What Limits Your Connection to God?

On Nov. 12, Tom preached on Zacchaeus' encounter with Jesus in Luke 19.  Tom offered some reflection questions we wanted to share.  Here they are below:

Sanctuary Community Church believes that God exists and that God responds generously to those who seek him for help. Many of us, however, don’t experience God this way. This questionnaire invites you to ask yourself Why? What limits or diminishes my ability to experience connection with, or receiving blessing from, God?

Personal/Individual/Me

Doubt, skepticism; anxiety, fear; Lack (knowledge, instruction, models); flawed knowledge, instruction, or models; trauma; busyness; contentment . . .

What personal/individual limitations have you experienced in the past?  And what about now? 

Systems/Groups

Family; Political; religious; work; education; economic; identity. How? pushing you out; keeping you in; shame, fear, praise, belonging; flawed beliefs or instruction . . .

What systemic/group limitations have you experienced in the past?  And what about now? 

Adverse Religious Experiences

Last Sunday, Tom introduced the topic of Religious Trauma and provided the following questionnaire.  These questions are meant to stir reflection and aren't intended to be a formal diagnostic tool.  We're happy to hear your thoughts and feedback about what this stirs. 

Adverse Religious Experiences Questionnaire

Do you remember being told that God has negative thoughts or feelings towards you?

Do you have a memory of God’s acceptance of you being brought into question?

Have you experienced shame or humiliation in a religious or spiritual setting or conversation?

Have you ever compromised your intellectual, emotional, or moral self because of religious pressure?

Have you ever been excluded or expelled from participation in religious activities or a religious community?

Have you ever participated in religious practices or activities to avoid trouble, loss, or exclusion/expulsion?

Have you ever experienced abuse (verbal, physical, emotional, sexual, other) in a religious setting or by a religious authority figure?

Have you treated other people in a way you regret because of religious pressure?

Have you been exposed to severe discord or fracture of a religious community?

Have you been exposed to the dismissal or ouster of a religious leader?

If yes to any of the above, do you have strong, easily activated memories of the event or experience?

Do you ever experience anxiety or anger when anticipating being in religious events or settings?

Does being near a pastor or religious leader ever make you anxious or angry?

Do negative anticipations cause you to avoid religious events, settings, people or conversations?

 

The Challenging Invitation of Jesus' Nonviolence - Some Questions

This past Sunday, I offered some questions to consider as we follow Jesus' into his way of peace and abundance.  Here are those questions.  Send me an email as you explore these - I'd love to hear what you're learning! David (david@sanctuaryic.org)

  • What are the mountains of violence or economic oppression in our world?   How can we live, work, and pray against them?

  • How do our daily choices and habits affect the peace and abundance of other people around the world?

  • Where do the products I buy come from?

  • How are the people treated who make them?  

  • How is the earth affected by the process through which these products arrive for my use?  

  • For those of us with investments, what kind of companies do we have our money invested in, through retirement accounts or other means of investing? Are these companies building peace and justice, or building mountains of oppression?  

  • What kind of media (e.g. books, websites, music, TV, movies) do I use? Who benefits from my engagement with this media?  Does this media contribute to or fight against the mountains of violence and economic oppression?  

Home Life Questionnaire

In a typical moment in David's household, his two boys prepare for battle.

In a typical moment in David's household, his two boys prepare for battle.

In a recent teaching, I mentioned using a Home Life Questionnaire to better understand our kids' perspective. Here are the questions we used. I'm sure there are many others that could be useful for your own home life. Take what's useful and throw out the rest! And comment or email me to let me know how it goes. david@sanctuaryic.org

Key: 

Almost always  5

Most of the time  4

Some of the time  3

Not very much  2

Almost never  1

Questions:

Mom and dad are respectful to me.

Mom and dad are respectful to each other

Mom and dad use kind language with me.

Mom and dad don't yell.

Mom and dad are too controlling.  

I wish we had more siblings (brothers or sisters) to play with.

My brother is kind and respectful to me. 

I am kind and respectful to my brother. 

I have fun playing with my brother. 

I have fun playing with dad.

I have fun playing with mom.

I feel angry about something that happened at home.

I wish I had more control over screen time and sweet things.

I like the dinners that dad or mom makes for us.

I work hard at my chores and am helpful around the house. 

I respond right away when mom or dad asks me to do something.

I feel happy at home.

I feel stressed or worried.

I feel happy at school. 

How I'm Surviving this Election Cycle

by Adey Wassink

My inner gyroscope broke last week. Though I can’t say it completely caught me by surprise, something has happened to me this election cycle. Caring about the outcome of an election is certainly fine. Voting is a privilege that as a woman I will never take lightly.

But this was different. By last week I found myself inhaling Facebook, which for me meant finding which articles were trending and then reading - all of them.  And when I wasn’t on Facebook, I was checking election predictions and breaking news.

My down time, or time when I wasn’t actually in meetings or responding to emails or working on sermons became an obsessive grind.

I was getting increasingly disheartened on multiple levels:  the vitriol that can happen so easily on social media, the crazy ways we debase each other, the racism and sexism and every other ism that seems to be spinning out of control.

It was last Thursday that I decided to get off Facebook. Every time I was tempted to see what was trending, I read a psalm. Psalm 1 gave a picture of

a tree planted by streams of water

     that yields its fruit in its season,

     and its leaf does not wither.

Reading the psalm I could feel my breathing slowing down, my body relaxing a bit.  

Psalm 2 hit me hard:

Now therefore, O kings, be wise; 

     be warned, O rulers of the earth. 

Serve the Lord with fear, 

     and rejoice with trembling.

 

Politics matter. Standing for justice will always be a mission of the gospel. But winding ourselves up into a frenzy until we become the people we judge, until we start saying the things we regret in ways we regret, until we can’t remember what silence or peace or resting in Jesus means, the system wins and has corrupts our souls.

Tom and I find healing in nature. After church on Sunday we headed out to Nevada, rented a car and are driving to meet friends in the Grand Canyon where we will be unplugged for a few days. Not irresponsibly long, but long enough to remember that a day in God's presence is far better than gold, and long enough to remember that God lifts us up on wings like eagles and hides us in the shadow of his wings, and long enough to remember that there will always be corrupt leaders and unfortunately there will always be suffering.

But maybe if you’re like me, taking a break from the craziness will do some good. Make up your own game. Every time you’re tempted to read another article, take 2 minutes of silence. Or every time you want to go on Facebook, read a psalm first, or pray for a friend, or even better, pray for your enemy.

I think I’m now on Psalm 300. Tom and I are traveling South on Highway 93 to Kingman, Arizona. We are surrounded by stark moonscape mountains with sparse dry vegetation,  the occasional splash of yellow flowers, orange and pink sunset clouds against a steely aqua sky. I hear Tom singing, “I need you, O I need you. Every hour I need you.” I stop and we sing together.

Adey and tom enjoying the grand canyon

Adey and tom enjoying the grand canyon

How to Talk About Race

singing "We Shall Overcome" at our #BlackLivesMatter Celebration service

singing "We Shall Overcome" at our #BlackLivesMatter Celebration service

Following our #BlackLivesMatter Celebration service this past Sunday, we heard from many people asking questions like How do I talk about race? How do I talk to my children about race? What can I do to be a part of the solution?  

There are all kinds of helpful articles, blogs, and books available, and here's one excellent resource:  http://www.raceconscious.org/2016/06/100-race-conscious-things-to-say-to-your-child-to-advance-racial-justice/

While this article is aimed at parents, the sayings offer a helpful model for growing in awareness and advancing racial justice.   *DISCLAIMER: no article is "perfect" - there will always be some phrases or ways of saying things that you won't agree with. This is not an endorsement of every phrase or every approach on the Race Conscious website.

If you have thoughts or questions, or wish to share a resource you've found helpful, comment below.  

US vs. THEM

Last Sunday, we looked at the story when Jesus preached in his hometown, and it turns ugly. Jesus challenges the hometown crowd’s tightly held communal identity. He implies that God’s favor comes to “them” as much as it comes to “us.”  According to Jesus, the good things God brings need not lead us to create an US vs. THEM world.  His hometown audience is less than thrilled with the message.  They respond with rage, and then they try to kill him (Luke 4:16-30). You can listen to the teaching audio here:  LINK.

Jesus offers some other difficult sayings related to the US vs. THEM theme.  Here are a couple examples:  

  • Luke 9:59-60 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
  • Luke 14:25-26 Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.

On the surface, it seems that Jesus is further cementing an US vs. THEM paradigm where all that matters is sticking with his in-group as opposed to a person’s own family.  But in the context of Jesus’ other teachings, these sayings work as cautions against holding onto any commitment that might prevent a person from receiving the life Jesus offers.  Jesus is not against family.  Very often our faith and love are expressed in the midst of family relationships.  But there are times when even family commitments come with a cost of alienating “the other” or creating an US vs. THEM dynamic.  When a family’s well being exists at the expense of those outside that family, it’s a sign of un-health within the family.  Jesus is warning against such shadowy commitments to family that ultimately will not produce life.  

It does not have to be an US vs. THEM world.  We can learn to identify when that perspective is functioning in groups or families or ourselves, and we can work against it.  We can receive all the fullness God has for us even while we hope for that fullness to extend to everyone and anyone.  That is God’s vision for collective identity.   

Rules for Life From Jesus' Sermon on the Mount

Here are some of the rules for life that Jesus invited his listeners, in his Sermon on the Mount, to put into practice. My (Tom's) invitation to you this past Sunday was to pick one or, if you’re feeling ambitious, two, to try out for one week. Be intentional with the practice, trying to do it as much as possible, and see what happens. What do you learn about yourself? About human nature? About the priorities and heart of Jesus? What would it mean for you to keep the principle going beyond your week’s trial period? 

1. Love your enemies

2. Do good to those who hate you

3. Bless those who curse you

4. Pray for those who mistreat you.

5. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other. 

6. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt.

7. Give to everyone who asks you

8. If anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.

9. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

10. Do not judge

11. Do not condemn

12. Forgive

13. Give

14. First take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove

the speck from your friend’s eye

15. Rejoice when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil

against you because of me

16. Let your light shine before others

17. Be reconciled with your brother or sister

18. Settle matters quickly with your adversary

19. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away

20. Do not swear an oath at all

21. Do not turn away the one who wants to borrow from you

22. Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others, to be seen by

them

23. Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, but store up for yourselves

treasures in heaven

24. Do not worry about your life, but seek first his kingdom and his

righteousness

25. Ask, seek, and knock

26. Watch out for false prophets

Hands On Faith, Making it Practical

This past Sunday we reviewed a number of our Hands On Faith service activities over the past year.  We also looked at Matthew 25 where Jesus says, "Just as you did it to the least of these, you did it to me."  

What does it actually look like to put this into practice?  Where do we go from here?  Besides joining in the church's occasional service efforts, what else is there?  Here are some thoughts:

Last Sunday we single packed over 1400 rolls of toilet paper for the Johnson County Crisis Center.

Last Sunday we single packed over 1400 rolls of toilet paper for the Johnson County Crisis Center.

  • Just try something.  We can sometimes get sidetracked in attempting to find the "perfect fit" for volunteering.  But often we can just simply try out a volunteer opportunity, see if it works, and go from there.
  • Do it with friends or family.  Find a volunteering group.  Maybe your small group in the church could join a Habitat build for 4 hours on a Saturday afternoon.  (You can contact Habitat directly to set it up!)  Or maybe you could visit a nursing home with family members once a month to simply hang out.  
  • Put a line item in your budget for giving to the vulnerable.  If you're like me, you're often asked to give to various organizations doing great work.  Or sometimes you might be approached by individuals asking for money.  It's a lot easier to respond to requests if you've already made room in your budget.  If you have $50/month to give away, then you can treat these requests as fun opportunities to give great gifts.  (A shameless plug for giving to our church-- Sanctuary is committed to giving away at least 10% of all that we take in.  That's $40-$45K each year.  When our whole church gives away thousands of dollars, it makes a big impact on the organizations, and people take notice of a church doing it.  So in your budgeting, think about not lowering your church giving for other giving.  Instead, perhaps you can skip a coffee or a meal to pad your giving budget.)
  • Think long term, and build relationships over the long haul.  It's the long term relationships and habits we form that make the greatest impact.  

Follow up to Sunday, May 17 Teaching

Last Sunday, we looked at Luke 14 where Jesus eats dinner with some powerful leaders while other "less important" people watch.  In the teaching, I mentioned Jesus's tendency to mess with the social barriers that humans create.  And I briefly described some examples from literature and movies that pick up on this theme:

  1. Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet tells the story of star-crossed lovers who challenge the barriers between their families.
  2. James Cameron's Titanic shows how Rose descends from her top tier, first-class existence to discover music, dancing, and romance in the lower tiers.
  3. The X-Men movies explore the boundaries around defining humanity.  Are mutants human?  Are we safe with them in our midst?  Can we eat with them?  

I chose these examples knowing they all entail tragic outcomes.  When people challenge social barriers that human culture has created, the challenge represents a great threat to society's sense of order.  The fight-or-flight response kicks in, and violence often results.  

Jesus was killed at least in part because he represented a threat to the perceived social order.  He breaks through boundaries, and people are disoriented or afraid.  They run away or fight back.  The powerful people kill him.  

When we go out and extend the Kingdom-of-God party, crossing social barriers, we may encounter some resistance.  We of course don't have to purposefully step on toes or offend, but we might get a few raised eyebrows in our direction.  That's normal.  It will be okay.  Let's keep the party going, intentionally going beyond our expected social spheres.  But let's be wise about it.  We may be able to cheerfully invite others into the barrier-crossing fun, or to address people's fears before the fight-or-flight response kicks in.  And we'll see what happens.  Cheers!