race many creative expressions with which to worship him. Some worship God by dancing, some by singing, some by playing instruments, some by writing songs, some by writing plays, some by writing novels, some by drawing, some by gardening, etc. God has also given us our own unique tastes and our own unique styles. He’s a creative God, and he’s given us a gift in giving us so many ways of expressing ourselves and making sense of him and ourselves through art and creativity.

Lately I’ve started to feel freer about expressing myself through my fashion style. It’s been difficult because of the rules and regulations that I used to live by about clothing and style. I like a classic, preppy style, but I also love the punk, Gothic style. I used to subscribe to the notion that liking the Gothic style was wrong and that I could not express myself in that way, but have in the past couple of weeks realized that I am a unique creation with unique likes and dislikes and that it is ok to express myself and present myself to God in worship in a style that is authentically me, the me he made me to be.

I’ve realized that I can worship God with one hole in each ear or three. I can worship God with a tattoo, in fact, having a tattoo is art, and that is one of the gifts in which God has given us to express ourselves, and so body art can be an expression of worship. (I know some will disagree with me here, and that’s ok). I recently had a period of a few months where I had bright pink hair, and I found out that that was ok with God. It was an expression of me, the me he had made me to be.

I’m not claiming that one has to have hot pink hair or a bunch of piercings or be covered in tattoos to worship God. On the contrary, I’m saying that I learned that one can have hot pink hair, a bunch of piercings and be covered in tattoos and not only be right with God, but for some of them it could be an act of worship and they might have a very vibrant relationship with God. Which then leads me to the topic of communal, corporate worship…when all kinds of handcrafted by God people gather to worship together, their uniqueness and individuality are an asset to the corporate worship rather than a hindrance.

And for the record, I haven’t gotten either my tattoo or my second lobe and my cartilage piercings yet. :p

Thoughts on Prayer and Worship

Since leaving fundamentalism, I have struggled a lot with prayer and with worship. I do not write this to mock at any expression of Christianity whether it is fundamentalism or evangelicalism or Catholicism or whatever. I write this in order to write about my experiences and the things that I have learned that have helped a great deal.

 I have struggled to understand prayer and its purposes, as it seemed to me that many used prayer as magic, in that they expected to pray for something and God would do what they wanted. That idea of prayer always bothered me, and many times I would pray for things that were very important to me, big things that I thought would matter to God, only to have them not work out for me. It left me wondering if prayer really “worked” because my whole life I have heard clichés like “prayer changes things”.

Sometimes, I buy a book and read a paragraph that makes the entire book worth the money that I paid for it. “For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts” edited by W. David O. Taylor is one such book for me. In the first chapter, Andy Crouch says:

“What if God is more utterly, completely for us than we could ever be for ourselves? What if we no longer have to offer a sacrifice that might waft up into his nostrils and compel his distracted attention – what if he himself has taken the initiative, become the sacrifice, torn the temple veil? What is left but gloriously unuseful prayer and praise?

What we do in our churches, when we do what we should be doing, is unuseful! It is better than useful. The economy of grace overflows with the unuseful. Does prayer work? Should prayer work? No. Prayer does not work. It does something better than work. Prayer brings us into the life of the one by whom all things were made and are being remade. It aligns our life with the one who suffered most deeply on behalf of all that is broken in the world, and through whose sufferings the world has been saved, is being saved, and will be saved.” (Crouch in Taylor, 2010 p. 39).

This was my “duh” moment about prayer. Maybe prayer is not supposed to “work”, because it isn’t a magic trick or a spell. Maybe I have had the wrong idea about prayer all this time. Perhaps prayer is about God rather than me, perhaps “answers to prayer” is not what I should be looking for. It’s entirely possible that prayer really is conversation with God. When I have a conversation with friends, I don’t come to them with a list of demands that I expect them to fulfil, and I guess it is the same way with God. Prayer is about God, prayer is about talking with God and having a relationship with God. It seems that I have to learn all of this slowly…that none of this God-stuff is about me. It’s all about God.

Worship too has been a struggle, where I often wondered if worship were an individual thing, or a communal thing, until I suddenly two Sunday’s ago while sitting in church and listened to the preaching it suddenly hit me…worship, in fact, my entire faith, should be both individual and communal. I ought to worship God on my own, and I ought to worship God with others. Faith is a very individual experience; it’s about my own personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Faith is also a very communal, corporate experience; it’s also about my relationship with others, and other people’s relationship with Jesus Christ. I am meant to have my own walk with God, and I am meant to support others in their walk with God.

I have also continually struggled with doubts and questions about God and Christianity, thinking that I was a terrible person who could not worship God with all the doubts and questions that I had. I felt guilty about claiming to be a Christian while I struggled to believe it and struggled to live it. But again, two Sunday’s ago in church, my pastor said something that just resonated with me. He said to bring my honest questions and doubts to worship with me. God doesn’t want me to pretend, and he knows that I have questions, so I might as well bring them when I worship. I have been struggling, but I have been worshipping anyway, and God has been meeting with me especially when I make the effort when I’m just not feeling this whole God-thing.

In the times I have struggled, I have sometimes wondered if this whole God-thing is really true. The reason I have clung to it so much is that I know that something happened when I got saved, and that things have been happening since in my life, and that I cannot ignore those things or chalk them up to coincidence. But sometimes the exact intersection of faith and science confuses me. I am a person that likes to research and to ask questions and gather evidence and find answers. People say that seeing is believing. However, my pastor said that with faith, believing is seeing! (Hebrews 11:1-2). Basically, I have been choosing to believe in God and who he says he is and who I understand him to be even though I have had my doubts. As I have done this, I have had my eyes opened to more truth. In this case, believing has come before the seeing. I felt such great comfort when my pastor said that.

My pastor also went on to say that if we could prove God and prove his existence scientifically, we would have no choice but to believe because it would be blatantly undeniable. But God has always wanted us to have a choice, it’s what he did in that fateful moment in the garden of Eden allowing Adam and Eve the choice whether to obey him or not. We believe in gravity because we can prove it, we don’t really have a choice but to believe, because the concept of gravity is obvious. Society would think someone crazy who didn’t believe in gravity. But God is unproveable by design so that we have the opportunity to choose to believe, or not to believe.

Reference:

Crouch, A in Taylor, W 2010, For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts, Baker Books, Grand Rapids.