Collision of Visions (Part 2)

When atoms collide they often release extra energy as a light wave.

colliding atoms

I think the same thing must be true of colliding visions.

The collision of Heart Working Women and Gramma’s House created greater light and clearer vision for women’s ministry in Central Western Pennsylvania.

Joy was ready to seek non-profit incorporation for Heart Working Women  when she arrived in Purchase Line last November, and I was eager to pass on the In His Hand by-laws for her use.  The IHH by-laws, I thought, would be a helpful guide since they had already passed legal examination in the incorporation process.  I had only one request: I asked her to keep Ken Sande’s Peacemaker Pledge in her final document.  A light wave released and we saw the mighty hand of God.  Joy rejoiced in my request because she is a Certified Instructor for Ken Sande’s Relational Wisdom ministry.

We realized that we shared a passion to see believers live in the provision of Christ’s high priestly prayer in John 17.  The vision God gave me focused more on the outward expression of Christian unity.  I imagined what would happen if the world could see that we are one as the Son and the Father are one.  The vision God gave Joy focused more on the inward expression of Christian unity.  She imagined what would happen if wounded and weary saints would seek to be one with the Father and Son.  I see the body as a whole relating to the world; she sees the individual cells that make up the body relating to each other.  I see our skin; she sees our internal organs.  We both see our one Lord, one faith, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in us all.

And it is to that one God and Father in us all that we pray for a place and a name in our community.

The building that recently housed Tony’s Small Engine Repair (245 Franklin Street) in Clymer is for sale for $150,000.

tb street view

Tony’s Small Engine Repair, 245 Franklin Street in Clymer

It is spacious and open to easily accommodate any ministry we envision together.  tb show room The front has plenty of room for the things that Heart Working Women might imagine doing together at Gramma’s House

like cooking, crafting , sewing,

and teaching, learning, growing.

tb front room

There is room for a shared kitchen,

a Wi-Fi café,

a tea room,

 

 

with little nooks for bookshelves

tb shelves

and secluded conversation.

 

 

But there is so much more! 

Above is a family-sized apartment,

tb apartmenttb sink and stove

and in the back there is a large garage with an added storage area

where hard-working men can gather

to imagine how the Lord wants to use them to bless the community as well. tb garage The possibilities are limited only by the scope of our constantly colliding imaginations.

tb office

Tony’s office

The colliding visions of Heart Working Women and Gramma’s House give us clear direction for ministry now.  We are reaching out to women especially, learning how deepening relationships brings us closer to the unity of the body of Christ.  We do not need any particular building to continue the work He has laid before us.  But if the Lord wants us to have a building as a tangible expression of that unity, we can trust Him to speak to His people to make it so.

We ask only that you listen for His call and imagine!

Imagine a place where congregations connect, and network, and serve together with a power we don’t have whenever we work apart.

Imagine a place where the visions of the believers in our community constantly collide to release ever more and more light into the surrounding darkness.

Imagine a place where young people discover the wonders of the lost art of homemaking and learn the blessings shouldering God ordained responsibility.

Imagine a place where lonely, hurting people just drop in and find Jesus through His people waiting to show His love in great ways and small.

Imagine a place where our neighbors know they will find the church with her apron on, serving her Lord throughout the week in the routine activities of daily life.

If you think this idea is so crazy that you dismiss it, I understand.  If you think this idea is crazy but you are still willing to pray for us, we thank God for every faithful intercessor.  If you think this idea is crazy, but you still want to be updated, let us know here at Grammas’ Guide, at the Heart Working Women website, or find me and/or Joy on Facebook.

And if by His grace, you recognize God speaking in our visions, hopes, and dreams, join us in the glorious quest to restore hearts and homes, with or without a building dedicated to that purpose.

For the vision is yet for an appointed time;
But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
Because it will surely come,
It will not tarry.

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A Collision of Visions (Part 1)

tb street view

Tony’s Small Engine Repair, 245 Franklin Street in Clymer

Habakkuk 2: 2-3 is one of the first scriptures I claimed as my own.

Write the vision
And make it plain on tablets,
That he may run who reads it.
 For the vision is yet for an appointed time;
But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
Because it will surely come,
It will not tarry.

I started this blog in 2011 to write the vision of the homemaking ministry that has been nurtured in the hearts of many women in our rural Appalachian community for nearly twenty years.  But those who know me best realize that my vision of a building, for ministry beyond the walls of our numerous church buildings, reaches back more than twice that long.

In my early teens, I began to imagine a beautiful building where everyone is always welcome and always finds comfort and support.  My first thoughts centered on a dream house for my mother where all her children, and all their yet-to-be chosen spouses, and all her yet-to-be-born grandchildren could stay overnight at the same time.  But when my grandmother died in 1974, I began to think of something more like a super great room, a kitchen-dining-recreation room combo where the growing families of the 26 cousins who grew up on Prosperity Hill could all gather to share meals and visit comfortably on special occasions.

My mind has constructed countless buildings over the past 50 years, but since 1977 when I rededicated my life to Christ, those fantasy buildings all had one thing in common: every house, every complex, every campus in my imagination has been a tangible expression of the unity of the body of Christ in our community. The many and varied buildings of my mind are always used for the many and varied works God wants to work outside the walls of our places of worship.

When Gramma’s House became a legally established ministry of In His Hand, it seemed as though it was finally the appointed time for the vision to speak to our community.  We looked at real buildings in Hillsdale, Purchase Line, Commodore, and Cookport.  But the vision tarried.  Our meetings ended, I went to Texas for cancer treatment, and In His Hand lost incorporation status through a legal technicality.   It was not God’s time to grant Gramma’s House a place and a name in our community.

Though it tarries, wait for it.

During those years, while God burdened my heart with a longing to see the body of Christ united in service beyond the boundaries of our church programs, He was also working in another heart.  Joy was just a child when she first felt the pain of broken relationships in congregations where her father pastored.  As she matured, her desire to see Christians experience the healing of God’s love led her into counseling.  Through her marriage, her motherhood, and her work as a therapist, Joy gained an ever deepening understanding of how God uses relationships to transform us into the image of His Son.  She longed to share the healing power of life-giving relationships with others, especially those in the body of Christ.

In 2013 God brought Joy, Natalie, Jenn, and Lorraine together.  Having bonded at a weekend retreat, they began gathering together weekly.  Through these informal get-togethers, they discovered firsthand how transparent friendships can encourage, heal, and inspire.   With the support of her life-giving friends, Joy’s vision focused clearly into Heart Working Women, a platform to tell other women how God uses relationships in His work to make us whole.  It was the appointed time!

While Joy was bonding with her friends, the vision of Gramma’s House faded into the background of my life.  In January of 2015, I learned that cancer had metastasized to my liver and lungs, and I focused on the rapidly approaching portal of the world to come.  Then last year, totally unexpectedly, Joy’s pastor husband received an invitation to serve in our little congregation miles away from her precious CORE of friends.  She was certain that abandoning the newly launched Heart Working Women ministry and her CORE support would not match up with God’s character, yet it seemed that God was mysteriously working His plan to move her and her family to the tiny village in the center of the Appalachian range.

And our visions collided!

Joy found heart working women in the hearts and faces of women in Purchase Line, and surrendered to God’s evident plan to extend her tent pegs.

I will stand my watch
And set myself on the rampart,
And watch to see what He will say to me —Habakkuk 2:1 

Now we are watching, and waiting, and praying and together about a very real building in Clymer (pictured above) where Heart Working Women can glorify God in Gramma’s House.

We invite you to watch and wait with us as our visions continue to collide.

Ultimate Obedience

Black and White Hands

After two years of avoidance, I have returned to blogging. My impetus is the result of a CT scan which shows the metastatic breast cancer that I have been battling for 14 years has expanded in my liver and started its deadly assault on my lungs.  This wasn’t a surprise, but it’s a long story that I don’t plan to tell now. I am writing again simply to capture the vision that invaded my dreams decades ago and refuses to die. I don’t have that option:  I am going to die, (probably sooner rather than later), so I will spend the last days of my life writing about a vision that existed long before me and will live on long after my body decomposes in the earth.

The vision at its foundation is simply John 17, and the Lord’s repeated statement that we may be one as the Father and Son are one.  He doesn’t ask God to make us one; He simply states that they may be made one as if it is the assured outcome and the purpose of everything He does ask.  The first time I seriously considered those words nearly forty years ago, I believed that Christ’s prayer had been answered in the affirmative. No other option made sense to me, and it still doesn’t.  When the Son asked the Father to keep the disciples through His name, to keep them from the evil one, and to sanctify them in truth, did the Father say “no”?  Of course not! And being kept and sanctified means that we may be one. So what’s the problem?  Obviously, it’s us!  Obviously, we have chosen for one reason or another not to enter a spiritual reality that Christ provided as His final blessing on the disciples during His last hours in mortal flesh.

The church was born in the heart of that reality.  On the day of Pentecost they were all gathered in one place and in one accord and we know what happened.  Through the early days the believers broke bread daily and had all things in common.  We know from the New Testament, that it didn’t take long for the newly converted to take their eyes off of Christ and begin to focus on other things like the law, or their leaders, or who wasn’t getting their fair share of food distributions. Tragically, history tells us that the Lord’s plan for His disciples to be one as the Father and the Son are one has often been lost in bickering, battles, and bloodshed among believers.

The experience of universal Christian unity was lost within a relatively short period of time. Segregation by doctrine, denomination, and different cultures became normal in a body of believers called to be one as the Father and the Son are one. Knowledge of universal Christian unity faded from the church.  Many if not most Christians believe that John 17 is a promise for life after death.  But that just doesn’t make sense.  Read the prayer.  The purpose of our perfect unity in Christ serves to protect us from the evil one as we are sent into the world.  It provides evidence to the world that the Father sent the Son, and that He loves us as He loves His Son.  Neither will be necessary in the world to come.

We have lost the precious knowledge of Christ’s plan, provision, and power in unity.  But lost knowledge can be rediscovered. In my lifetime, in my small circle of experience, I have seen God bring down walls between Catholic and Protestant, between Methodist, Baptist, and Brethren.  And whatever He is doing around me, He is doing throughout the world. The burden I have carried nearly four decades convinces me that the time has come for the knowledge of Christ’s provision for unity among His disciples to be rediscovered and experienced once more.

Just read John 17 carefully. Think about the cross looming just ahead. Think about Christ’s last minutes with His disciples. Think of Him praying for the work they have been given. Think what might happen if all who claim His name actually believed that His repeated statement is spiritual reality.

A myth by any other name

We are here.  No one but a solipsist or Matrix devotee would dispute our existence on planet Earth.  But how we got here and where we are going is another matter entirely.

God and AdamThe precise cause of our existence is an issue of perpetual debate among scientists, philosophers, and theologians.  Since our varying positions in this debate are determined entirely by the origin myths we choose, we should start any serious discussion on the subject of origins with an honest look at those myths.

 

 

Whether we are aware of it or not, every Darwinist as well as every Creationist has chosen a myth to interpret all data continuously gathered by diligent scientists all around the world.   Unfortunately, the difference between the two opposing viewpoints is almost always characterized as the difference between what is science and what is not.  Darwin's tree of life As everyone knows, the Darwinist gets the label of “scientific” and the creationist is called “religious.”   In reality, neither Darwinism nor Creationism is science.  Both are myth-dependent beliefs about the world.  And if we all learn to clearly articulate our myths for each other, then we will all find it much easier to distinguish actual data from our interpretations of data.  

This simple exercise will not end our arguments over origins, but it certainly will clarify them for us.  We will have greater hope of resolving our conflicts if it becomes clear to everyone involved that we are not arguing about physical data discovered through the methodological naturalism of science.  We are arguing about which myth should be used to interpret the data.  We are engaged in a philosophical debate, not a scientific one.  And it is past time for everyone concerned to honestly acknowledge that one basic fact.

Before I continue, I must make it clear that the word myth is only convenient shorthand for me; it does not mean a fictional story.  Throughout this discussion, I define myth as “a grand narrative of existence that forms the foundation of a worldview.”   I considered using GINOAW for Grand Interpretive Narrative Of A Worldview, so if you can’t separate the word “myth” from the concept of fiction, just copy and paste into a Word document, find myth, and replace with GINOAW.   I simply prefer the single-syllabled myth over an unfamiliar and rather clumsy acronym.

Of course I’m convinced that my own myth is truth.  That’s why I chose it.  And by choosing, I have obviously judged all other myths to be false on some level.  In telling you how I made my choice, my goal is not to convince you that I am right.  My goal is to convince you that it is important for us all to fully understand our own myths and the myths of others.   Once that is done, then we can talk about which myth gives us the best explanation of reality.

Before we look at our myth options, I want to pay tribute to Leonard Read, the man who taught me that consistency requires a premise, because I’ve interpreted that principle to conclude that understanding the creation/evolution debate requires articulated myths.

My Tyndalian Quest

William TyndaleI have finally returned to my long neglected blog with a renewed sense of direction and purpose thanks to Reasons To Believe’s online class Creation versus Evolution.  I expected to learn from the class, but I was also surprised and inspired.

To make very long story exquisitely short: I entered the class believing that there is no compelling scientific evidence that humanity and chimpanzees have been evolving for millions of years from a common ancestor, and the class thoroughly confirmed that belief.  However, the surprise and the inspiration came in my discovery that many (if not most) proponents of Darwinian evolution seem to be blissfully ignorant of the lack of concrete evidence to support the descent of man.  I came to that conclusion while reading Icons of Evolution by Jonathan Wells, and I would now call the book a must-read for every creationist with children enrolled in public school.

I finished the RTB class with a clear mission patterned after William Tyndale’s famous response to the priest who called it heresy to offer the word of God in English instead of Latin.

“If God spare my life, before very long I shall cause a plough boy to know the scriptures better than you do!”

I state my goal with less flare, but hopefully with just as much desire to please the Lord. 

By God’s grace, I will do all that I can to help creationists in grade school have a better understanding of our origin than many of the celebrated Darwinists in academia.  

Secure in the knowledge that God uses the weak things of the world to confound the strong, I am about to begin Gramma’s Guide to Origins, which will eventually tell you two things:

  1. How I chose the myth that undergirds my belief about life,
  2. How I choose the prophets who interpret God’s word and God’s world for me

I hope that as you read, you will recognize your own myth and become curious about the myths of others.  I hope to convince you that you are obligated to be aware of the myths of those who write textbooks and teach in public schools because those myths are being impressed on young minds around the nation.

Eventually, I plan to put this all in a single document that I can share easily.   So you could wait for my final edit, but God alone knows how long that will take.  Or you can just follow along, offering encouragement and/or critique, on my Tyndalian mission of translating the speech of creation into the language we all understand.

Blind spots and bias confirmation

For decades I have believed that Christ gives  each member of His body a unique portion.  For decades I have believed that if we separate ourselves from any true believers in Christ because of doctrinal differences on disputable matters, we will separate ourselves from the blessings of those portions meant to benefit Christ’s body as a whole.

In spite of my belief, I have systematically chosen Christian speakers and authors (and maybe even friends) in an obvious pattern of bias confirmation, avoiding believers who disagree with me on points that I consider non-negotiable.  Praise be to the God who used The Veritas Forum to demolish the wall I had unwittingly built around myself in more areas than just the age of the earth.

In the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas my knowledge of the Lord was expanded by Ian Hutchinson (who uncritically accepts evolution), by Tim Keller (whose political views border on socialism), by Peter Kreeft (who converted from Reformed to Roman Catholic), and even by John Polkinghorne (who doesn’t know when a human zygote becomes a human person). However, the deepest impact on my life came through an Anglican bishop, N.T. Wright.  His books Simply Christian, Simply Jesus, and How God Became King have the aroma of heaven about them.  Often while reading his books or listening to him speak, I am reminded of the difference between one who  knows the Bible well and one who walks with the Living Word of God.  Tom Wright is definitely the latter.

Alas at every turn, whenever I have attempted to share the riches I found in N.T.Wright’s wonderful retelling of the old, old story of Jesus and His love, I am warned against him.  With few exceptions, the warning has come from one who has never read his books, but who has simply accepted another’s opinion of what Wright is teaching.

That is how our blind spots and our biases perpetuate the divisions in the body of Christ. Our personal understanding of doctrine (in this case the meaning of justification) becomes the basis of our fellowship rather our mutual relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Like the eye speaking to the hand in I Corinthians 12:21, members of Christ’s body say “because N.T. Wright questions the tradition of the reformation, we have no need of him.”

According to my personal understanding of doctrine, I disagree with Tom Wright in at least three significant areas: creation, gender roles, and purpose of government. However, his books and talks paint a portrait of the Lord, high and lifted up and rightfully adored.  I can only thank a teacher who expands my vision of Jesus, even if he challenges my personal biases. That is the only way my blind spots will be exposed, and I thank God for the sometimes painful but always enlightening process.

We are blessed to live in a century when a debate over justification does not result in the bloody wars that ravaged Europe during the Reformation. Yet the spiritual battle is just as real now as it was then, and our enemy is just as determined as ever to divide and conquer the body of Christ. We all need to understand How God Became King, how God is our King now, and how He rules and reigns through His people on Earth.

If we come together in the sure knowledge of Jesus Christ and Him crucified, (1 Corinthians 2:2) we can trust the Spirit to lead us in all truth. Whether or not you have been warned about N.T.Wright, I would recommend that you read him for yourself and, like the fair-minded Bereans, search the scriptures to discover whether or not what he says is so.

Praise God for our blind spots

If the whole body were an eye…

 

 

All my life I have despised my blind spots! I can’t tell you how often I’ve ranted and railed at the God of the universe telling Him blind spots are a very, very bad thing for Him to allow in His children. Why, O Lord, why do you show my blind spots to everyone in the world but me? What kind of a sense does it make?

This morning in the wee hours, God finally answered my decades-old question. I now see His purpose, His plan, and His providential provision in my blind spots.  I still hate them.  I want them all to be removed, but I finally understand their use in the kingdom of God.

My epiphany came as two seemingly unrelated events converged in my life. The first one is the ongoing debate between N.T. Wright and John Piper on Paul’s perspective of justification. The second is my initial attempt to serve as a Critique Partner for a fellow author.

But before I describe the convergence of doctrinal debate with manuscript critique, I must step back to clarify the truth—or rather the lack thereof—in my repeated rant toward God. It is true that I have cried out “Why do you permit everyone but me to see my blind spots?” in the kind of Davidic hyperbole that fits so well in a lament.  However, it is not true that God shows my blind spots to everyone.  He does not show anyone’s blind spots to everyone.  If He did, we could have no false teaching in the church, no congregation would follow a leader who strays, and each of us would be corrected immediately whenever we step out of line.

Perhaps I should instead cry out, “Why, O Lord, why don’t you show everyone my blind spots so I never have to worry or wonder whether I’ve got something right?” Fortunately, this time I don’t have to spend decades waiting for the answer because it’s the same for both questions: Our blind spots are God’s tools to refine our relationships with each other and with Him.

I begin with the premise that all human beings (with the single exception of the Incarnate Lord Himself) have blind spots throughout our lives, and we must acknowledge that fact before they can be removed.  Our blind spots remind us that we are totally dependent members of His body. No one, not Peter, not Paul, not John the beloved had or has a corner on the Truth. Together we have the mind of Christ, but alone we are just neurons randomly firing across synapses.

1 Corinthians 12 tells us plainly how gross we become when we choose to live in isolation with our blind spots rather than seek the unity Christ provided through His intercession in John 17.  Imagine what it would be like if someday your foot suddenly says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of your body.” And then your ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of your body.”  Next your eye says to the hand, “I have no need of you”; and your head says to the feet, “I have no need of you.”

There is a reason we find disembodied body parts horrifying, and we should keep that image in mind whenever we feel inclined to distance ourselves from other members in the body of Christ.

That brings me back to the Wright/Piper debate on justification, but that is the subject of my next post.