I am almost finished with the book Journaling, Catalyzing Spiritual Growth Through Reflection by Adam L Feldman. I have mentioned that I have kept a diary/journal since the age of 9. When I was going through things several times before we moved, I would skim over what had my attention as a child and then as a teenager in my journals. Sadly, I must confess that the same things that bothered me as a child still bother me as an adult. Instead of thinking myself foolish, I will choose to believe I was older and wiser than my years. Once I hit college is when my journaling began to take some shape and direction. With the reading of the book Journaling, 2014 will be a bit more organized and useful in writing and reflection. At the end of the book, Adam helps by instructing how to set up a journal. To chronicle life and to reflect is a commitment to time and a discipline. I love how the author has taken a favorite verse of his and it just happens to be one of my all-time favs as well, Jeremiah 6:16 and breaks it down for understanding and then puts it together again with the result being more knowledgeable and wise by The Way of Journaling, Chapter 7. We take a journey through the verse of standing, looking, asking, walking and resting. Now THIS blew me away, a quote in the book; M. Robert Mulholland, Jr rejects the idea that life along the Way can be reduced to formulas, mantras and techniques. He cites Judah in the OT. They made the mistake when they rejected the messy, unpredictable faith in the living God for the predictable and controllable worship of idols. Predictable and controllable idols jumped out at me. I have never thought of idols being that, but stopping and thinking about it even for a few minutes reveals the huge truth. I pulled out my copy of No Other Gods by Kelly Minter and did a quick review on her take which is idols are false gods and functional gods. A functional god is who or what operates as our god. I get a charge out of reading Isaiah 44 because the same remaining block of wood that has kept the craftsman warm and roasted his bread, now becomes the piece he fashions and carves into an idol. You read that and think, gee that guy is stupid but I began thinking of things and people I have fashioned into an idol out of the leftovers of life and I make the same stupid mistake as the craftsman in Isaiah. The messy and unpredictable faith in the living God is the much better choice. It should be my first choice. That means I have to give up my desire for the safe and proven walk and tune my heart to the rocking and rolling of the faith journey. To be honest I guess my vision is tuned between two extremes between safety and frenzy. In many churches on Sunday mornings or Saturday nights or Sunday nights…whenever a group gathers corporately to worship God, the timing of the service is mapped out to the minute. No room for surprises and if anyone takes too long in announcements or music, something gets cut. Funny, it’s not usually the sermon. I kind of get tickled thinking about the church I attend. A couple of years ago it was determined that the 9:30 service needed to be started at 9:15. There was a little bit of grumbling amongst the 9:30 crowd but we were told it was for more parking spaces. We are land locked and I wouldn’t be surprised if a parking garage is not built in the near future. That didn’t make sense because of various factors. Then the spin became so the Holy Spirit could move and by giving Him another 15 minutes something could happen. Well, bring the Holy Spirit into the thing to spiritualize the whole reason for the time change; partly for staging to be reset for 11:00 service and crowd control… The first Sunday there was a remarkable “demonstration” of what the Holy Spirit could do with that extra 15 minutes. Funny, the Holy Spirit has never gotten that 15 minutes back since then because the time is filled with announcements, videos, music and preaching. The other extreme would be churches that are open to the Holy Spirit moving and taking over the service but many a time that reasoning is used when one has not properly prepared a sermon and from the pulpit comes this sentiment, you can’t put a clock on the Holy Ghost. No, but sometimes it is a safe way to see how things go and then the unprepared preacher can go with the direction he sees in all the unrestrained exuberance.
Well, I have totally gotten off my thought of messy and unpredictable. Tennis used to be my idol and functional god. I sacrificed to make it to the open championship level. Weekends were totally different if I had a HLTA match on Monday. I took extra lessons and worked with a personal trainer. The desire to make it to the top overtook too much of life, but I couldn’t see that. Now, when I read those journals from that time of life I can see how tennis was my false god. Then the predictable and controllable set in once making it to the top. I had to keep my tennis skills sharp to remain at the there. It all became empty and boring and predictable. It wasn’t fun. It was politics not talent. That’s what happens when something or someone becomes bigger than your love of God. Tennis in itself was not bad, but what I made it personally was the bad of tennis.
It doesn’t have to be bad things that become an idol. One Christmas Eve we went to St Martin’s Episcopal Church, correction we didn’t just go once, and the pastor, priest, rector whatever guy is called, he talked about no room in the Inn for Mary and Joseph. The Inn was full because of an occasion, taxing which wasn’t great, but the side benefits for the Inn being filled, people seeing families and spending time with one another. SO many times there isn’t room in our heart for Jesus because it is filled with good things; family, friends, hobbies…and yes all those things if not kept in perspective can go the way of the predictable and the controllable and the functional false god (s).