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Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

It’s the last day of another year, and here is my last song for #songaweek2016.

In the middle of writing it, I realized I was quoting from the Bible, the gospel of John, when Jesus is talking to his disciples about getting ready to say goodbye, and he leads up to something I hold as central to my faith – that his followers will be known by their love.

Here’s hoping that maybe in 2017, that can become a little more true.

It’s been an amazing year of songwriting, and I look forward to reflecting on it a bit in another post, as well as making a central list of all the songs and highlighting some of my favorites.

Here’s my song for week 52 of #songaweek2016. Oh, and PS – if you or someone you know might enjoy trying this challenge, check out #songaweek2017.

I go out into the night
I go out I go out like a light

In a little while
you will look for me
you will look for me
and I won’t be there

I go out into the night
I go out I go out like a light

In a stranger’s face
in your daughter’s voice
in the love you share
you’ll know me there

I go out into the night
I go out I go out like a light

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He spoke in a parable. He said

Some soil is just about dead

Walked over and worn out

Impervious to seeds,

A feeding trough for birds.

 

Some soil is stony:

Seeds sprout quickly,

Sprouts stretch to sun,

Sun scorches leaves,

Plant withers and dies.

No roots, he explained.

 

Some soil is preoccupied

Crowded with seeds of stubborn stock

That choke anything fresh

Before it can flower.

 

Some soil is just right

(To quote a golden-haired girl),

A dark loamy bed

Where seed bursts open in eager love,

Dying with life-force;

And soil honors seed’s sacrifice

Faithfully nurturing newborn sprout.

 

The seeds

I have gathered

Don’t come in uniform packets

Stamped with precise planting instructions.

They are scattered grains of life

Sown from everywhere:

Love letters and report cards, ocean waves and office buildings,

Toddlers’ tantrums, neighbors’ gossip,

Even radio talk shows and preachers’ sermons.

 

I have also

Discovered the soil

Doesn’t come in a bag

Purchased with indulgences and poured into the soul.

The best soil is made of wasted moments:

The garbage and leftovers of everyday life,

Piled in the back of the mind to rot,

Food for tiny creeping thoughts who give it back changed

Breaking up stony places

Crumbling softening

Light loose reborn

Hungry and thirsty for righteousness

A good place to put down roots.

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New videosong for Advent season –

Lyrics-

Annunciation
copyright 2010 Julia Bloom

Her angel was a plastic strip with two lines colored pink
No spirit overshadowed her except a couple drinks
No holy child was prophesied, no savior for the world
No mystical experience, just cliche boy and girl
But this baby is a miracle
This baby is a mystery
This baby shakes the universe
This baby rattles history.

In Flanders Fields the poppies grow, the larks fly overhead
At Buchenwald they laid them out, the dead upon the dead
In my house at my kitchen sink, I wash everything clean
Tomorrow I’ll be here again, doing the same thing
We point and stare at miracles
We smile and nod at mysteries
We stagger through the universe
Regurgitating history.

Arise and shine, your light has come, this glory rises over you
Though darkness covers everything, this glory rises over you
The people walking in the dark have seen a great light
And in the land of death’s shadow, there has dawned a light
An inconvenient miracle
Swaddled round with mystery
Growing from the universe
Kept alive through history.

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These days I am losing my faith. The faith of my past, that is. I’m not sure how it will grow from here, and I’m doing my best to live in the tension and uncertainty of asking questions I’ve pushed away at other times in my life. Questions like, was Jesus’ crucifixion necessary to redeem humanity, or was it more of an inevitability for someone who loved so fully and stood so faithfully with the marginalized in the face of corrupt power, both religious and political? Did God really require an innocent sacrifice to compensate for the sins of the world? I seek to emulate a savior who is the prince of peace. Why would the God with whom that savior is one be thirsty for innocent blood (taking alone the teaching that Jesus is God’s son, differentiated from God the father?) Is there really ‘power in the blood’ of Jesus, and if so, does that power come from his blood crucified, or is it the living, healing, incarnate and resurrected Christ alone that was only ever necessary for the salvation of the world? (I understand resurrection could not happen without death, but my question is, did that death have to be an execution, a bloody sacrifice to appease a wrathful God?)

That’s a significant question for a lifelong evangelical, ever-so-familiar with the simple drawing of a stick man, a chasm, and God at the other side, with a cross bridging the man and God. There is much more I am pondering about this question, and I am hungry to ask other questions too – to research the canonization of scripture, the formation of the doctrines considered fundamental to my faith tradition – not to disprove, but to understand.

It’s clear to me that I couldn’t have faced these questions honestly or bravely earlier in my life. I would not have been able to live in the tension of uncertainty. For the years that these questions have been forming in me, I have often chosen to remain willfully ignorant, believing that my only other choice was to make a clean break and declare myself an atheist or agnostic. It’s complicated and difficult to face doubts and questions, to speak honestly about them, and at the same time to remain in community with other believers with whom I really do want to commune. It’s tempting and would be easier, in the short run, to be the extremist I often have been – to throw it all out, even the stuff I love and believe, rather than pursue the path of growth my inner life is demanding in all its twists and turns and switchbacks.

There is so much of my faith tradition that I do love and believe. At the core of these half-understood, inconsistent doctrines and dogma is something alive, a power and a love and grace that has undeniably pursued me, carried me, drawn me to itself. I have always called that presence God, understanding God to be three persons – a Father, a Son and a Holy Spirit. But my hungry mind is dissatisfied these days with leaving it at that when it has not meaningfully wrestled with the larger questions of who God is, who Jesus is, how these doctrines and ideas we call orthodox have been decided.

Some of us are dancers, some dreamers, some thinkers, most of us are unique combinations of these and more. The thinker in me wants to build a faith she can sink her teeth into.

The people-pleasing pastor’s kid in me, however, shrinks from all this. She sees the agnostic shortcut as much less messy – “just cut the cord and be done with it!” she begs. “What will people think if I ask these questions out loud and expect to still be accepted as a fellow believer? Escape, escape!”

It’s my mounting suspicion, however, that most of us – at least, those of us with significant ‘thinker’ sides – have doubts we are afraid to voice; and that the fear of what others will say or do in response to our doubts keeps us paralyzed, going through religious motions or else walking away from it all. I’ve decided to be more transparent with my own doubts and questions, and to hold fast to my faith that God and God’s people have arms wide enough for every seeker, every believer, every doubter, every messy mix of believer and doubter.

When I started this blog, I titled it “The More I Learn the More I Wonder,” with the intention of hashing out some of these doubts and questions, musings and wonderings I have, and hoping others will interact, challenge, agree or disagree, move the conversation along. I’ve done that a bit, and I hope to keep working at it – not just in cyberspace but in every space of my life.

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My husband Nathan, our two children, and I are in the midst of a 19-day road trip, spending this week on Lake Michigan and heading on to Pennsylvania next week. We stopped at a motel after our first day of driving, and Nathan had a memorable interaction about which he spent the next morning writing on the laptop in the car.

I have been encouraging him to start a blog, but he said I could post this piece he wrote on my blog. So here it is. If you want to hear more from him, send him an e-mail (nathan@cabinoflove.com) and add your voice to mine in begging for a Nathan Bloom blog!

Here it is:

Last night, I was traveling with my family en route to our vacation destination in Michigan. We were driving through Iowa, the sun had set, and the kids were asleep, so Julia and I decided to put on some “easy miles” before stopping for the night.

Just after 11pm, we opted to call it a night and pulled into a Days Inn. As I walked into the hotel lobby, I noticed an elderly couple laboriously exiting a minivan. The receptionist was busy checking in another guest, and the three of us stood wearily in the lobby, waiting silently. The woman stood rigidly by the corner of the front desk, while the man wandered back into the empty lounge. As I waited, the thought occurred to me that it would be a courteous gesture to defer my ‘next-in-line’ status to this couple. Though my wife and children were waiting in the car, I made up my mind that when my turn came, I would let it pass to my elders.

The sleepy atmosphere was suddenly rent by a shockingly loud episode of flatulence coming from the lounge. My resolve wavered a little. After finishing checking in the guests ahead of us, the receptionist called out: “who’s next?” The woman at the corner of the desk glanced back. “Go ahead,” I offered. She immediately placed her enormous purse on the desk and commenced the check-in process.

The short, stoop-shouldered man ambled back from the lounge, and looked up at me. “Whererya from” he queried

“Minnesota”, I replied.

“Whereabouts?”

“Owatonna”

“Oh yeah. . . up on 169” he said.

“No, it’s on I35”

“Oh yeah” he returned vaguely. “I’m from Algona”

“Where are you headed?” I re-orientated the conversation.

“Chicago”, he sturdily responded. “We are going to a booksellers convention.” “A Christian bookseller’s convention,” he quickly clarified.

The woman quickly turned away from the desk and corrected somewhat severely: “It is a Craft Fair this time.” She included some more apparently important details which I didn’t comprehend, and I didn’t ask, not wanting to prolong the correction. She turned back to the receptionist.

“We belong to the Evangelical Free church,” the man volunteered unexpectedly, “What church do you belong to?”

I faltered, unprepared to answer: “The church I attend is not affiliated. . .uh, non-denominational, I guess. . . The church I grew up in was Baptist General Conference, though,” I added, trying to give him something meaningful within his presumed construct.

“Ah Yes,” he replied. “The fighting baptists.” I smiled, understanding his reference to the particularly schismatic history of baptist churches in the USA. “There was a big split in one of the baptist churches in Algona,” he added.

“Yeah,” I responded with detached amusement, “Jesus said: ‘One command I give you- Love one another’, but it seems like that is always the first thing to go out the window!”

The woman suddenly turned back around, and with the austere gaze of a fundamentalist Sunday School teacher, demanded: “But what was his other commandment?”

I fumbled, trying not to be intimidated, mentally re-scanning my words, and Jesus’ words, desperately trying to remember what the second of the one commandment was.

With trepidation, I held my ground: “He said one command.”

“Ye must be born again” She said sharply. “That is the greatest commandment. You can love all you want, but it won’t do you any good!” She continued her stern gaze, and I held my tongue.

She turned back, finished her check-in, and the two left to go to their rooms (I now understand why they had gotten two.)

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