June 30, 2009

The Mormon Mirage, by Latayne Scott-a review

This review is part of a Blog Tour book promotion. I agreed to review an interesting book by Latayne Scott. The original book was written to explain why she left the Mormon Church in the 1950’s. This new, third edition, includes updated information and also internet annotations.

The Mormon Mirage is an interesting look behind the scenes of Mormonism written, as Scott remarks, “for ‘regular people,’ not scholars.” In this, she succeeds admirably. Anyone seeking to understand how the Mormon Church was formed and what their beliefs are will find this a valuable reference. Throughout her work, Scott quotes the Holy Bible to refute Mormon teaching and doctrine.

Scott highlights the differences between the definitions of theological concepts as understood by Christian writers and worshipers and the Mormon community. Such things as the Holy Spirit and salvation mean entirely different things to the two belief systems. She explains why these differences, in defining basic ideology, makes it difficult if not impossible for Christian and Mormon believers to reach any agreement. While it may appear that the same language is spoken, each side is hearing a different meaning.

Scott has added two additional chapters to this third edition of the work. In these she explores the “Issues and Challenges Facing Mormonism in the 21st Century.” New archeological, DNA, and other scientific evidence have attacked and undermined some of the core beliefs of the Mormon Church. Scott lists nine important issues ranging from the influence of the internet to polygamy that she suggests undermine even further the basis of Mormonism, even for current Mormon believers.

She adds that she can understand the confusion of the many former Mormons struggling with faith and with those confronted with disillusionment about their beliefs. “I was there. I believed,” she repeats. Because Scott was active in the Mormon Church, she can indeed speak to the doubts and fears of Mormon and ex-Mormon believers. This same knowledge helps her to explain Mormonism to interested Christian and even non-Christian inquirers.

June 28, 2009

Our Father Meditation, III

Welcome to the last of the Our Father meditations--our responsibility because we are Children of the Loving Father God.

And Forgive us Our Trespasses as we Forgive those who Trespass Against us…One of the most difficult things we are commanded to do is to forgive. There will always be people who mistreat or harm us, but the only way for the Kingdom of God to break through, individually and corporately, is for us to live a life of forgiveness rather than retaliation.

Forgiveness is more for our own spiritual health than for the offender. Offering forgiveness doesn’t mean we say whatever happened didn’t occur. We say that we are making the conscious decision to not let the hurt fester in our hearts and souls. Forgiveness is laying the offense and the offender in the lap of God and saying “I let this go.” Only then can we be freed to move on.

We are also required to confess our own sins, because as I John reminds us, “If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” Sin springs from our selfish nature—from wanting our way rather than God’s way and from battering others in order to get what we think we MUST have.

At the end of the day, isn’t it a relief to crawl up into our Father’s lap and say, “I’m sorry and I promise to do better”?

Lead us not into Temptation, But deliver us from Evil…There are many things that tempt us to do something we shouldn’t. Many look innocuous at first, but repeated exposure leads to evil—to separation from God. God doesn’t put the temptations in our way, we are very good at seeking them out ourselves. Just as earthly parents sometimes let their children learn the consequences of their actions, sometimes God, our Father, does the same thing. We can blithely go our way, but eventually we will trip and fall. It is then that God is there to gather us up and offer comfort.

James 1:13 reminds us that “God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one.” Later on in the same chapter the author urges us to “be doers of the word” (James 1:22).

When we are actively involved in doing God’s will and fulfilling God’s call in our hearts, in cooperation with the Holy Spirit it is easier to resist the temptations of the world. Seeking God’s arms of protection can help us to resist “our own desires.”

For Thine is the Kingdom, And the Power, And the Glory Forever and ever, Amen…at the end of the prayer, we return again to praise and to remembering that God is God and all things are in His control. We, too, are in his loving lap, when we let ourselves curl up there and listen to His heartbeat. Then we can go forth into the world to love and serve one another in right relationship with God and with mankind, which is the definition of righteousness.
Thank you for journeying with me through the Lord's Prayer. See you next time.

June 21, 2009

Our Father Meditation, part II

Today we look at our response to the blessing of being children of our Loving Father in Heaven.
Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done…What do we really mean when we say this phrase? If we take our praying literally, we are saying, with Isaiah, ‘Here I am, send me’ (Is. 6:8). It is only through the obedience of each of us that God’s kingdom will become reality.
It is nice to sit happily in our ‘Abba’s’ lap, listening to the stories of faith. However, sooner or later we hear a whisper in our hearts that says, “Go, preach, teach, heal...” Usually it’s not a grand casting aside of our current life to ‘go to Calcutta’. More often, we find that God has been working on preparing us for the task we now have in front of us.
God uses us where we are. He made a liar (Jacob) into the patriarch of a nation, an old childless woman (Sarah) into a happy mother, a foreigner girl (Ruth) into the ancestor of a king. It was in the recitation of these same stories that our faith-ancestors learned to trust God. In these same stories, we learn trust in our heavenly Father, we can rest secure in His lap and know that everything is taken care of.

On Earth, as it is in Heaven…Earth is our venue. It’s the only place we have to act and the only opportunity we have to forward God’s plan in our lives and in the world. It can be overwhelming to think about the whole globe as our arena. That is why each of us has a specific task to do.

Some of us reach people through music or the written or spoken word. Others are excellent teachers and touch young lives. Healers can be medical doctors or someone willing to offer a listening ear. Many times it is the events in our lives that scar us where we find ministry.
Just as a child finds security in the love of earthly parents to try new things, so, too, we can find confidence from being in our Father’s lap to do all that we are called to do. And that faith gives us the ability to say “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Rom. 8:37)

The Lord’s Prayer reminds us that God’s Will is being performed not just here on earth with our meager abilities. The phrase says “Thy will be done on earth AS it IS in heaven” Everything we do is supported by the hosts of heaven. I don’t know about you, but thinking of being backed up by ‘a great cloud of witnesses’ and the ‘hosts of heaven’ gives me the same warm fuzzy feeling that sitting in my father’s lap did.

Give us this Day…Notice that the Lord’s Prayer doesn’t ask for a lifetime of supplies. Twelve Step programs know the truth of ‘one day at a time’. Each of us is an addict in some way. We may not choose to abuse alcohol or drugs, but we are all addicted to having our way. It’s the fallen human condition. Only on a day-to-day basis can we possibly hope to exist less selfishly and for some of us, that’s more of a minute-by-minute attempt.

Steven Curtis Chapman has a song “Next Five Minutes” that helps put it all in perspective:
I can reminisce about the already I can worry and fret about the not yet
But when it all comes down I know it really, really all comes down to the right now
So right now
I'm living the next 5 minutes like these are my last 5 minutes
'cause I know the next 5 minutes may be all I have
And after the next 5 minutes turn into the last 5 minutes
I'm taking the next 5 minutes and starting all over again
Every moment God is giving is precious, every heartbeat every breath I take
We'll never have them back once they've left us.
There will never be another right now
So right now
This is the day this is the hour,

Chapman says “There will never be another right now.” Now is meant to be lived in the loving presence, even lap of our Father. Psalm 118:24 says “This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Our Daily Bread…Don’t you find it interesting that in this, the only prayer Jesus is recorded as teaching, that He tells us to ask simply for bread. We don’t need cakes or riches. All we need is enough bread for each day. Marie Antoinette may have lost her head by callously, or foolishly, saying of the poor of France ‘let them eat cake’.

Our Lord was much more grounded. All we need is bread—the basic ‘staff’ of life. In Matthew 7:10 Jesus reminds us that even earthly fathers give their children the best things “…what man of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?...how much more will your Father who is in heave give good things to those who ask Him!”

What a promise—that we will always have enough, no matter what the need. Makes you want to snuggle up with your Father and say ‘Thank you,’ doesn’t it?

Next Sunday I'll post the final meditation on the Lord's prayer--our responsibility.

June 14, 2009

Our Father Meditation I

As promised, here are my thoughts on probably the best known prayer in the world. It turned out to be a longer meditation than expected, so I’ve broken it into 3 parts.

Today we’ll look at our inheritance
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name
Next week our response
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day, our daily bread.
And on the 28th our responsibility
And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

Our Father…Abba, Daddy. How often do we stop and think about the first 2 words of this prayer? My fondest memories of my father are centered on a big green easy chair. When I was a little girl, up to probably 3rd grade, my family had a routine. After dinner, I would pick a bedtime story. Daddy would hold me in his lap in the green chair. Mother would finish the dishes and come in from the kitchen smoothing lotion into her hands. She’d settle down in her chair. Then Daddy read whatever story I chose to the three of us.

Can you imagine sitting in God’s lap while He reads you a story? That’s what the Bible is, you know. The stories God tells us when we take time to sit with Him—even sit in His lap. Found in the books of the Bible are the stories God wants us to know and to grow on.
The Lord’s Prayer invites us to draw as near to God as I was to my Daddy in his lap. Come close and be held in God’s arms, where there are no cares at all.

Who art in Heaven…Of course, even when we sit in our Father’s lap and listen to His stories of love, we are reminded right away that God is still God and heaven is his throne (Is. 66:1). If we are sitting in our Father’s lap, then we are also present with Him in heaven. We are “children of God,” says Paul (Rom. 8:16) and “fellow heirs with Christ.”

What does the word “Heaven” conjure up in your mind? A dictionary will give you several definitions: The sky; The abode of God or an eternal state of communion with God; Any of the places in or beyond the sky conceived of as domains of divine beings in various religions; The gods; A condition or place of great happiness, delight, or pleasure.

Do any of these express for you the sense of Heaven in this prayer? How does your definition of ‘heaven’ compare to the feeling of being held in the lap of our loving Father?

Hallowed be Thy Name…God, of course, is All Holy, entirely hallowed. In a spirit of adoration, we open the Lord’s Prayer by acknowledging this. Our Holy God has shown and continues to show His Fatherly love for each of us in amazing ways. Consider the heroes and heroines of the stories of the Bible. Even just looking at Genesis will give you an idea that God doesn’t wait for us to be perfect before acting. God doesn’t have to wait for us to become holy or perfect, precisely because He is already holy.

The American Sign Language motion for hallowed or holy is beautiful. The left hand is held out palm up while the right hand forms the letter ‘h’ and sweeps across the palm (http://www.handspeak.com/sign/h/indexHI.php?sort=holy). To me it signifies that being hallowed involves sweeping away of sins and/or whatever is dirty. That is exactly what our loving Father does, sweeps away our sins. In our Father’s arms there is no remembrance of any sin. Like the child at the end of the day, we are held and all the cares of our lives evaporate.

Next week we will look at our response to being beloved children of a Holy and Loving Father God.

June 7, 2009

Awesome God

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.” Is. 55:8

I know I promised a meditation on the Lord’s Prayer, but this week I decided to share some thoughts from our week in Canyonlands. My husband & I spent an amazing week exploring the beauty of God’s creation in the Canyonlands area of UT. It was awe inspiring to look at the pillars and arches so artfully crafted by the hand of God using wind and water and time. It was also the first time, in a long time that we had been away together—just the 2 of us. It kind of felt almost honeymoonish (if you can feel that way after 33+ years of marriage).

We made a big looping tour, starting in ABQ and going up to the 4 Corners (have to stop there at least once in your life—just to say you did it!). Then on up to Monticello, UT where we stayed while exploring the area. Arches National Park, then the Needles end of Canyonlands, a jet boat ride down the Colorado River from Moab to the edge of Canyonlands, and then on the last day a visit to the Island in the Sky end of Canyonlands National Park. Then we drove through southern CO on our way to the annual Chama Book Fair.

It’s beautiful country and even having living in NM, where sandstone cliffs and formations are fairly common, I was awed. The heights and details of the rock sculptures were amazing. I agree with what someone said—Canyonlands is the start of the Grand Canyon. It may be deeper and narrower, but the vistas and variety in UT are not to be missed.

You can see very clearly the many layers of sediment deposited by water, wind, and erosion in the cliffs and pillars. I came away thinking about God’s work in our lives. The layers of sediment left by the seas and rivers flowing, receding, and evaporating remind me of all the varied experiences that make up our lives. Some are good and rich, like the soil deposited by floods. There are arid times, like the wind blown sand that left a white layer. Sometimes we feel are getting dumped on, like the layers formed by erosion of the surrounding areas.

Only when all the layers (life experiences) are compressed together can God start His artistry in order to expose the beauty that lies beneath. After visiting the Needles portion of Canyonlands, we drove out to the Overlook. I mentioned, to Ken, that it was amazing to be driving on the top layer of the same material that had been formed into the fantastic pillars. You wouldn’t know that only a couple of miles away (as the crow flies) there were astonishing formations. Then when we reached the Overlook and stared down 2000 feet onto the tops of the same features, I was awed by the beauty that was exposed and the expanse of area that was filled with God’s handiwork.

Our awesome God uses joys and troubles, triumphs and fears to refine (erode) away the unnecessary parts of our lives and expose the beauty of our gifts within when we allow Him free reign in our hearts. Who knows what beautiful creations God can make out of what we consider ‘bad’ or ‘worthless’ times and experiences?

A friend remarked, “Unnecessary stuff gets blown/washed away until we can stand alone like those fabulous formations....even with holes through the center of us!” She added, “[We are] Not really alone, because we and they are connected/grounded.”

Viewing all God’s artwork in canyons and arches and pillars was also a reminder, to me, that God takes all the time necessary to form beauty out of what may look on the surface to be pretty barren. Each piece of rock and each person is shaped into exactly the right formation at exactly the right time and in the right way. I personally get impatient and want results ‘right now’. This trip was a good lesson in God’s timing and a reminder to be patient with myself so that I don’t get ahead of God’s perfect plan.
Do you feel that you are being battered by the winds of change? Be patient, God is working mightily to form in you something marvelous. Whether you see the result or not, others around you will come to recognize the beauty of God’s hand on and in your life.

Check back next week for the Lord's Prayer meditation.