Already Included #11 – Punishment

I was talking to a friend about this “already included” business. He said God punished Adam and Eve. He said God threatens to punish those who reject Christ. I used to believe the same way, however my thinking has changed over the past almost two years.

Now I see the story of Adam and Eve differently. People say God can’t look on anyone who has ever done anything wrong. But if we look at God’s actions, is that really His heart? As He is hanging there and letting us torture and murder Him? God IN Christ, reconciling our hearts back to Him. Showing us we have nothing to be afraid of. Perfect love.

No other religion that I know of has their great deity humbling Himself like that, submitting Himself to us. This is Hosea going out and looking for the wife who has run away. This is the very Good Shepherd who is not satisfied with any sheep being lost.

Adam and Eve were ashamed. I think they projected their feelings about themselves onto God. Hiding. Covering themselves. Yet it’s God who goes looking for them in their delusion. Why not just zap them on the spot if He can’t be in the presence of people who have done anything wrong? Why go out looking for them and talk with them? This now sounds like relationship more than religion to me.

I used to interpret Jesus through the lens of the Bible. Now I am working on interpreting the recorded testimonies in our Bible through the lens of Jesus. I now believe Jesus is not just a facet of God’s heart toward us, but the total Word of God to us. The final exclamation point, if you will.

I don’t think only part of The Trinity was hanging there letting us murder His body while Father God and Holy Spirit stood by feeling like they could only now accept us because their lust for blood had been filled. That sounds more like a horror movie. If we did to our children what we accuse God of doing to us, we’d be in jail. How then can we, made in His image, think we feel more compassion for our children than the God whose mercy is recorded hundreds of times in the testimonies that have been recorded for us? I challenge us to even look at our own lives. How many times have we experienced mercy way beyond what we should have expected in a purely legalistic paradigm?

I do not think love is an attribute of God. I think God is love. I now see His wrath in that context. Jesus passionately, furiously submitting to our will as we brutally and mercilessly ripped our Creator’s human body to shreds. Determined to change our minds about Him. Whatever the cost. Is this a God who can’t bear to be in the presence of anyone who has every done anything wrong? Is that what Jesus showed us when He interacted with us? Or could He have been showing us that we have nothing to be afraid of? That He will go to the farthest limits to show us that His love does not fail and His love does not change.

Did God punish Adam and Eve? Did He say He would kill them? Or did He say that in their dying they would die? I heard a great analogy recently: Say a Father tells His beloved child that they will get burned if they touch the stove. The child touches the stove anyway and gets burned. Then the child says, “My Father burned me.” Of course not! Just because the Father said the child would get burned does not mean the Father burned the child. How different are we in our view of God? There are consequences of using our God-given free will to do things contrary to how they were designed to go. But that doesn’t mean God is punishing us.

I think this eating of the tree of good and evil is more about independence than right/wrong. It is turning away from God to depending on ourselves.

How many times do we have the symbolism of coverings and unveilings in our Scriptures? I believe these are pictures for us. How many times did Jesus talk about having eyes to see and ears to hear? What, see and hear more law? As if the previous thousands of years hadn’t effectively shown us that we are incapable of being perfect? We really needed Jesus to come in the flesh to remind us yet again that we needed to get ourselves together or else He’s really this time going to send us to our room for the final spanking? I’m not buying that anymore. What does Romans say the purpose of law is? We keep telling Him we can do it on our own. He says, “Ok, I’ll climb inside your logic and help you see the end of it.”

We need a bigger God than our modern Christianity has offered.

I used to have a relationship with the Bible. Now, I have a relationship with God. And I want this for my loved ones. That is why I write about these things. Because there have been others who shared for me. I got it and I want others to get it also.
It is starting over.

I finally have peace. I don’t need to argue with anyone. Or prove myself right. I am living now. This explaining business is side work. Not the main thing. The main thing is living, loving, and being in relationship with God. We say that in the church, but then how can experience be disregarded? Were the people of old not receiving revelation through encounters with God? Is this same God no longer personally interested in each of us? Or is He just sitting in some distant cosmos with His Excel spreadsheet? Very busy keeping track of everyone’s failures?

Although I aim for perfect understanding, I no longer am dependent on it. I have casted all my cares onto a God who continually shows me how much He loves us. I trust His heart, not myself or anything I can do.

That’s all I have time for right now. Here are some other writings I’ve written in regards to God’s wrath:
https://sarahnyhan.com/2018/09/07/1326/
https://sarahnyhan.com/2018/10/09/triage/
https://sarahnyhan.com/2018/09/15/community/
https://sarahnyhan.com/2018/08/24/i-want/

If I Die Then I Die

To start, I love living and am in no way interested in dying. Read more for the explanation of the title of this post.

Today I was reminded of the story of Esther. I was reminded that Esther started out as an orphan. Raised by someone else. Then chosen to be Queen. But in some ways probably feeling abandoned all over again. The story reminds us that Esther noted that her husband hadn’t called on her for I think over 30 days. And so she is Queen but probably still feeling like that little girl that is alone in the world. After so much excitement. Probably hope also. Maybe this is my deliverance. Maybe this is my forever story. Being chosen. Not just another season of disappointment. “God, I thought we were going a certain direction?” It must have felt like such a let down. Then fear on top of fear. Being asked to lay her life down in order to attempt to protect others. She gets to the point where she decides to act in accordance with letting all of her dreams go. She says something to the effect of, “If I die then I die.”

I think now of Abraham. Told that he and Sarah would have a child. Years and years go by. No child. Then he finally has the child and is asked to sacrifice the child. Not literally. That isn’t the point of the story. But while he was going through it, that is what he saw. Here you give me this promise God, and then I have to let it go. God prevailed in a powerful way, but the theme is similar to Esther.

I think of Moses. Same thing. Promised he would lead his people out. Then off to the desert until he was an old man. Tending sheep. No hope in sight. He gets to the point where he doesn’t even want the call anymore. In a way. He tells God to send someone else who he thinks would be more qualified.

David. Told he would be king. Then he has to deal with Saul trying to kill him over and over. Running and hiding in caves. Not living the life he probably associated with being a king.

Joseph. Given a dream. Then shipped off for years and years. Enduring so much unfair treatment.

All of them having to get to the point where they know they were given a promise, but having to accept their current circumstances as is. Having to let go and trust the timing to God. Trust the way to God.

I can relate. I don’t feel like I see the full picture yet. There are probably so many things happening right now that will only make sense later. Right now the suffering blinds me to the bigger picture. Blinds me to anything other than wanting relief. I empathize with those who sought solutions and resolutions. Who fight against the pressure.

I feel like I can continue to wear myself out. I can continue to cry and carry on. I can panic. Or I can let go and trust God. I can seek Him inside my heart.

Silence is torturous for me. I don’t want to hear all my fears. But tonight for a few minutes I ran out of things to distract me.

I tried to sit with God. I told Him I was angry at Him and disappointed. He already knew. I felt like He assured me that He wasn’t angry or disappointed with me.

I felt a brief settling. More like a child who is too exhausted to fight anymore. Not giving up the battle for control. But too tired to take up arms.

I felt again like I have so many times before, absolute assurance of being loved by God. And the kind encouragement to trust. That I am not alone, that there is more going on than meets the eye, that good things are in the future, and that this is not the end.

I rely on the testimonies of those we read about to give me any hope that these things are true.

My new motto is to lessen the self-imposed stress I put on myself. I don’t yet understand why, but a big part of that is letting go. Of the compulsion to be “great” or do “great” things. Of the pressure to be “successful” as society defines success. Of the need to do anything other than try to be the best person I can be to myself and others. Starting with mastering the basics first.

It is both sad and ok. Sad in that I have spent so many years driven by this need to perform, be perfect, and excel. The ego part of me mourns letting myself down in that respect. But on the other hand, it is also ok. Suddenly I can enjoy a day, I can genuinely enjoy a rest. I can take the time to appreciate a meal for simply being appealing and delicious. Versus analyzing the macros that will tilt the balance of my plans for world domination. I speak facetiously to the extreme to prove a point.

This letting go feels like a good thing in the long run. As completely uncomfortable as I feel even in releasing so little at a time. It feels like I am finally handing the wheel over to God and saying, “Will you drive?” Not in a legalistic sense. But rather like when you finally are getting to know someone and letting them in. My heart. Not just my mind.

I anticipate more adventures are ahead. Now that I don’t have my checkboxes to manage, I can better enjoy the ride.

“Free” Ride

Another true story. I used to drive a taxi years ago. Once a lady called for a taxi, but when I showed up she told me she didn’t have any money and asked for a free ride?!?!

Don’t ever make this a practice! Taxi drivers pay for their own gas and are not hourly. They only get paid from the money you give them. I was so irritated! Not only did she waste my time and gas, but now she wanted a free trip?!?! The gall!

But something IN me told me she was desperate and this wasn’t about me. One of the few times I put my ego aside; I asked her what was going on. I don’t remember any details now except I was worried enough about her mental health to wonder if she was suicidal.

But I didn’t baby her. I wanted to respect her without feeding energy into her hopelessness. And I still needed to maintain control of my space. So… I sternly told her that I would give her a free ride ONLY if she told me the WHOLE time we drove what she was thankful for.

I think she reacted by indicating that was going to be impossible. I nonchalantly called her bluff and said something to the effect of ok, well you’re turning down a free ride. She was desperate enough; she decided she could figure out a few things to be thankful for. So I let her in the taxi and we started driving. I had to help her by giving her a few ideas, but she stuck to the plan and started listing things she was thankful for, one after the other, for several miles.

I remember we were on Interstate 10 between downtown and 410 when she told me she couldn’t think of ANYTHING else to be thankful for. I said something like, “Are you sure?” And she assured me. So I said something like, “Well ok, but that means I’ll have to pull over at this next exit and let you out.” Called her bluff and started switching lanes to exit. “No, no, no, no, no!!! Ok. Ok. Ok.” And she found a few more things to be thankful for until we made it to her desired destination. 😊 I let her out and thought that was that.

BUT fast-forward to my birthday probably a few months later. One of my friends had made me strawberry cupcakes with strawberry icing and rainbow colored sprinkles (my birthday favorite, btw). I brought them in the taxi with me and decided to share them with people as I saw fit. Gave a few to some young soldiers.

But then I’m downtown rolling through the packed tourist district around the Riverwalk. With my window down. And this lady runs up to my vehicle in the middle of hundreds of people and dozens of cars on the street, in the dark. She tells her friend with her: “This is the lady I was telling you about! This is the taxi driver!”

It was the same lady I gave the free ride to. Out of so many things going on, somehow she noticed me, and she ran over to show me to her friend. She looked happy. I felt such a full heart from that. She looked so much better.

Sometimes you never know what happens, but it felt like a birthday present from Above to be able to see that she made it. Sometimes the encouragers need encouragement also. 🙂

I shared my cupcakes with her and her friend right there in the street while waiting for the light to turn from red. Pretty surreal moment. Pretty cool experience. Felt so alive. Like life turned up to the maximum volume.

March 2nd: John MacMurray

Join us Saturday March 2 from 10am to 4pm at Dead Fish Grill (2207 Lake Road, Belton, TX 76513) in welcoming John MacMurray to discuss his new book “A Spiritual Evolution”. He will discuss his journey in search of God – who loves us relentlessly.

John MacMurray has taught Bible and theology for more than 45 years. He is also an award-winning nature photographer with images appearing in Sierra Club, National Geographic, and Audubon.

“A Spiritual Evolution tells of his journey of transformation – from fear and dogmatism to love and freedom. I have been waiting for this book. If your heart longs to be alive and free, this book is a personal map. Beautiful.” — C. Baxter Kruger, Ph. D.

“A Spiritual Evolution is compelling, kind, humble and generous, as well as brilliant.” — Wm. Paul Young

Workshop Schedule:
10:00 – 10:30 am: Registration
10:30 – 12:30 pm: Session 1
12:30 – 1:30 pm: Lunch break (lunches available at Dead Fish Grill for $11 plus tax)
1:30 – 3:30 pm: Session 2
3:30 – 4:00 pm: Book sales ($15 for softcover) and book signings

WORKSHOP COST: $20 payable at registration in cash or check made to John MacMurray. (Students FREE)
RSVP to Maryann Schaffer: drmaryann1@gmail.com

For more information: Carole McCall (254) 624-6165

To learn more about John and his work, visit his website and blogs at: www.johnmacmurray.com

Already Included #10 – A Spiritual Evolution Forward

I will be attending a group study of John MacMurray’s new book A Spiritual Evolution. I thought I’d share my thoughts as I go through the book. I will not be summarizing or explaining what is being said in the book. I will only offer my own reflections. In other words, this won’t be a substitute for actually reading the book.

I met John MacMurray last year at his School of Theology event in Oregon. My own story has echoed parts of his that he has shared, so I am looking forward to reading his book.

If you run across this page and are interested in meeting John or hearing more from him, he will be speaking in Texas in March. Please let me know if you want more information on that.

So, let’s get started on my reflections after reading the forward in John’s book. The forward was written by William Paul Young, the author of “The Shack”. Paul Young is another man whose story also resonates with my own. I think he writes beautifully and this forward was no exception. So much packed into only a few pages. This is my reflection after reading what he wrote:

When relationships disintegrate that we didn’t think we could live without, that were part of our forever story, sometimes we think God has abandoned us and doesn’t care. But God does not bring us out into the desert to die.

We can be like the Israelites – only ever known slavery to a certain level of being. Maybe God wants more for us.

I bet some of those Israelites dreamed about winning the lottery and being able to walk away from their brick-making jobs forever. But when freedom came, they panicked. They wanted to run back to the few relative comforts in Egypt that held them over.

They saw God working on the outside, but they didn’t trust Him because they didn’t know Him. He invited them in, He invited them close, but past experiences with authority contributed to them being content to keep God at a distance. “Give us our daily bread and then kindly leave us alone, please.”

I don’t think 40 years in the desert was punishment. I think it was a picture first. But then also preparation and even protection (like when Adam was kept from Eden).

Just like us all, the Israelites were actually free. They just didn’t realize all that entailed. It took them a few days to physically get out of Egypt, but it took 40 years to get the Egypt out of them.

This Promised Land was brand new. Not a place to replicate the old.

God makes beautiful things out of ashes, out of dust, out of us. He never leaves us. If circumstances scream the worst, hope is holding onto Him holding onto us. This life is not the end. I think much like with the Israelites, this is only a beginning.

Literally let go and let God.

“Your salvation requires you to turn back to me and stop your silly efforts to save yourselves. Your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence on me— The very thing you’ve been unwilling to do.” (Isaiah 30)