Thursday, April 28, 2005

Reforms Suggested

A reasonable reader writes:

I left the OALC years ago and it was by far the most difficult decision in my life. I had lost hope that any positive change would be considered much less made in the church. When I left I experienced sleepless nights and sometimes woke up in a cold sweat. It was a time of great anxiety.

Fast forward to today. I'm relieved it is all behind me.

Is there anything that might draw me back? What would have to change? For myself, the following, not in any particular order (Free sez: I added the numbers for easy referencing):

1. The OALC would have to teach that it is not their place to say who will be saved.

2. Teach respect for other people, other churches, other religions.

3. Teach the value of appropriate behavior, rather than focus on looks and dress.

4. Bring sex abuse out in the open so congregants are aware it has happened in the church, it happens in the church, and they know to be watchful.

5. Teach couples to bear children out of love and want, rather than guilt.

6. Teach that it is right and proper for men to respect women as important members of the church and family. This could easily be done by valuing and encouraging women's input.

7. Discourage young marriages and encourage youth to get an education and be prepared to support a family before marriage.

8. Teach parents to hold children in higher esteem by providing play areas at church with supervision. Children spend hours upon hours at church meetings, and often resort to playing with sticks, rocks, running in the parking lots, etc.

9. Work together as clergy to be prepared to answer tough questions with rational, thoughtful, and useful responses. Society has changed over the past +150 years since Laestadius' time and it would behoove the church to live in the present. Consider reading more present-day sermons.

10. Preach that smoking is wrong. Smoking destroys the body God gave us. How can that be condoned?

11. Encourage members to reach out in their communities. God created life. He has a purpose for His creation and we are all created by Him. None of us gets to choose into which family or which country we are born.

12. Teach that child abuse is wrong. Spanking a child on the bottom is one thing; but pulling hair, pulling ears, flicking faces, flicking heads, etc., is another. This must be addressed.

13. Hold double-ring wedding ceremonies so OALC husbands show the world they are married just like the wives do.

14. Preach against living on welfare except in cases of true need. Able-bodied adults should be working and not cheating the system. If there is no work, people should move where there is work.

Strong Words

"I have known satanists in my life, and have to say they had more on the ball tan these whack jobs."

Go here for an interesting discussion of the OALC.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

You Just Keep Your $18, Dear

muzzle
Well, lo and behold. There WAS a response from the OALC to the letters to the editor in The Reflector. Rather than address the specific complaints with a correction or apology, however, the Christian lady made a threat. Frankly, I'm embarrassed on her behalf.

Here is the response from Marvin Case, the editor. (You can email him at staff@thereflector.com):

THINK IT THROUGH

Letters continue this week as writers alternately criticize and defend the Old Apostolic Lutheran Church.

It started with an April 6 letter from a 74-year-old Vancouver resident who moved to the area just two years ago, and with a paid advertisement in the same issue about the church.

In addition to letters on the subject, this writer received a phone call last week suggesting the withholding of advertising revenues.

The caller said she would have placed a garage sale ad in this newspaper had it not been for letters in last week's issue regarding her church. She said those letters should not have been published. And she said other would-be garage sale advertisers might feel the same way and withhold their business.

This newspaper cannot afford the loss of any advertising revenue, including $18 garage sale ads.

But a greater loss would be the loss of trust with the community to publish news and opinions fairly and impartially.

Suppose this newspaper would have chosen not to publish letters about the Old Apostolic Church. Readers, including last week's caller, could understandably wonder what else the newspaper might decline to publish. Would that caller rest more comfortably with a newspaper that pursued an agenda, and chose to muzzle some opinions while publishing others? Would any thinking reader be satisfied to read conflicting opinions on topics as long as their own personal project is left unscathed?

Extending that logic, newspapers would print no opinions because surely somebody somewhere would object to virtually every letter.

The alternative is the right course. Publish virtually every letter that meets minimal criteria--not too long, not critical of an area business, not a thank you. And then allow the thinking public to gather information and form their own conclusions.

It is this writer's belief that respect for this newspaper's commitment to giving people a vehicle for free speech will override the concerns some may have about letters on specific topics.

And it is this writer's hope that last week's caller will change her mind and place her garage sale with this newspaper. Every element of business is appreciated.

Marvin F. Case

Monday, April 25, 2005

Church Signs

Here is an OALC sign. Notice that it does not list service times or a phone number. Why?

oalcsign

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Reading the Postilla

Our anonymous Postilla reader strikes again! Read on:
Here is the Postilla reader again--please bear with me while I share one more time. After this the Postilla goes back on the shelf. In the Bible Luke. 5:1-11 Jesus tells Simon Peter to put out his nets again, after Simon has spent the night fishing without any results. Simon does as Jesus asks and the nets are filled to a breaking point. Simon is so overcome with amazement that he falls at Jesus' feet and says "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man Oh Lord". Jesus tells him "DO NOT FEAR, from now on you will be catching men". Simon Peter leaves everything and goes with Jesus.
Now comes Laestadius. Does everyone know that unrepentant and sorrowless refers to people outside the OALC and repentant and sorrowful are those folks in the church? He says in Sermon number 26, "If the Savior were traveling on earth now, the unrepentant would gather around Him like mosquitoes, while on the other hand, the repentant and distressed would stand afar off and cry, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us". The sorrowless people do not understand enough to be ashamed, but Peter on one occasion felt so unworthy to be beside the Son of God that he fell down and said "Depart from me; for I am a sinful man O Lord". When has the sorrowless multitude felt unworthy to stand beside the Son Of God. The unsorrowing ones crowd and jam right in beside Him, just as if they were His best friends. If only they had perception enough to feel unworthy and FEARFUL of the Son of God, they would stand at a distance and leave room for the repentant ones, but these miserable ones do not know enough to feel ashamed".
There it is--I don't need to read more. I hope my little journey into the Postilla has been helpful to someone. Bless you all.
Thanks, anonymous. Now I understand better that pride-in-feeling-shame thing.

Imitating Christ

lily
A hospice nurse once told me about an AIDS patient whose parents refused to touch him, even to hold his hand as he lay dying. She cradled the young man in her arms as he breathed his last, while the parents stood near the door, silent, watching, ready to run.

Tears came to her eyes as she told the story, even thought it had been many years since the incident. She was still shocked at what she had witnessed, a fear so powerful it had overcome decency, humanity, parental love.

I was not shocked.

A friend went to hear Shelby Spong speak at St. Mark's Episcopal last night. Spong has been called a radical, an atheist and many other names for stressing the full humanity of women and gays in the church. He told a the story of a young Christian man who, before dying, wished to reconcile with his parents, who could not accept that he was gay. He sent them a letter of love. When he received their reply, he asked his pastor to be with him before he opened it. The envelope contained only a blank sheet of paper -- and the shredded remains of his birth certificate.

No doubt those parents thought they were following Christ's example. Right?

Friday, April 22, 2005

Another Letter

Windex
This letter to the editor was not posted online but appeared in the print version of The Reflector this week:
It's about time someone spoke up and I was glad to see Norma Lahti's tolerance in religion opinion article April 6, 2005.
She hit the nail on the head. These so called "Christians" insulting others, their youth smoking like chimneys and leaving their cigarette butts and trash in the parking lot between the Starbucks and Fred Meyer store. It's ugly and disrespectful.
I notice the parking lot to the Old Apostolic Lutheran Church is locked. Is that to prevent their youth from loitering and littering their own property? Okay to hang out, but they should clean up after themselves.
Children are the windows of their home and a reflection on their parents, their church, and their community. Time to get out the Windex.
Mike Mitchell
Battle Ground WA

Anonymous Smoker

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

A Few Words from Martin Luther

Martin Luther, Radical
Martin Luther wrote these words 400 years before LLL. Don't you see a significant difference in tone and readability? Maybe LLL needs better translators? (You can read more of Luther's works by clicking on the link above.)
Now preaching ought to have the object of promoting faith in Him, so that He may not only be Christ, but a Christ for you and for me, and that what is said of Him, and what He is called, may work in us. And this faith is produced and is maintained by preaching why Christ came, what He has brought us and given to us, and to what profit and advantage He is to be received. This is done when the Christian liberty which we have from Christ Himself is rightly taught, and we are shown in what manner all we Christians are kings and priests, and how we are lords of all things, and may be confident that whatever we do in the presence of God is pleasing and acceptable to Him.

(CONCERNING CHRISTIAN LIBERTY, LETTER OF MARTIN LUTHER TO POPE LEO X)

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Laestadius' Sermon No. 97

Breast Exam
In response to a reader's question, I've retyped this sermon (which I will hereafter remember as the breast exam sermon) from LLL's "New Postilla" for your review and comment. Notice the repetitions . . . those aren't typos.

Matt. 22: 1-14


In today's holy gospel the Savior speaks of the Great Supper to which so many have been called, but nevertheless, so few come. We have formerly surmised who are those who blaspheme the servants of the King. Also what kind of guests are gathered from the streets and lanes. And also who might be the one who comes to the wedding without the wedding garments. But we have never spoken of the time the King comes to see the guests. We can see from the actions of Joseph the high lords do not stand at the entrance to receive the guests as is the custom of the smaller lords of the world. The high lords await till the guests have entered the wedding hall and only then come to see them. When now the good and the bad guests are coming we need, by the grace of God, to consider as to what time it would be when the King comes to see the guests? We know the supper is held in the afternoon or evening. It is dark in the world when the guests are seated at the table and the candles are lit. The window drapes are drawn so that all the bums or fools who want to peek in cannot see nor understand what is taking place in the wedding hall. At the time when the Kind enters all the expected guests have arrived. Some interpreters of the scriptures presume that the servants have not noticed the guest who came without the wedding garment. But since they had a command to call all who want to come, that is the good and the bad, it may be surmised that the servants did not want to chase him out before the King came. All the expounders of the Bible say that the guest was a servant of self-righteousness, which did not take the wedding garment. But the servants of self-righteousness are of many kinds. One servant of self-righteousness is the pharisee whose conscience has never awakened. Such a one will not come in to the wedding hall with harlots and publicants. Another servant of self-righteousness is the prodigal son who herds the swine. His conscience is awakened. he knows he is in a poor condition but the merchant of self-righteousness has gotten such a power over him that he will not arise and go to the father except at the last distress. yet the servants do not want to chase such a one out since he has come. He is penitent, begging for grace and still does not want the wedding garment the King has offered to him by his servants. The rags of self-righteousness hang around his knees, and , it has been noticed all the dogs of the house are angry at such a beggar who walks in rags. They bite those rags. However, the servant does not want to chase such out for they pity him. But the King is angry at such rag-devils who do not accept the offered garments.
Hear now, you wretched rag-devil. The servants of the King know you from afar by the rags of self-righteousness which hang around your knees and because of which the dogs bark at you terribly. The servants do not wish to drive you out for they pity you and want to have mercy on you. You are so spiritual in those rags that you do not want to strip naked and take the wedding garments. you do not want to show at all our shame to the world. You have such great self-righteousness that you do not want to part from your self-repentance. you desire greater distress, greater agony of conscience, thereby to merit salvation. If you do not strip yourself naked soon the King will come to see the guests. Perhaps now is the time at six o'clock in the evening when the supper is held. I presume now is the time when the Kind comes to see the guests. Is there such a guest here who has not accepted the wedding garments? If it were so that the guest would himself have had to prepare the wedding garment then this mute guest could have given an excuse of having no means. But since the garment has been offered to him also by the servants, his rejection of them has been the effect of honor and self-righteousness. Such a guest despises the love of God or King, therefore the King becomes angry. Can you say, you unhappy wretch, that you have not been offered the wedding garment; can you blame the servants that you have not been led to the dressing room wherein all the other guests have stripped themselves naked; have cast away the rags of self-righteousness and of worldly honor and accepted the wedding garment? But you speechless guest did not want to unclothe yourself, did not want to leave the rags of self-righteousness, did not want to accept the holiday garment offered to you without cost by the King. Thus you have despised the goodness of the King. His mercy, and the richness of His long suffering in that you have not accepted His gifts. Therefore you have nothing to say when the King inquires, "Friend how comest thou in hither, having no wedding garments?" Can you say you have no means by which to prepare them? Why do you not take them when you can get them for nothing? Pride, stubbornness, self-righteousness, and the honor of the world are so thick in you, therefore you sit mute when the Lord asks: "Friend, how comest thou in hither, having no wedding garment?" Who knows what will happen now when the King comes to see his guests. The King is not far from the wedding hall, only one door between them. You guests who have come into the wedding hall, how soon do you think the King will arrive? How long do you think He will tarry before He opens the door and comes to see the guests? The King is still in His chamber and the guests in the hall of the supper. Sit down quietly, sitting in fear and trembling and look at one another if all your clothes are in such order that the King will see no fault in them. You have been gathered from the streets and lanes of the city where the poorest people are, not having learned manners. When the King comes some have not shaved their beard, as Joseph when he was brought before the king. Perhaps some have not combed their hair. Some have not anointed their heads with oil. Some may not have stood before the mirror before they went into the supper room. Some have not remembered to take along the handkerchief with which they could wipe their nose if self-righteousness should begin to flow. Have you stood before the mirror you fine maidens? You fine maidens: have you looked in the mirror and examined your hearts when you come into the wedding hall? Do you not think that the king loves pure and soft breasts? The king looks upon them the first, for he greatly loves the daughters of Zion who have pure and white breasts, provided they put off adultery from their breasts. Have you remembered to put the betrothal ring on your finger when you come into the King's chamber? Assuredly you remember daughter of Zion that you have been betrothed to the King's son for whom the King has prepared a wedding. You have been been betrothed with Him in Holy matrimony which He made with you when you were beautiful in his opinion, when He redeemed you from the bondage of the enemy, sweating blood for you, saying "I am sorrowful unto death." He gave you a holy kiss when Judas gave Him an unclean kiss. He took you into His bosom when the crowd of the devil put Him into chains. He took you into the church after the manner of a bride when the devil had forsaken you.
Now the King of Heaven has prepared a marriage for His Son and called many guests whom He has collected by His servants, from the streets and lanes of the city. Feel now, daughter of Zion, your breasts, feel the pearls on your neck, feel the crown on your head, feel the rings on your fingers, feel them all now in privacy before the mirror, the wedding garment as well as the shoes as to how they fit, for soon the Kind will come to see the guests. But woe unto the unhappy wretch who has not a wedding garment when the King comes. It would have been better had he not come at all to the supper since he did not accept the offered garment. To such an extent you unhappy wretch despise the King's grace and mercy that you do not want to accept His grace. Woe, woe unto you unfortunate wretch! Go quickly into the dressing room and strip off the rags and take the wedding garment before the King comes. Who knows but He will soon come to see the guests. Soon he will come from the His chamber into the wedding hall. There is only one door between the King's chamber and the wedding hall. Soon will the door open and th King comes to see the guests; soon the Righteous One will step in. Is there someone here from the tribe of Benjamin to whom the Just One will give a kiss and say, "God bless you my son"? Is there anyone here of the children of Israel to whom the Righteous One will give five changes of raiment as that righteous Joseph gave to Benjamin?
Prepare yourselves, you wedding guests, for now the King is coming to see you. He is on the way and when He comes, the doors will be closed. The candles will be lit and the guests are seated. No one can enter anymore but a guest having no wedding garment is put outside.
Prepare yourselves you bidden guests. Examine your breasts you daughters of Zion and be ready to receive your King when He enters. When the King comes to see the guests, bow yourselves humbly before Him, falling at His feet as the children of Israel bowed before Joseph, and say, "We pray thee forgive your brothers their trespasses and evil deeds when they have so badly treated you." Then He shall say, "Fear not, you thought evil against me but God has turned it for good, that He did as now is evident to save much people. So fear not, for I will feed you and your children." Amen. Now and forever. Amen.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Explore Faith

Thanks to the reader who posted the Marcus Borg comment below. You can read more of Borg's thoughts and explore different aspects of Christianity at http://www.explorefaith.org (or click on the title above).

This weekend our church is having a rummage/bake sale to benefit the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia. When I learned recently what a fistula is, a shudder went through me: that could have been me. Six years ago, had I been Ethiopian instead of American, I may well have suffered this terrible consequence of a long, hard labor without recourse to a c-section: tissue and nerve damage, loss of muscle control, and incontinence. I may well have lost my dignity, family and home. I may well have walked a hundred miles to the hospital to throw myselves on their mercy.

Today, as I unfolded a creaky aluminum chaise longue in the narthex -- amid other dented furniture, homely crystal "gift items" and faded clothing, I became depressed at the display. This stuff, this damaged detritus of our lives. Most of it a crime against good taste. Even if all of it sold (and believe me, nothing is going to budge that mountain of yarn and fabric), the proceeds will be less than most of us spend on a year's supply of coffee. Is this all we can do?

It seems to me that loving one's neighbor was easier before the global village, back when one's neighbor was literally next door. Now our hearts are burdened with the grim realities of the third world and we can either respond as best we can, struggling to find and refind the right balance among all the competing needs for our resources, or we can choose to shut down.

Today I wanted to shut down. I posted posters, priced a few donations, bought some hi-carb Lutheran baked goods and got out of Dodge. The kids and I went to see "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill," an enjoyable documentary about a man who tends parrots in San Francisco. Afterwards we got caught in a rainshower, had lunch in a cafe, browsed through a bookstore and practiced drawing airplanes. A lovely afternoon.

But I keep thinking about Ethiopia.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Light a Candle

Click above for a meditative retreat. Read below for an old, apostolic and even lutheran (but not OALC) perspective.
authentic christian spirituality is not about following rules, but following jesus and his way of life. so the core of our spirituality is not so much "what we do," as it is who we love . . .

within the context of our love relationship with god, expressions of that relationship come naturally. so in short, "spirituality is the way you live your life before god, through jesus christ, in the power of the spirit."

all of life is spiritual (play, work, rest, eating, being with friends or family, writing poetry, telling stories, singing songs, creating art . . . ) everything we do is an expression of spirituality as we direct those activities toward the god we love in jesus christ . . .

www.apostleschurch.org

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

More News from BG

Here is a letter from this week's Reflector, written by an ALC member. Can we expect a similar letter from an OALC member?

To The Editor:

This letter is in response to Norma Lahti's letter last week.

It is sadly unfortunate that she has had to experience this type of behavior from people that call themselves Christians. I wonder if it is ignorance to the teachings in the Bible that cause people to belittle and condemn others. When man becomes followers of men and/or their own understanding instead of followers of the Bible, they can be quickly lead astray.

In Matt. 5:43 and 44, Christ says we are to even "...love our enemies...do good to them that hate you..." In Lev. 19:18, Matt 22:39, Mark 12:33 and many other places, God's Holy Word teaches us to "love thy neighbor as thyself." James 4:10-12, we are instructed to humble ourselves, speak not evil one of another. It states there is only one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. James asks, "Who art though that judgest another?" Do we think that we are God?

Unfortunately, perhaps every church has a few that, I hope through ignorance), have fallen into this spirit of the Pharisee. I urge others to open their Bibles and learn of God's love. Christ died for sinners like all of us.

Norma should not judge all Apostolic Lutherans by her experience with one sect. Some of the Finnish Lahti's who attended our church were very dear to my heart, and we would welcome her.

Marilynn Christopher
Battle Ground, WA

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Forgiveness

I found this question by an OALC member online and thought you might find it interesting.

I am hoping to find out what "forgiveness" is like in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran church. I'm coming from an Old Apostolic Lutheran church (Laestadian); always liked the way they did forgiveness, but am having problems with other areas of the religion (focus on what preachers say instead of Bible; rules that aren't biblical concerning dress/lifestyle...) Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

Forgiveness refers first of all to a judgment of God. Then it refers to a proclamation which the church makes to individuals in God’s name.

Forgiveness is first of all a verdict of God which is based on Christ’s completed work. Christ kept the law perfectly for us. He paid the full price of all of our sins on the cross. Because Christ has paid for all of the sins of all of the people God has declared the sins of the world to be forgiven (2 Cor 5:19). To benefit from this verdict of God a person needs to know about this verdict and to believe it. That is why the gospel is preached to the world (2 Cor 5:20). The person who trusts in Christ as his Savior has complete forgiveness of sins and peace with God (Romans 5:1-11).

So that we may be sure of this forgiveness, it is proclaimed in the church in a number of ways. It is proclaimed in the general preaching of the gospel. A person may be assured of forgiveness through reading the gospel or hearing it preached. A repentent sinner may be assured by any Christian that his or her sins are forgiven. The ministry of the keys is not the exclusive prerogative of the pastor. In the public service there is a general confession of sins in which we together confess our sins in a general way. The pastor as the called servant of the Word announces forgiveness to those who have confessed their sins. He does this in the name of Christ and in obedience to Christ’s command. Individuals also may confess sins that trouble them to the pastor privately. The proclamation and assurance of forgiveness which the pastor gives them individually is not inherently different from that which he proclaims to the whole congregation in the name of Christ. It differs in being addressed to specific sins of a specific individual. Forgiveness is also made very personal in the Lord’s Supper in which each communicant receives the body and blood of Christ which was given and shed for him.

If specific sins have caused public offense, it may be necessary to deal with them publicly to remove the offense, but the only thing that is necessary to receive forgiveness is sorrow over sin, and faith which trusts in Christ for forgiveness. A specific form of the proclamation of that forgiveness is not essential to the reception of forgiveness. The forgiveness received through reading the gospel, hearing the gospel, receiving the Lord’s Supper, being forgiven as part of a group or as an individual is not essentiality different. It is the same gospel which is being applied in various ways.

Stages of Faith

This morning I woke up to sunshine, happy kids, hot coffee and a great conversation with my husband about Gilead, which was the topic of his men's group meeting yesterday. We marvelled at the main character, a midwestern preacher who embodies James Fowler's "sixth stage of faith": a profound awareness of God and a sense of oneness with the world. If you aren't familiar with them, here is Fowler's summary of the stages. (Those of us who left the OALC will recognize Stage Four.) I think it's important to note that one can experience these in any order, like the "stages of grief," although they are described here as a progression.

Stage One: Intuitive/Projective Faith

The first stage we call intuitive/projective faith. It characterizes the child of two to six or seven. It's a changing and growing and dynamic faith. It's marked by the rise of imagination. The child doesn't have the kind of logic that makes possible or necessary the questioning of perceptions or fantasies. Therefore the child's mind is "religiously pregnant," one might say. It is striking how many times in our interviews we find that experiences and images that occur and take form before the child is six have powerful and long-lasting effects on the life of faith both positive and negative.

Stage Two: Mythic/Literal Faith

The second stage we call mythic/literal faith. Here the child develops a way of dealing with the world and making meaning that now criticizes and evaluates the previous stage of imagination and fantasy. The gift of this stage is narrative. The child now can really form and re-tell powerful stories that grasp his or her experiences of meaning. There is a quality of literalness about this. The child is not ytet ready to step outside the stories and reflect upon their meanings.  The child takes symbols and myths at pretty much face value, though they may touch or move him or her at a deeper level.

Stage Three: Synthetic/Conventional Faith

There is a third stage we call synthetic/conventional faith which typically has its rise beginning around age 12 or 13. It's marked by the beginning of what Piaget calls formal operational thinking. That simply means that we now can think about our own thinking. It's a time when a person is typically concerned about forming an identity, and is deeply concernedl about the evaluations and feedback from significant other people in his or her life.  We call this a synthetic/conventional stage; synthetic, not in the sense that it's artificial, but in the sense that it's a pulling together of one's valued images and values, the pulling together of a sense of self or identity.

One of the hallmarks of this stage is that it tends to compose its images of God as extensions of interpersonal relationships. God is often experienced as Friend, Companion, and and Personal Reality, in relationship to which I'm known deeply and valued. I think the true religious hunger of adolescence is to have a God who knows me and values me deeply, and can be a kind of guarantor of my identity and worth in a world where I'm struggling to find who I can be.

At any of the stages from two on, you can find adults who are best described by these stages. Stage Three, thus, can be an adult stage. We do find many persons, in churches and out, who are best described by faith that essentially took form when they were adolescents.

Stage Four: Individuative/Projective Faith

Stage Four, for those who develop it, is a time in which the person is pushed out of, or steps out of, the circle of interpersonal relationships that have sustained his life to that point. Now comes the burden of reflecting upon the self as separate from the groups and the shared world that defines one's life. I sometimes quote Santayana who said that we don't know who discovered water but we know it wasn't fish.  The person in Stage Three is like the fish sustained by the water. To enter Stage Four means to spring out of the fish tank and to begin to reflect upon the water. Many people don't complete this transition, but get caught between three and four. The transition to Stage Four can begin as early as 17, but it's usually not completed until the mid-20s, and often doesn't even begin until around 20. It comes most naturally in young adulthood. Some people, however, don't make the transition until their late 30s. It becomes a more traumatic thing then, because they have already built an adult life. Their relationships have to be reworked in light of the stage change.

Stage Four is concerned about boundaries: where I stop and you begin; where the group that I can belong to with conviction and authenticity ends and other groups begin.  It's very much concerned about authenticity and a fit between the self I feel myself to be in a group and the ideological commitments that I'm attached to.

Stage Five: Conjunctive Faith

Sometime around 35 or 40 or beyond some people undergo a change to what we call conjunctive faith, which is a kind of midlife way of being in faith. What Stage Four works so hard to get clear and clean in terms of boundaries and identity, Stage Five makes more permeable and more porous. As one moves into Stage Five one begins to recognize that the conscious self is not all there is of me. I have an unconscious. Much of my behavior and response to things is shaped by dimensions of self that I'm not fully aware of. There is a deepened readiness for a relationship to God that includes God's mystery and unavailability and strangeness as well as God's closeness and clarity.

Stage Five is a time when a person is also ready to look deeply into the social unconscious—thoe myths and taboos and standards that we took in with our mother's milk and that powerfully shape our behavior and responses. We really do examine those, which means we're ready for a new kind of intimacy with persons and groups that are different from ourselves. We are ready for allegiances beyond our tribal gods and our tribal taboos. Stage Five is a period when one is alive to paradox. One understands that truth has many dimensions which have to be held together in paradoxical tension.

Stage Six: Universalizing Faith

Some few persons we find move into Stage Six, which we call universalizing faith.  In a sense I think we can describe this stage as one in which persons begin radically to live as though what Christians and Jews call the "kingdom of God" were already a fact.  I don't want to confine it to Christian and Jewish images of the kingdom. It's more than that. I'm saying these people experience a shift from the self as the center of experience.  Now their center becomes a participation in God or ultimate reality. There's a reversal of figure and ground. They're at home with what I call a commonwealth of being. We experience these people on the one hand as being more lucid and simple than we are, and on the other hand as intensely liberating people, sometimes even subversive in their liberating qualities.  I think of Martin Luther King, Jr. in the last years of his life. I think of Thomas Merton. I think of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. I think of Dag Hammerskjold and Dietrich Bonhoeffer in the last years of his imprisonment. These are persons who in a sense have negated the self for the sake of affirming God. And yet in affirming God they became vibrant and powerful selves in our experience. They have a quality of what I call relevant irrelevance. Their "subversiveness" makes our compromises show up as what they are.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

News from Battle Ground

I'm still reviewing old posts and will restore more as time allows. As I read, I am examining my motives for each post. They aren't always lofty, I confess. Fundamentally, however, this site provides what was intended, a safe place for people to talk about the OALC and to offer support to each other. Help me keep it real, and keep it loving.

A friend sent me this letter to the editor in the current issue of The Reflector, Battle Ground's newspaper.

Tolerance in religion is suggested
I was born in New York City and raised in a Finnish neighborhood. I remained in that area for many years.
I recently learned of a Lutheran Apostolic Church, with people of Finnish descent constituting the majority, located in the Battle Ground area. To my distress, I learned these “Christians” insult people who do not belong to their congregation or uphold their cultish taboos. One woman told me her children were told their mother was a whore because she wore make-up. Is this religion? Would Luther condone such behavior?
If the Taliban cult moved to Battle Ground, their actions and speech would no doubt be similar to this “apostolic” church. I hang my head in shame knowing that people like these are of Finnish descent, when Finns in their own country are known to be the most literate and educated and politically liberal people of Europe, if not the world.
Norma Lahti
Vancouver, WA

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Removing the Log in My Own Eye

I love my family, each and every one of them -- and I've learned that something said on this site has caused a wound. When I find out where it is, I'll remove it and restore the rest.

To the person who has guessed my identity and is misrepresenting this blog to others, may your heart be moved to honesty.

Let's Keep it Real

Once you begin looking at the origins of the gospels, prepare to have your mind blown. Unless you are ready to devote your life to learning Greek and Hebrew, you will have to rely on others' translations. But if you must (and I must) depend on others, it helps to have some humility about their accuracy, and to be open to new insights.

For example, how many times do we read "belief" when the original writer intended, in Greek, "trust"?

"Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." (1 Corinthians 13:12)

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Thoughts on Fathers

Things that happened yesterday:

The Pope died.My thoughts went many places. I thought about my Catholic friends and relatives, who rejoice and mourn for their spiritual leader in a way that I don't understand but can share in empathy and respect. I thought about Annie Dillard, who became a Catholic because she loved the rich assortment of humanity in the Church, quite unlike her childhood church. I wondered if the Pope ever wanted to have a regular life, with a job and wife and kids. I also rejoiced in my faith, which does not ask me to judge others and spreads its arms wide to the mystery.

My father turned 80 years old. This is my prayer, that my love will accompany him always.

We took the kids to Edmonds to meet Rick Steves, the travel guru. He looks taller in person. His speech was about the benefits of travel, and he contrasted travel with vacations that focus on hedonism. Travel is getting to know different cultures. When he was 14, his parents took him to Norway, where he saw foreign parents adoring their children, and realized that all over the world, parents loved their children just as much as his parents loved him. This anecdote illustrated his larger point, which was our need, as wealthy citizens of the first world, to care about God's children everywhere, especially those "too tired to even swat the flies away." Our son is a great fan of Rick Steve's. Our daughter calls him Rick Syrup.

I finished reading "Gilead" by Marilynne Robinson. It's a book about fathers and sons, and it's lovely and luminous and full of grace. There is a balm in Gilead. This is one of those books that could change your life.