Level 3 Member
Monday, June 29, 2009, 6:49 AM
It's been a long time since I've blogged. I have been busy in the yard and garden. I spend most days outside digging in the dirt and loving it! I am growing tons of veggies this year plus my flowers, especially my lilies. So the blogging is taking a back seat to the gardening. I'll do more blogging again in the fall. Have a great day, a great Fourth of July and a great summer!
Friday, May 15, 2009, 7:40 AM
I have been regularly reading the Science and the Sacred blogs here on beliefnet and they go along with something I have felt about the biblical literalists for quite a while.
The fact that there are distant galaxies and planet, the fact that the earth is much older than many have believed doesn't make God any less present in the workings of the universe. Indeed, it makes God even more awesome and amazing. You don't have to give up God to believe in science. All science is doing is making God even greater and more incredible. If you close your eyes to science and its findings, you are closing your eyes to God. God is everywhere present, in the smallest particle and the largest sun. And science, instead of showing us that God does not exist, shows us how much more God exists than we have ever believed before. Let's not make God smaller and less amazing with our little ideas of Him. God is amazingly great and awesomely creative. Look at the universe and you will see God.
As Dr. Francis S. Collins says in his blog, "If you believe that God is the creator, how could the truths about nature we discover through science be a threat to God? For many scientists who believe in God — including me — it's just the opposite. Everything we learn about the natural world only increases our awe of the God the creator."
But I believe that some people are afraid of this science-proved awesome deity. God is just too immense and incredible for us simple humans. So we pull God down to our image. We make God smaller rather than make ourselves larger to fit God to what we believe. It's easier to believe in a God like Jesus, human and frail, rather than believe in a God who created the vast universe with all it's variety. We want God to be simple like us, so we are afraid of science and what it can teach us about God and creation.
So we insist that the Genesis story is a literal story of the creation and attack anyone who disagrees. We lock ourselves into a limited interpretation of God and the whole of creation. We make God little and limited so we don't have to struggle to understand God's greatness. We make God in our image because it's safer and easier to relate to God that way. We make Jesus God's son and finally God because it's easier to relate to the simple, human Jesus that to the omnipotent, powerful, mind-blowing God we learn about in science class.
St Augustine once wrote, ""In matters that are so obscure and far beyond our vision, we find in Holy Scripture passages which can be interpreted in very different ways without prejudice to the faith we have received. In such cases, we should not rush in headlong and so firmly take our stand on one side that, if further progress in the search for truth justly undermines this position, we too fall with it."
And that is now happening in many literalist churches. They are failing with their limited, unwavering, little interpretation of scripture...and of God. And being locked into this limited interpretation, they cannot face or acknowledge the advances in science. So they reject science and stay in their own little cave, never seeing the stars, the vast universe that God has created. They refuse to open their eyes and their minds to the vastness and incredible beauty of this God created universe with all its variety.
Walking with their eyes closed, they become the blind that Jesus speaks about. The blind leading the blind and both, eventually, falling into a pit. It's time for us to open our eyes and enjoy the vast beauty of the universe. To accept science's advances all the while realizing that science, too is a creation of our awesome God.
Monday, April 27, 2009, 8:55 AM
A study says Americans are leaving organized religion in record numbers. Church denominations are losing people from the Southern Baptists to the Catholic church and everything inbetween. But why? Is it because people don't want to spend (or in some people's minds "waste") the time each week? Are they all inherently evil people? Did the devil make them do it? Or is it that something is missing from these religious services?
I think perhaps most religious groups are so focused on promoting their religious message, dogma, and rules that they forgot to ask their congregations what they want, what they are looking for. Churches don't listen, they just talk. Oh, they make their talk loud, or musical, or passionate, or worldly, but it's all just talk. No listening required by the church, only by the congregation. You go to church, listen to the talk, listen to (sometimes weakly sing) the songs, listen to the readings, listen to the sermons. ... Then you go home and get on with your "real" life.
Oh, occasionally you'll find a church that talks about listening, but do they really listen? Does your talking have an effect on the running of the church ... on the services offered? Can you ask questions and discuss scripture like thinking adults or do your comments fall on deaf ears?
I think those of us who are church leaders need to sit down and rethink what we're doing and how we're doing it. Then we need to sit down and ask our congregations what they want from this church — and LISTEN, really listen — to what they say. Then, no matter what "denomination" we are, we need to start incorporating what our congregations want into our services. It can be done, but it's a lot of work. And it may shake up the leaders of your denomination a bit. But what's more important to you, having a vibrant, growing congregation or pleasing your leaders? Jesus always chose the needs of his "people" over the rules and regulations of the church "leaders." I think it's time we did too.
So what are people looking for in their spiritual or religious life? What do they want? What are they missing?
Do you regularly attend a church? If not, what are you looking for?
Wednesday, April 15, 2009, 6:48 AM
A lot has been written over the years about Christianity and how to "be" a Christian. Indeed, pastors live by these books and methods; it gives them something to talk about each week. And most pastors, I think, worry that if their Christian brothers think too much, they will leave the church and the pastor will be a failure, e.g., out of a job. So the biblical analyzers write book after book, directions for Christians and directions for pastors. They analyze and ponder, and sometimes, they just make up stuff. Anything to keep the people in the pews.
But a recent study shows that more and more people are leaving organized religion. So now the analyzers have to write more about why they're leaving. I think the main reason is because people are tired of being told how to find God and what to do to "please" God. They are tired of rules that made sense 2,000 years ago but make no sense now. They are tired of a religion that won't allow them to grow or think — or to question all the "rules." They are looking for a religion that is relevant to them and their experiences.
As I recently read in a blog (I can't remember which one, unfortunately), "Independent thought, questions, and suggestions aren't good for maintaining the system. Things work a lot better if people stay in line and do what they are told. ... I'm pretty sure lots of us have had a similar conflict between the connection to God we feel and what we are told that connection should be.
"No wonder Constantine decided to omit the Gospel of Thomas when he was choosing which gospels to include in the nationalizing of Christianity. Unlike the other gospels which talk about the life of Jesus, the Gospel of Thomas primarily talks about his teachings. Many Christians believe this gospel is heresy because it isn't part of the traditional view of Jesus. That "traditional view" however was decided about 300 years after Jesus was around, by a Roman ruler whose primary interest was to centralize power of the state.
"When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will understand that you are children of the living Father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you live in poverty, and you are the poverty."
It's time for the followers of Christianity to realize that, although there are many things in the bible that are relevant and helpful, there are many others that just don't make sense in light of the things we have learned in the past 2,000 years. It's time to let God, and Christianity, grow up and go on to greater things in this new millenium.
Reverend Claudia "Red Feather" Barber
Monday, April 13, 2009, 9:22 AM
I just read a Journal post about dog yoga. I know there are some people out there who think all us dog-gone people are crazy and maybe they're right. But I'd rather be dog crazy than full of hate and animosity toward God's creation as some people are. I admit, I LOVE DOGS!! For me, they are the best representative of God's love for His children. They don't care what I smell or look like after a day of gardening or working in the house. They don't care how I feel although they seem to understand at a much deeper level than humans when I'm having a bad day or feeling down. They don't even care if, when my blood sugar is too low, I start yelling at them for no reason. They still love me; just like God still loves me. And that is what makes me dog-gone crazy about dogs.
Actually, I would much rather hear about people taking their dogs to yoga or church or whatever than hear about people fighting, torturing and killing their dogs, although that's what usually makes the news. As Saint Francis of Assisi and several other wise men have said, “If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow man.”
Amen to that. Even science is showing us that anyone who would deal cruelly with an animal will also deal cruelly with humans, usually children or powerless people. So is it too much to take your beloved dog to yoga or church or, in my case, nearly everywhere I go? I don't think so. And even if the dog doesn't understand everything we do with and for them, they enjoy the interaction as much as we do. It's better to love something than hate everything.
Reverend Claudia “Red Feather” Barber and her critters...Tootsie, Bentley, Dinky, Muffin, Ruby, Dusty Beaker, the Budgies, and One Fish
Wednesday, April 8, 2009, 6:11 PM
Do dogs really bring us closer to God? It's a question I have asked myself and been asked many times. As a minister, I am supposed to "be closer to God," so I've heard, and I think people really believe that. It is, however, not entirely true. Although I have a strong faith in God, I believe God exists, loves us, and hears our cries; I still suffer from the same weakness of faith that everyone else does.
I read about a book written about Mother Teresa and her "dark nights of the soul." Of course, no one ever talks about that. Mother Teresa, feeling discouraged and depressed? NEVER! But it happened in her life and it happens in mine. It's even recorded in the Bible. All you have to do is read the Psalms. Many of them were written by David during those "dark nights of the soul" — crying out to God and wondering if God heard him. We all do it. It doesn't matter how much faith you have.
But science has shown that having a pet can often help us find our way out of those troubling times. It doesn't mean I have more faith in my dog than I do God; it means that God can use my pet to get my attention. My dogs' need to play, be walked and fed, be petted, etc. can remind me that there is something more than myself and my troubles in this world. And often that is enough to show me that God loves me.
And for me, the unconditional love my animals give me is a constant reminder of God's love. My dogs don't care what I've done, how I look or smell, where I've been, or that five minutes ago I was yelling at them. They only care about now — and right now, they love me. They are, for me, a constant reminder of God's love. I do believe that pets, especially dogs are truly God's angels on earth.
The word angel harks back to the Greek word angelos, which means "messenger." And to me, dogs and other animal companions are indeed messengers from God. They remind me who I am and who God is.
As Allen and Linda Anderson have written, "Dogs deliver messages such as, 'When you are lonely, weary, overwhelmed by life's burdens, I am here.' People, who are in pain, often can't hear the voice of God whispering comfort and hope. So God sends them a messenger with a furry face, wagging tail, licking tongue, and generous heart. Those who can accept the gift are taught that love is all around by one of life's wisest teachers."
They are not God, but they're much closer to God that I will ever hope to be. Despite all their doggie goofiness and strange doggie habits, the main purpose of dogs is to love humans, just like God does.
So the next time you're having a "dark night of the soul," look into the eyes of your dog. You just might see God looking back.
Reverend Claudia "Red Feather" Barber
Friday, April 3, 2009, 3:46 PM
I just watched some videos on YouTube and now I'm sitting here with tears rolling down my face. Tears for all the dogs who will never have loving home; who will die in cages and gas chambers. The videos I watched were about dogs who are being held as evidence of animal crimes. Locked in cages in shelters for 2-3 years because someone was stupid. You can watch them right now here:
charlie gets out of the shelter 2day
shelter dog lineup
1000 days in a cage
It amazes me what we do to animals, but not just animals. I read some stories on the web news outlets about a child who was starved to death, that's right STARVED TO DEATH! (do you realize how long it takes to starve? or how painful it is?) simply because he would not say amen after a meal.
Md. mom pleads guilty in cult starvation death
I read about a child who was drugged by her mother so her boyfriend could rape her. The mother couldn't have anymore children so she offered to let him impregnate her daughter to have a child. WTF?!?!?!?
Children and animals are close to my heart. They are unable for the most part to defend or protect themselves from idiot humans who use, abuse, and destroy them at will.
IMHO, until the United States can prevent these needless deaths of children and animals, we have no right to call ourselves a "Christian" nation. And if you stand by and watch without speaking up, you are definitely not a Christian either. Children are starving here and in other countries. Animals are suffering silently because they can't say anything.
Jesus said, "whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me." It's time for all the supposed "Christians" in this country to stop bitching about the president, gays, or any of the other junk so many people think is important. It's time to stand up and be counted with Jesus or SHUT UP AND SIT DOWN!!
Friday, March 27, 2009, 10:57 PM
Jacob wrestled with God in the form of an angel all night. The angel threw out Jacob’s hip but Jacob did not yield. He required the angel (God) to bless him before he left. What an amazing thought! Jacob wrestled with God! Did he physically wrestle or did he wrestle intellectually with God? Or both?
Jonah ran away from God because he was afraid to do what God wanted him to. Afterwards, Jonah sulked because God didn’t destroy Ninevah. He got angry with God and told God so.
There are many stories in the bible of people, people God has chosen for a specific task and people who were just hanging around believing but not doing much. They argued with God, they yelled at God, they refused to do what God asked them to (although God usually got his way). Their relationship with God was not one of blind faith and mindless obedience, but a vital, energetic, emotional and intellectual relationship. A give and take relationship that allowed people, even of the stature of Moses, to tell God how they really felt and what they really wanted to do. Their relationship with God was a dynamic, open, honest relationship. A relationship with all the ups and downs, give and take, and good and bad of any other relationship – sometimes dysfunctional, sometimes argumentative, sometimes loving and comforting. A real relationship.
This is something that is missing from our relationship with God in this day and age. Too many teachers and preachers tell people they must have blind faith, do exactly what the teachers say the bible says they should do and DON’T ASK QUESTIONS! But is that the relationship God wants? Is that the relationship shown in the Bible stories?
In 2 Timothy 1:6-7, it says, “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” If we have a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind, what do we do with our mind? Do we blindly follow our leaders and let them control our minds or do we use our power and sound mind to think about the bible and our beliefs? Do we get up the courage to question and struggle with God? And will that struggle turn us into non-religious, atheists or will it make us stronger, more confident Christians? Followers of God who can talk intelligently and soundly about Christian faith and values with all people. Not in a spirit of fear, usually shown by our defensive, angry exchanges with supposed questioning non-believers but a spirit of power and love and a sound, reasonable mind. One who can argue their religious beliefs without the necessity of overpowering the other individual. Reason is not alien to God. God gave us inquiring, intelligent minds, not just as decoration, but to use. All the questioning of God and the words and beliefs we have will not make us atheists but stronger, more powerful, more confident Christians. Let’s use the mind God gave us to its fullest extent. We might just be surprised where it takes us.
Have a safe, blessed day.
Reverend Claudia “Red Feather” Barber
Thursday, March 26, 2009, 6:36 AM
I read a prayer request this morning on Beliefnet. It was from someone who considered themself in a backslidden state and was afraid to go back to church. My heart just broke for that person. What's the point of church if you can't find solace for your mistakes and someone to help you through them? I know there are a lot of people who are afraid to go back to church or have been hurt by someone at their church and it makes me sad to hear that.
I don't believe that church should ever be a place we are afraid to go, even though I know there are some churches like that. Nor do I believe that we should ever be afraid to talk to God about our mistakes. It's a shame that some folks have made God into a despot who is ready, willing, and able to destroy, humiliate, and otherwise harm His children. What's up with that? Jesus said, "If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" [Matthew 7:11]
If, as the Bible says, 'God is love,' and if God is our Father, we do not need to be afraid to go to Him for help, comfort, solace, and love. And if God's representatives on earth are teaching people to be afraid of their Father, then we definitely have a problem. And that explains why so many Americans say they have no religion. I think we have far too many Pharisees in our churches today. Jesus came to fight the Pharisees of the Jews, now it's time to fight the 'Pharisees' of the Christian church.
Am I therefore saying that God never gets angry with us? No, we all get angry sometimes. One of my favorite sayings of Jesus was when he asked his disciples, "Are you so dull?" [Mark 7:18; Matthew 15:16] Even Jesus got angry and annoyed when the people of his time didn't 'get it.' But Jesus never stopped loving or caring for all the people he met.
And God will never stop loving us, even when we make mistakes. That's the miracle of God. That's the amazing comfort for all of us. God loves us. Even when we're stupid. Even when we're 'dull.' Even when we are backslidden. God loves us all the time. If we, who are sinners, know how to love our children even when they are bad, how much more will God love and forgive us? All we have to do is ask. And if our church won't forgive us, it's time to change churches.
Reverend Claudia "Red Feather" Barber
Sunday, March 22, 2009, 11:14 AM
I reported yesterday that I am having a theological discussion with my SIL. After my response, this is what he wrote me on "sin and growing up:
"You have said that " It is my belief that God wants us to grow up, learn from our mistakes (sins). And to use the knowledge he has made available to us to help others grow up." and then you quoted Romans 8:16-17.
I don't think that God's primary purpose is for us to "grow up", that would be important after someone gets saved and becomes a member of God's family. After salvation you are considered an "infant" in Christ (1 Peter 2:2; Hebrews 5:12-14). Salvation breaks the power of sin (Romans 8:1-2)- it is no longer master over you, then you "grow up" by fighting against sin and living for God. You see that patterned in the Bible, growing is not separate from (or before) salvation.
I would also say that the very premise of the Bible is that God has created us to glorify and honor Him, but we are born into this world with a sinful nature that practices sinning until the day we die, it has such a hold on us that sometimes we don't even realize that we are sinning or don't even care(Romans 3:10-18,23). And because our sin is against the One Holy God (who takes all sin seriously), we deserve death = eternally separated from God, suffering in Hell (Romans 6:23; Revelation 20:14-15) .We are spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1-3), but God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, has provided the only way in which we can be saved from death in Hell. That way is through Jesus Christ and Him alone. (based also from my e-mail of 3-19-09)
He paid our penalty on the cross, for our sins - past, present, and future. But you have to accept Him for who He truly is, believing that what He did on the cross was for you personally and you must repent of your sins and ask Him to come into your life, to change you into His image. When you do that with all your heart, He will save you. Once someone gets saved/born again, then can he begin to truly honor and glorify God."
And this was my answer to him sent today:
"I'm assuming from your constant comments about being saved/born again that you believe the only way someone can receive salvation is through the methods your church uses, i.e., walking up to the front of the church and accepting Jesus in front of a crowd. I don't agree with that. I believe that being "saved" is between me and my God and can be done anywhere at any time. People don't need a witness of the human kind when they have God and His angels as witness.
As for growing up, Jesus has told us to grow up. "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." [Matthew 5:48] The Greek word telios, which is translated in the English bible as "perfect" actually means to be fully grown or complete, unlike our definition of "perfect."
In spite of the idea that there is only one way to accept Jesus into our lives and that way is to do so in front of a crowd of people, all the Bible says in John 3: 16-18, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned,
I do find it interesting that most of your Bible references are from Paul and other letters rather than from the words of Jesus in the gospels. Although I think the epistles are wonderful, enlightening instruction, I mostly use the words Jesus spoke. It is often difficult to be sure which words were actually spoken by Jesus. Biblical scholars have found many instances where scribes have written notes in the margins which later were incorporated into the text. The only way to be sure of Jesus words is to read the original, which I can't do. My thought is that those words and messages that are repeated in many different texts are probably the ones Jesus actually spoke since oral tradition was usually very accurate and those that are repeated and remembered were probably the ones we need to know.
Paul was a legalist (originally a Pharisee) so I believe that he often mixed his legalese from the old Mosaic law into what he wrote in his letters. And I expect that if Paul had known that his letters to specific individuals and groups we to be regarded as the "word of God," he would have been much more careful what he wrote. The Bible as we know it today was the result of decisions made by Catholic church leaders (the church was only Catholic back then) many years after Jesus and his disciples died and at the insistence of an emperor who had the power to destroy the religion as well as embrace it. I think that may have influenced the decisions a bit.
I have, and continue to, study many religious texts from the Bible to the Apocryphia to other (rejected by Catholic leaders) gospels. And yes, I do also study other "religions'" texts. I consider myself both an ordained minister and an amateur scholar of religion. I find that, with an open mind, there are many similarities between different religions and rather than tear me away from God, they have brought me closer. It is my dream to someday learn Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic so I can read and understand the holy texts in their original language. And someday, I'd like to travel to the Holy Land to walk in the footsteps of Jesus.
In spite of what I think you think about me and my beliefs, I love Jesus and have always believed in and honored God to the best of my ability. I am aware that I fall short, but I'm also aware that God loves me and that is what keeps me going and striving to be all God wants me to be." ..." Simply no where does it say you have to profess your belief in Jesus through any human proscribed method. So how do you know if a person has been "saved/born again"? Jesus gave us the answer, "By their fruit you will recognize them...." [Matthew 7:16]
Love, Rev. Claudia