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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Pilgrimage to the "Holy Land"... Is it really worth it?

The Holy Land, Israel... the Mecca for Jesus People.  

You either have gone or you haven't.  I haven't.

I have heard testimonies from people of their "life changing experiences" when they have traveled to land where Jesus lived.  They have floated in the Dead Sea; strolled the shores of Galilee where Jesus called his first disciples; they have visited the site where Jesus was born (or believed to have been born); and stood in the city of Jerusalem where the three crosses would have stood.

All of these experiences are said to have brought people closer to Christ.  They have walked where Jesus walked.

Here is a result of my quick Google search

This site advertises  "Affordable trips to the Holy Land"  starting at only $1358.

"Is it your dream? Have you always wanted to travel to the Holy Land? You are now closer than ever, join others who want to visit the Holy Land and witness the miracle for yourself. Join a regular scheduled Holy Land Group Tour."

"It's a great idea! Organizing and leading others on a trip to Israel, the land of the Bible, is one of the most rewarding and exhilarating experiences one can have. Perhaps now is the time to begin making it happen, both for you and for those you will lead."

"Do you want to share what your Faith means to you in your life with others? Simply invite a group of ten people to join you on a Holy Land Tour and your trip is free. Make this your Ministry."

"Witness the Miracle"... Wow. Aren't we a little late to witness the miracle in Israel?  What miracle are they talking about?  If I go to the "Holy Land" , what am I going to see that is so miraculous?

Because of things like television and the internet, I have access to a lot of footage of the sites  and sounds of Israel.  Others have spent the thousands of dollars to go on their pilgrimage and I have reaped the rewards of their visit by just turning on my TV or my computer.  

Other than that, is there something else I am missing?  The smell of a camel, the sand in between my toes, the photo opportunities...?  

I have no conclusive answers... just questions.

Is it worth the two grand and more I would have to spend to get there?
Am I going to experience something that I can't get from my TV or Internet?
Will I learn more about Jesus if I go to his hometown? 
Will it help me share Jesus with others?
Will it change my life?
Will it bring me closer to Jesus?

Here is a thought.  

Do people have to travel to Fort St. John to get to know Ruby Neumann?  Do people have to travel to the place I was born and raised to get closer to me and to know who I am? 

Or... will they get to know me when they hang out with me right where I am at.  

I figure, If I get a chance sometime in my life to visit "The Holy Land", then I will enjoy the adventure and take lots of pictures.  Maybe even smell a camel. 

 But if I never get that chance, I am thankful that I don't have to go to Jesus' home town to know Him.  I am glad that He made the trip to get to know me.  

Saturday, July 27, 2013

10 questions that I wish I had the courage to ask members of the Clergy.

Religious Fashion Shows

(From Matthew 23 1-13 - The Message) 
 "Now Jesus turned to address his disciples, along with the crowd that had gathered with them. "The religion scholars and Pharisees are competent teachers in God’s Law.  You won’t go wrong in following their teachings on Moses. But be careful about following them. They talk a good line, but they don’t live it. They don’t take it into their hearts and live it out in their behavior. It’s all spit-and-polish veneer.
 "Instead of giving you God’s Law as food and drink by which you can banquet on God, they package it in bundles of rules, loading you down like pack animals. They seem to take pleasure in watching you stagger under these loads, and wouldn’t think of lifting a finger to help.  Their lives are perpetual fashion shows, embroidered prayer shawls one day and flowery prayers the next. They love to sit at the head table at church dinners, basking in the most prominent positions, preening in the radiance of public flattery, receiving honorary degrees, and getting called ’Doctor’ and ’Reverend.’
"Don’t let people do that to you, put you on a pedestal like that. You all have a single Teacher, and you are all classmates.  Don’t set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God; let him tell you what to do. No one else should carry the title of ’Father’; you have only one Father, and he’s in heaven.  And don’t let people maneuver you into taking charge of them. There is only one Life-Leader for you and them - Christ.
 "Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant.  If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty. "
The Questions
I wish I had the courage to ask every pastor and get an honest answer for the following questions.
1.  Have you ever preached on Matthew 23: 1-13?
2. Why is your name on the front church sign? 
3. Why is it necessary for you to wear a robe up for Sunday services? (maybe only applies to  Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans, and Church of England)
4. Why is it important for you to be called Pastor (or Reverend or if you are Catholic... Father)?
5. Could you do your job without the titles, without the robes and without your name on the marquis?
6. Do you always practice what you preach... and when you don't... have you been caught by the ones  you preach to? Care to share any stories? 
7. Are there rules or practices  in your church that you want to get rid of if you could ... but don't because your job would be on the line if you even dared to suggest it? If so... what are some? 
8. Would you be doing something else for a profession... if you didn't feel like God asked (or called) you to do what you do? 
9. Do you have any real friends in your workplace (your church)? 
10. Can you be yourself with the people that call you Pastor?
If the truth be told...
I titled this blog... 10 questions that I wish I had the courage to ask members of the Clergy.  If the truth be told...If I was "real" about my experience.  I have asked on occasion a few of the questions.  I find that when pastors get somewhat honest about some of these questions, it is outside of their clubhouse. I get the feeling that most pastors wouldn't be totally honest with the club members.  It wouldn't seem to be good for job stability.   
My heart goes out to pastors 
 I have friends that get their paycheck from the local clubhouse.  I really feel for them and their challenges.  I used to think it was necessary to have these men and sometimes women in a spiritual leadership position. I figure a lot of them are in their job because they feel they have to be, not because they truly want to be. 
If I had to sum up the heart of the genuine pastor out there... I would say that he wants to make a difference, a change for the better, in his world.   He has a genuine relationship with Jesus and want to share that joy with others.   He want to feed the poor and clothe the naked and house the homeless.  The real guy behind the job description doesn't want to serve himself... he chose that profession because he wants to give himself to something and Someone greater than himself.  
But somewhere along the line... 
the machine is bound to interfere and trip up anyone that gets in its way.  The machine... the organization, the institution, the politics, the programs, the responsibilities, the expectations, the illusions, the doctrine, the rules and regulations... and the list may go on.  
What is the problem?
  For thousands of years, the sheep have been putting other sheep in charge of their souls.  
But Jesus said:  
"Don’t let people do that to you, put you on a pedestal like that. You all have a single Teacher, and you are all classmates.  Don’t set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God; let him tell you what to do. No one else should carry the title of ’Father’; you have only one Father, and he’s in heaven.  And don’t let people maneuver you into taking charge of them. There is only one Life-Leader for you and them - Christ."

Saturday, July 20, 2013

"Come Lord Jesus", "Johnny Appleseed" and the tradition of table grace

"Come our Lord and be our guest and let this food to us be blessed.  Amen"

and then there was...

"Come Lord Jesus, be our guest and let these gifts to us be blessed. Amen"

and when we went to the German neighbours it was...

"Komm Herr Jesus Sie unser Gast Segne was Du uns bescheret hast. Amen!

There was this tradition around the dinner table at home...
Okay.. it wasn't just around the dinner table, it was during breakfast and supper as well.  Growing up in our family there were certain expectations.  Now I call them traditions, but growing up, they were expectations.  There were things I did just because I had to do them.  It was expected of me and that was that.  There were no questions.  I just obeyed.  It didn't have to make sense to me.  Table grace was one of those traditions/expectations. 

 I could call it prayer, but now I am not sure it was prayer.  Prayer is the conversation I have with my Father.  What I did before meals at my house was a repeated emotionless ritual.  

I went on the internet to see if google would give me some insight into this issue.  I came up with a lot of answers.... except the one I was looking for.

Here is my question: 

Is praying before mealtime purposed to be done with the heartfelt intent to thank my Creator for providing me with daily sustenance?  And if that is the case what am I supposed to do with the recited ritual that feels miles away from that heartfelt connection?  

I am stuck in a mire on this one.  My mom and my family still feel it is necessary to partake in the thrice daily tradition.  And I am going to be honest... when I am with them, I go along with it, no questions asked.  Honestly, I am not ready to rock the boat on that issue yet.  I have rocked the boat in my family so much so that the next push could tip it.  

(click on the link above to hear Disney's rendition of the song) 

It has been a 23 year musical tradition that we sing Johnny Appleseed when we have a family gathering.  It started when my nephew Benjamin was just a toddler. He would pipe up at meal times... 
" Sing Lord is good to me"

How does one turn down an adorable two year old when he puts in that request.  He heard it, liked it and kept requesting it.. so we kept on singing.  Now it is tradition. 

  I still like singing it with my family.  It is fun and lively and starting the meal with music probably aids in better digestion. (that is my guess!)  But is it prayer... or just table entertainment?  

I am not suggesting that I kibosh the family supper singalong just because my family and I see it from different perspectives.  I don't think that is necessary.

News Flash:  I eat without praying first...
 most of the time.

I do want folks to know that even though I don't practice the repetitive tradition of table grace, I am very thankful to my Creator for my daily bread.  I am thankful for my husband when he cooks (which is most of the time) and I let him know it with heartfelt gratitude.  Sometimes I will whisper a thank you from my heart after I have participated in the oral tradition with my family and table praying friends.  I guess I just want to be real about my gratitude not repetitive.  

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Baptism: my story, my thoughts and my questions - Part 2

Why did I do it? 

 I think I wanted to be there.  I wanted to be the one who said "Yes, Jesus... I want to follow you."  I wanted to show my family and friends that this was my choice... my commitment. I remember a joyful feeling as I was immersed in the water.  I remember coming up feeling that something had begun in my life. It was something new.

 I don't believe God loved me any more in that moment.  It wasn't the beginning of my faith journey, just another milestone on the way.  Just a reminder to myself and others that I was going to continue on the journey. I am still glad I did it.

Why is it done?

I have been through the denominational spectrum in the last twenty years.  There are always rules when it comes to baptism, depending on what club you want to be a part of.  How old? How much water? Who gets to do the baptizing?  What seems so ironic is that every denomination gets their baptism rules from the same source.  Or that is what they claim.

This is what I found in Mark when I went digging under a baptism theme.  From the lips of John the

Baptist... via the Message translation.

I’m baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. His baptism—a holy baptism by the Holy Spirit—will change you from the inside out.”
-Mark 1:8 (MSG)

John baptized for  repentance... which is just another word for change.  Repentance isn't about remorse, it is a 180 degree turn.  John invited people to change, but made it clear that someone was coming that would facilitate that change.  Jesus was coming: the Holy Spirit was coming... Their dip in the Jordan River was the response to the invite.  Jesus was the fulfillment.

Who's right? 

There are two main camps when it comes to Baptism and it's rules, regulations, theology and doctrine (as explained in this clip from Wikipedia) 

Infant baptism is the practice of baptising infants or young children. In theological discussions, the practice is sometimes referred to as paedobaptism or pedobaptism from the Greek pais meaning "child". The practice is sometimes contrasted with what is called "believer's baptism", or credobaptism, from the Latin word credo meaning "I believe", which is the religious practice of baptising only individuals who personally confess faith in Jesus, therefore excluding underage children. Infant baptism is also called christening by some faith traditions.

I have lived in both camps over the duration of my life and I have friends and loved ones in both camps.  For me to say that one is better or more biblical than the other isn't going to help anyone.  I am done debating because it only leads to broken hearts and wounded relationships. Maybe I am a peacekeeper... but I am concluding that there are much more important things to spend my energy on... and it is not debating baptism rules.  

Why did Jesus do it?
I watched a Youtube clip of a Jesus movie.  Jesus walked into the Jordan River to get baptized by John.  For him it wasn't about repentance or forgiveness of sins. Why did the Son of God choose baptism? There is a world of people that have opinions and suppositions that attempt to answer that question.  

Could it be that Jesus' baptism was a milestone in his journey.  His baptism wasn't the beginning of his journey.  He already had an eternity with his Father and thirty years on earth experiencing life among his creation.  Here is the story from the New Living Translation.  
Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John.  But John tried to talk Him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by You, ” he said, “so why are You coming to me?” ) But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptize Him. After His baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on Him.  And a voice from heaven said, “This is My dearly loved Son, who brings Me great joy.  Matthew 3:13-17 (NLT)

Jesus was embarking on his mission.  The mission that brought him to humanity.  When I read this story, I see a Son embarking on a mission and a Father giving his Son his blessing as he goes.  
"Hey, Everybody, get ready... this is my Son and I am proud of him. He has given me great joy, now I am giving him to you so you may have great joy too."  

That would by my take on it.  So if that was Jesus experience at his baptism, would it be so bad to loose the religion surrounding the tradition and simply be baptized because our Father wants to express his joy with us?  

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

My new favourite theme verses

 I was reading some tweets tonight and came across one that asked me what my favourite theme verse was.    My first thought was "I don't know."  I decided to go on a hunt.  I went to one of my favourite versions of scripture (The Message); then I went to one of my favourite books in the bible. (Matthew) and finally I went to one of my favourite chapters in Matthew (5)...  The following selection popped out at me.  I have read it and even memorized it before from the NIV, but I like Eugene Petersen's bent on it. 
Matthew 6:5-12 (Message)

Pray with Simplicity

 "And when you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat?
 "Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.
 "The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this: Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are. Set the world right; Do what’s best-as above, so below.  Keep us alive with three square meals. Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.  Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. You’re in charge! You can do anything you want! You’re ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes."

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Baptism: my story, my thoughts and my questions - Part 1

What topic has caused more controversy among the Christian denominations than baptism?  Maybe there are hotter buttons and political issues on the front burner now, but for generations, baptism has been the biggest defining difference that keeps Christians in separate clubhouses on Sunday morning.

I want to share my story, my thoughts and my questions in this blog.... but it may take a few postings for the whole topic.  So on this post... I want to share my story.

I was raised Lutheran.  So when I was a month old, my parents baptized me according to Lutheran tradition.  I had three people that stood up with my parents in church that day.  So technically I have three godparents.  One of my godparents is a female pastor, and over the years she has been a spiritual guide in my life and a very special influence.  My other godparents are my aunt and uncle.  Their relationship with their creator and with me is a little strained right now, but the fact that they wanted to be my godparents when I was a baby,  still gives them a special place in my heart.

I don't remember that day at all.  I have a picture of my mom holding me.  I was wearing a little white dress.  Yet according to Lutheran tradition, something spiritually significant happened to me that day.

When I was 13, I started what Lutherans call confirmation.  Another word for Confirmation is "Affirmation of Baptism".  Because the majority of Lutheran children are baptized around a month of age, they have no training or knowledge as to what happened that day.  So around the age of 12 or 13, the child is enrolled in confirmation.  It is a two year program usually a couple of hours after school,  once a week, where the child learns about the traditions of the Lutheran Church. I was confirmed in Camrose in 1983.  That was thirty years ago.

When my denominational journey took me outside of the Lutheran world, I began to ask questions regarding baptism and its place in my faith life.  I remember having a conversation with my Baptist pastor in Olds during my second year of college (1991) about baptism.  That is when it started to get foggy for me.  Up until then I was fine in the faith that my parents raised me in.  It was my second year of college where I dared to attend a church that wasn't Lutheran or Mennonite.  All I seem to remember was the cold feeling I had when I went to the Lutheran church in Olds in my first year.  The building was made of cement blocks.  Maybe that had something to do with it.

It would be years before I would choose adult water baptism at First Assembly in Calgary.  I wish I had catalogued the journey back then.  Even today I can't say for certain if I was dissappointed, disillusioned or just bored with the faith that my parents had taught me.  My journey just took me to a different place.

I remember the phone call I made to my parents that day.  I called to inform them of my up and coming baptism.  There was a pause on the end of the line.  Mom was the one who spoke.

"God be with you." she said.

 I figured my choice to be baptized would be the hardest on my mother.  My Oma was a Mennonite and my dad was raised Mennonite and converted to the Lutheran denomination before he got married. Mennonites practice adult water baptism.   But my mom was born, raised and cemented in her Lutheran doctrine.  My parents and my Oma came to witness my water baptism.  I prayed for the chance that my family could come and be there with me.  It was February 25, 1996.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Coming out of a Different Kind of Closet

July 2, 13

Her freedom amazed me.  I don't know her well.  Actually I don't think I know her at all.  Yesterday was the first time I met her.  She is family.  

JD, as I shall call her,  is a member of my extended family.  I have a pretty big family and yesterday we were together to celebrate our aunt's 100th birthday.  JD brought her female partner along to the family gathering... a very Mennonite family gathering.

I wonder if JD felt welcome and loved around her Mennonite aunts, uncles and cousins.

I know I felt welcome and loved by my family... but then again there were only two others at that gathering that knew of the closet that I was coming out of.   Nobody asked, so nobody heard that I haven't "gone to church" for over four years.  (six years if my stint in the house group doesn't count).

 It almost seems like a harder closet to emerge from.  There are really no visible signs when I am out and about among the traditional crowds.  Unless someone were to ask the question...

"Where do you go to church?"

I get the feeling that even if some people do know about it... It is not the most favourite of chosen topics around the family table.  I can understand the awkwardness.

Part of me envies JD for her freedom.  I really hope that yesterday, she was embraced instead of judged.  I know that there are a lot more family members that have embraced different choices, other than their Mennonite Heritage, and they are still loved.  My dad traded in his Mennonite religion to become Lutheran and he still belonged to the family.

We are a close family, even thought we are spread out over the globe with similar or different life choices.  We are loved because we are family.

Monday, July 1, 2013

I have issues

July 1, 13

On this the first day of July...  the beginning of a new blog... I am declaring...


I had a visit this weekend with a lady that I got to know in boarding school.  Val was my dean in Grade 11 at LCBI.  She and her husband Randy pastor a Lutheran Church in a small town in Central Alberta.  Over the last 27 years, we have connected for visits off and on.  

I enjoy my time with Val.  She has a youthful energy mixed with wisdom from the years that make her so beautiful and refreshing to be with. We are two girlfriends that live a distance apart, but when we get together it doesn't take us long to catch up.  

I have to admit that I was a little anxious this time.  I was wondering how my current "church going status"  would affect the visit. 


Pastors and pastor's wives can be somewhat protective of the life they have chosen.  I figure that if someone chooses to be a pastor or chooses to be married to a pastor;  they need to believe that "going to church" is necessary to maintain a healthy walk with Jesus.  It would affect job security if they walked the fence on that one.  That is just my opinion.  

My fears were squashed right up until it was time to go. Val and I had a wonderful time together, and then I had to go.  So I went to the garage to say goodbye to Randy.  It was then that he brought up that my mother had let them know about my "CHURCH GOING STATUS". 

"You have issues with the institution." ... it was a comment something like that. 

I admitted that I had issues and that seemed to be the peak of the conversation.  


That seems to be the easiest way to describe my journey without an in depth conversation. 

I won't use up this post to go into depth either.  I just wanted to start off the blog with the declaration.  

I hope that I can go into more depth as I continue to write.  But for now...  


... seems to work.