Thursday, October 21, 2010

No Pick Outs!

Last week, we made home-made pizza.  Five different pizzas, with five different combinations of toppings and flavors. Glorious, beautiful, messy hand-made pizzas.  Every time we make pizza, I do a "white" pizza. No sauce. I know, I know. The half-Sicilian in me should be scandalized. But I'm not. I just love going crazy with gourmet flair to "my" pizza. And make no mistake about it. It IS "my" pizza.  This time, it was deliciously smothered in two kinds of cheeses, lightly steamed broccoli, sliced onions, fresh tomatoes and the slightest touch of smoky bacon. A riot of colors and flavors, all waiting to be melted and melded together to create an explosion of flavor on my tongue.

When we sat down to eat, I noticed that LadyBug had taken a piece of "my" pizza.  Which is kinda fine. I mean, she's not a huge sauce lovin' chick either. But.  And it's a BIG but. About 10 minutes later, I noticed that she had divested that same pizza of all toppings except for cheese and a couple pieces of bacon.  Limp broccoli, onions and tomatoes sat forlornly on the side of her plate.  I was NOT a happy gourmet.

See, we have a little "rule" about meals like that.  When I make a dish with lots of flavors and textures, especially when it's a brand-new creation, I reserve the right to pronounce "No Pick Outs" when I set the meal on the table.  I've been known to be merciful and allow "One Pick Out" on occasion, mostly when there are peppers or tomatoes in a dish. I try to be accommodating, given that I usually KNOW in advance that I'm preparing a meal that might be more mature than my kids' palates can handle.  But in general, I stick to the "No Pick Outs" policy for the purposes of helping the gang "get" that the entree is meant to be experienced as a whole offering. That the ingredients are meant to be melded all together to create one flavor experience. A whole sensation of both nourishment AND pleasure in one bite.  In one dish.

I know, that's lofty. And often unrealistic. But it's my policy and I'm sticking with it. Hang in there. I'm going somewhere with this. Somewhere way deeper than pizza.

So later that night, after the left-over pizzas were neatly stashed away and The Gang was all tucked into their beds, I hopped on to Google Reader and caught up on some of my favorite blogs.  Several of the blogs that I read are adoption blogs. Some of them are special needs blogs. Many of them Christian adopters. Many are not professing believers. But I love reading them all. I don't always agree with them all. But I love learning and connecting over shared experiences. They challenge me and sharpen my mind and make me think about things. (I'm reading a book or two right now - on similar topics - that also are giving me quite the mental stretch and challenge.)

And as I read, I got to thinking.
That's always dangerous, I know.

Now, I'm not sure that I have all the answers to some of the questions I'm about to pose, but I've been thinking and praying. And though the adoption blogs that I read that weekend are the impetus to this extended metaphor, I know for certain that it applies to many, many areas of life. For anyone who reads the Word and tries to live it. MYSELF INCLUDED! You ready?! Don't say I didn't warn you. . .

What if God is looking at us, watching us pick apart His Word, and trying to make a meal out of just the little parts that we pick out?  What if He's sitting there, trying to put the whole thing before us and He wants to say to us "No Pick Outs!"?  What if He's watching how we take a principle of His Word, or a verse that is "pivotal" to us and is frustrated by the way that we camp on it and make our daily walk all about that one principle or that one verse?

When I cook, one of my primary agendas is to prepare multi-faceted, nutritional meals.  I am creating a well-rounded meal for my family and exposing them to different flavors and spices and textures because it's good for them. It's good for their bodies, it's good for their minds, and it's good for their spirits. I'm not just thinking about the food pyramid. I'm thinking about their sense of identity. I'm thinking about their future. I'm thinking about their social skills, their academic skills. A lot goes into preparing those meals. Dinner at our table isn't meant to just be healthy. It's meant to be NOURISHING of their body, mind, and spirit...  Sound familiar?

"God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon's scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God's Word. We can't get away from it—no matter what." ~ Heb. 4:12 and 13 
"Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him
with all that's in you, love him with all you've got!" ~ Deut. 6:5
"And friends, once that's taken care of and we're no longer accusing or condemning ourselves, we're bold and free before God! We're able to stretch our hands out and receive what we asked for because we're doing what he said, doing what pleases him. Again, this is God's command: to believe in his personally named Son, Jesus Christ. He told us to love each other, in line with the original command. As we keep his commands, we live deeply and surely in him, and he lives in us. And this is how we experience his deep and abiding presence in us: by the Spirit he gave us." ~ I John 3:21-24

(all quotes from The Message; emphases mine for the point of this post)

When I read the Word, I'm trying to take it all in. Trying to make it count, desiring it to go in deeply and surely, and asking the Lord for it to nourish my whole being.  But when I take out one verse, one section of the Word, and camp my whole life on it, I'm starving myself in other areas.  When I pick out just one portion of the nourishment of His love letter to me, I am missing out on the balanced, well-rounded LIFE that He's calling me to build.

For some folks in Christian circles, I've seen it in parenting: they capitalize their parenting style on "Children obey your parents."  And they leave the rest of the messages about unconditional love, grace, compassion, and modeling ourselves after Christ by the side of the plate.  Or they go the opposite direction and make it ALL about grace and freedom, forgetting that boundaries and limits to freedom are not laws but loving guidelines meant for our safety and protection.


For other folks in Christian-dom, it shows up in what is popularly now becoming known as "adoption theology."  The foundations of their thoughts and discussions revolve around verses that call the believers to action regarding the orphans. Around the call to "rescue" and be about the 'mission" of enfolding the orphan into a family. Usually with regard to the plights of the orphans in destitute, poverty-stricken nations.

I don't disagree with them, inherently. How hypocritical that would be of me? I am the blessed mother of a beautiful girl adopted from a country that, inherent to its current circumstances, would never ever appreciate or even accept her simply because of her former status as orphan and her visible birth defect. I dare not disagree with the fact that on some levels: our journey to her was a mission of sorts, to get to her, to envelop her with the love of family and to see that she has everything that she needs to thrive and live joyfully as the beautiful image-bearer of Christ that she is. (And yes, I am biased!)

As I read on that particular night, I couldn't help thinking about the "lonely" (referencing Ps. 68:6) in that writer's community.  Or about the widows (James 1:27) on another writer's block. I find myself asking, "What have you done to meet those needs right in your own community?" - not out loud, not in earnest. Certainly not critically. For that too would be hypocritical of me - I am asking myself the same questions daily.

(At this point, let me state unequivocally that I am not, nor will I ever be, a theologian. I am just a mom making observations about myself and my world. And I do not have all the answers. I am making every attempt to not judge, but to process my observations and open up a dialog. Respectfully.)

And for each of those examples I gave above, I am certain that you, too, can come up with many instances where you have observed your own life or others and thought, "No Pick Outs!"  I know I do it still. I tend to have a myopic view of what tithing means. I am fairly stuck on some of these adoptions issues myself.  That being said, I fully admit that I am only seeing one facet of another writer's life, the one facet that they allow me to see when they share. I do that too - choosing carefully what I share and how I share it.  As one blogger said to me, when we were discussing the topic, speaking of some who may have a tendency to only blog about or discuss their theology of adoption:

So, while they continue in their homes and churches walking out a full, well-rounded Christian life, their on-line discussions don’t always show it. The good news about their adoption-soaked blogs is that they have led to connections between families from all over the country that are walking through the same issues, building each other up in very real ways.
So, do I think there are people that have taken up the call to care for orphans to such an extreme that they are neglecting the whole of scripture? Possibly. Mature Christians should know that when God begins to highlight another facet of scripture that has been too long ignored, what He is asking is that the “new” facet be folded into what is already being done, not replace it. I guess that’s another prayer point to take before the throne…

That says it far more maturely and graciously than I've been thinking about it. See what I mean about loving to read and be stretched by others who thoughtfully and intelligently write, even from a perspective with which I may not fully agree?  (If you aren't reading things that you might disagree with, I highly encourage you to do so. No matter the topic, you will be better for it! I'm grateful for parents who encouraged me to do so! Thanks, Dad and Mom!)

I must confess, though.  I'm still left wondering. Now mostly about myself. Am I living the Word wholly? Am I fulfilling all of the "Great Commission? (Matt. 28:18-20)  Am I living the FULL Gospel in all areas of my life? Am I out of balance myself? Does The Father feel the same frustration over that tendency in my life that I feel about my life? Or is He more circumspect and gracious than I, allowing for more factors like maturity, timing, and grace for this child on this journey?

I can't help but hope He is.
And while I have no answers to the questions,
(and I don't ask them to be flattered
or falsely built up by others' words)
I am eternally grateful that I can ask them.
And that He is patient and merciful in the answering.

"If you believe what you like in the gospel, and reject what you don’t like, it’s not the gospel you believe, but yourself " -Augustine of Hippo


TCC said...

It's refreshing to hear someone else "talk" about what they are pondering. I too ask lots of questions...some get answered and some I continue to ponder. Thanks for sharing. ;)

ComfyDenim said...

What a full bit of posting you've got here!! My friend is a deep thinker. :-) And she's willing to ask herself some tough questions. A willingness to grow and change – a willingness to be yielded and vulnerable before Holy Spirit and actually give Him permission to work on her..

I believe that is a sign of maturity in Christ.

I don't have all the answers either. I wish I did. I've been thinking about this for most of the afternoon and it's worked it's way nearly into a blog post.

What I can tell you is what I know to be true.

“No Pick outs”
This is actually a problem within the church as a whole. How often can we look between the Bible and a church and see the “pick outs”.

Just a few examples of this that I've seen happen in my own life: Healing isn't for today. We're not supposed to speak in tongues. All people must grow up and do something in the church or go into missions.

ALL of that is part of a pick out. How do I know?? It's in the scriptures for one thing and because I've seen the opposite of it walked out before.

We are supposed to heal. Jesus said, “Greater things than this will you do...” He healed. We are to heal.

People now say that speaking in tongues isn't for today – but if you look at scripture you see that the sign of being filled with the spirit is that we speak in tongues. (This is also picked out because people don't understand the difference between a prayer language and speaking in tongues – so they discount the entire thing.)

We are not to remain in church – and not everyone will go into the mission field.

This is a pick out...because of a misinterpretation of the 'great commission'. “Go into all the world and make DISCIPLES of all NATIONS.” – doesn't say converts. It says DISCIPLES!!!! STUDENTS of Jesus...

I hold religion to blame... Religion takes and sets up the rituals that we follow. And we follow along with what we are taught and rarely questioning. “Why is that person living a vital life for Jesus and healing others when we're not??”

I've actually asked this question. If women aren't supposed to preach in public, then why is Joyce Meyer so effective?? Not just successful – but effective!!!! (come to find out – it's a misunderstanding of that scripture – and it's been picked out for so very long that it's rarely questioned!)

I like how you've phrased it.. picking out.

I could go on and on personal stories and all – but I won't. I'll encourage you that May God give you wisdom and understanding as you bare your heart before Him. He likes to reveal secrets.
I don't know if all this added to the discussion or not. I could seriously take myself on several rabbit trails....



Hey - Word verification is "Chill". I'm taking that like a modern day "selah" -- "Chill and know that I am God." ^_^

Aus said...

Wow - that's a lot on a Friday before the coffee is done! ;)

You're cool - ya know that right? Interesting thoughts - and from my chair a proper perspective.

I'm Christian - Catholic - roman church - and I'm about as ecumenical as they come. But the 'big issue' I have with some other Christian churches is just exactly this - the 'bird dog' approach to Sacred Scripture. You've just GOT to have the whole thing - bit's and pieces and you don't get the meaning behind the words....

And of course in typical GM fashion - you said it with humor, grace, and cleverness!

And you are a much better theologian than many I have studied under - this from a man who served as a Franciscan for 7 years....Yeah - Aus spent 7 years as a Franciscan seminarian - and loved every minute of it - but heard the call elsewhere.

So no - at least in our home - adoption is not motivated as a 'mission' or a 'calling' or any of that. I'll grant that it does fullfil the excat words of those passages of Scripture - but that's only an accident. The Calling is simply to be a mom and a dad and to serve in our community as best as we can to live up to the Words of Christ. Everything else just kind of 'springs' from that.

Oh - and one closing thought..."Am I living the Word wholly? Am I fulfilling all of the "Great Commission?"" - I can answer that in a word - yes. Like us - you are living up to that to the best of your ability. And like us - I'm sure that you falter from time to time - we certainly do! But our God is a kind and compassionate God - and He fully understands what it means to be a mere mortal (He WAS one) - and I'm thankful for that because I'll need all the forgiveness I can get! ;)

Great stuff here - wow - and on a Friday

hugs - aus and co.