When God Talks Back

In last week’s blog I wrote about the idea of God giving us a “new song”. I posed a challenge of sorts at the end of my post. I said, “Ask yourself if the song you’ve been singing is one you own, that resonates with you in the most authentic parts of yourself. If it doesn’t, ask God to give you a new song. Then hold on tight…”

As my new song has emerged I’ve found myself reading a book entitled, When God Talks Back by T.M Luhrmann (published by Alfred Knopf, New York). She is a psychological anthropologist who spent a few years in two different Vineyard Fellowship Churches (one in Chicago and another in California). She wanted to research the evangelical mindset that has construed a hyper-personalized faith and an allegedly supremely personally engaged God. I should be quick to point out that she doesn’t necessarily consider herself to be a Christian but at the same time isn’t sure that she couldn’t be.

She is quick to say that there were times that even her own experiences confounded her. She describes small groups where the members were praying for one another and her being moved to tears by the compassion that was shown to those in pain, need, or desperate loneliness. It reminds me how the world will know we are true followers of Jesus by the way we love one another.

She shares that anthropology demands humility and that she can only speak to the human side of the relationship. What she is most curious about exploring is how we as believers can come to a place in our own psyche that allows us to suspend natural laws and believe what we cannot see, prove, or support with “facts”. The things that keep sane people sane are somehow suspended (and even required to be) when it comes to matters of faith, and yet the most intimate spiritual encounters can test the bounds of solid mental health criteria.

She says emphatically that she isn’t here to answer the question about whether God talks back, but rather what we might be experiencing when we think he does.

There is a lot to digest here. Not because she is trying to throw any of us off of the horses of our traditions or religious persuasions, but because she is asking some very good questions that might help me get a little further along on that new song I’ve been talking about. Questions like how much of myself I project on to God when I think I’m hearing him, when I pray, or when I find myself speaking on his behalf to others.

Since I haven’t completed this book I’m not commending it. I can only say that so far it has been very thought provoking in light of a subculture that gives God credit for everything from telling us where to spend vacations to getting our imported Italian marble counter tops delivered in time for the cabinet maker to meet the closing date of our house.

People of the Thresholds

Last week I wrote about the threshold places in our lives. Something called “liminal space” where we are in between what was and what is yet to come. I was encouraged at how many people touched base with me through Facebook, Twitter, and my email to tell me that this is exactly where they believe that they have found themselves to be and have viewed that season very negatively up to now.

After doing a little more reading this week I have been encouraged to consider creating liminal spaces in my life. Instead of fearing, dreading or avoiding those in between places where everything feels like it is standing still I’m encouraged to actually seek them out. It is in those spaces that we learn to truly desire the guidance of the Holy Spirit, not just accommodate it if it should materialize. It is also in those liminal spaces that we learn who we truly are.

I believe this is the space where the most sincere forms of worship take place. These are the places where we are basically saying to God, “Unless you show up here in this, I am done for!” It is a place of very simple prayers, honest confessions, and humble praise. Thresholds teach us that anything beautiful that has happened is a gift, any comfort is truly from his Spirit, and that whatever we experience in this interim is intentional preparation.

The thresholds teach us the difference between what we really believe and what we only wish we believe.

I’m beginning to see that those whom I call the People of the Thresholds are not always the most comfortable to be around. We have so many questions, we probe beyond the stock answers, and nudge until we feel like we are a little closer to the whole truth. For those who are not in that space it can be off-putting and even seem a bit caustic.

This is where I see some of us experiencing what I call “the steeple in the road” by the church.

The obstacles of pat answers, the need to tie a bow around our pain, to “fix” us, or to speak in a dialect of Christian-ese that we don’t even understand is the church dragging the steeple into the road. For many the steeple in the road is any time that the church has ignored, misunderstood, or mislabeled them.

I believe it is the People of the Thresholds who can actually move the steeple out of the road for so many who question whether they even belong in Christian community or not. Maybe the most sincere form of Christian community is one that worships in the thresholds.

People of the Thresholds

Last week I wrote about the threshold places in our lives. Something called “liminal space” where we are in between what was and what is yet to come. I was encouraged at how many people touched base with me through Facebook, Twitter, and my email to tell me that this is exactly where they believe that they have found themselves to be and have viewed that season very negatively up to now.

After doing a little more reading this week I have been encouraged to consider creating liminal spaces in my life. Instead of fearing, dreading or avoiding those in between places where everything feels like it is standing still I’m encouraged to actually seek them out. It is in those spaces that we learn to truly desire the guidance of the Holy Spirit, not just accommodate it if it should materialize. It is also in those liminal spaces that we learn who we truly are.

I believe this is the space where the most sincere forms of worship take place. These are the places where we are basically saying to God, “Unless you show up here in this, I am done for!” It is a place of very simple prayers, honest confessions, and humble praise. Thresholds teach us that anything beautiful that has happened is a gift, any comfort is truly from his Spirit, and that whatever we experience in this interim is intentional preparation.

The thresholds teach us the difference between what we really believe and what we only wish we believe.

I’m beginning to see that those whom I call the People of the Thresholds are not always the most comfortable to be around. We have so many questions, we probe beyond the stock answers, and nudge until we feel like we are a little closer to the whole truth. For those who are not in that space it can be off-putting and even seem a bit caustic.

This is where I see some of us experiencing what I call “the steeple in the road” by the church.

The obstacles of pat answers, the need to tie a bow around our pain, to “fix” us, or to speak in a dialect of Christian-ese that we don’t even understand is the church dragging the steeple into the road. For many the steeple in the road is any time that the church has ignored, misunderstood, or mislabeled them.

I believe it is the People of the Thresholds who can actually move the steeple out of the road for so many who question whether they even belong in Christian community or not. Maybe the most sincere form of Christian community is one that worships in the thresholds.