Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Still Small Voice



I’m reminded of the story of Elijah in the cave.

“he came thither…and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the LORD came to him,…And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
 (1Ki 19:9-12)   

What emerges from all the comments over this past week is a still small truth. Not only can we not agree on the answer, we cannot even agree on the question. Have you ever noticed the power of a question? Have you ever noticed that the question itself exerts a kind of influence over the answer?

The very same words can lead to distinct answers depending on how they are framed in your mind.

Have we not seen this here?

In this discussion, much of the debate has centered around “What do you mean, ‘it is worth it?’" and “is that the right question anyway?” Some insist the question is “is it worth it to walk away from narrow-minded people so that you can do great things for God among open-minded people?” It would be hard to answer no to that. I have framed it, “Is it worth it to dissolve a lifetime of relationships and influence in order to enjoy my personal freedom?” It would be hard to answer yes to that. Others have framed it “Is it worth it to even bring this question up considering how much havoc you’ve caused?” At the moment, it would be hard to answer yes to that.

I feel indicted. Not as an individual, for I think I understand where my critics are coming from. In fact, if I engaged in the thought processes they use, I would criticize me too. No, I feel indicted as a human being. We make such a mess of things. We create havoc in God’s world and yet stand justified in our minds.

But I am cheered by the words of a song,

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of (this world) will look strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.

Is He not the way out of the maze? Everyone in this discussion will, no doubt, agree that “Jesus is the Answer.” But is it possible that we can learn from Him what is the right question?

Everyone wants to claim the propitious benefits of His death, but do we trust in the example of His life?

For those of you who insist I render it a legal opinion, I have nothing that you will consider new. But I do offer the words of the Apostle Paul as a tool to understanding the questions. “All things are lawful to me but all things are not expedient…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling...” and “whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” So how do these verses combine to create a means of thinking about behavior? Any decision I make, I must ask myself: am I willing to stand before God and give an account for this? Am I willing to take full responsibility there for my actions? Which means I cannot say I have a right to do it because there was no law against it. Further, can I honestly say, “Father, I am choosing what I am choosing with the example of Jesus in view. I humbly acknowledge that my judgment or execution could be faulty. I am at your mercy in this regard and will gladly make amends if You show me I need to. But from my heart, I embrace the example of Jesus, ‘not my will but Thine be done’ ”?

From this mindset, there is no issue which is not an issue.

28 comments:

  1. “Is it worth it to dissolve a lifetime of relationships and influence in order to enjoy my personal freedom?" What has already been pointed out before is that putting on a wedding ring doesn't (shouldn't) dissolve a lifetime of relationships and influence. Real relationships would never be dissolved over a wedding ring, nor would (should) a persons influence be removed.

    I've worn a wedding ring for less than half of my life, not a single relationship was dissolved when I put one on - I was in the CHM then and I'm in it now - I have relationships with people who would be considered more liberal based on other lifestyle issues and those who would be considered more conservative based on the same thing.

    There are those within the CHM who chose to dissolve relationships with others (thank God not all do) over this and many other things but was that the choice of the person who made a change or those who decided to end a relationship based on that change?

    G.

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  2. I have followed this "discussion" as it has moved between FB and Blogger. I made the decision to with-hold any contribution. However, one of the Anonymous posters began using their initials, which happen to be the same as mine. So while I narrowly escaped commenting, :) I really didn't want you or your readers to wrongly assume that those comments were from me. If I had chosen to share, I would have done so using my name.
    Blessings!

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  3. Based specifically on the framework of your question you asked above, should the question (in your language, with your intent) be asked solely of the ring wearer or is it one that you think deserves attention from the CHM as a whole? (This touches on Anon's point above as well.)

    Perhaps, I am just again "not understanding", but I just passionately believe the question (as I understand it) places far too much responsibility on the ring wearer.

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  4. I'll just say this, and then I'll stop commenting. (I think. ;))
    Here's a little bit of a personal view. My husband and I were raised in the CHM. We embraced the traditions wholeheartedly and had sort of started up the ladder in the ranks, you might say. We began to notice more and more the awful inconsistencies in the movement and questions began to haunt us. Then, as our children grew older, we found it hard to answer their questions. "Mommy, why can't we wear ____? Daddy, why is it wrong to ____?" We learned to parrot what we had been taught and to use Bible verses that we had been told applied to whatever situation was in question (even if they were taken out of context, which is so often the case). We could tell sometimes that it didn't truly satisfy their curiosity, but we hoped that, in time, they would come to see the "light". Children are so much wiser than adults sometimes......
    As time went on and the questions plagued us more and more and the answers just didn't fit anymore, we did some serious re-evaluating. Thoughtfully and prayerfully and through much studying and agonizing over what we should do, we felt that God was leading us away from the strict, legalistic bondage under which we had been living. There was, of course, a sense of freedom; but there was also a deep sense of sadness because we knew, even before we started, that very few in the CHM would understand. We knew we would be judged and that we would lose friendships that we held dear. So, I suppose you could say that we "walked away from those relationships". But it shouldn't have been that way! It shouldn't have been a cause for anyone to pull away from a relationship.
    I asked myself the question about influence. I still do at times. Should I risk offending some who have always considered me to be conservative? And I keep coming back to the conclusion that yes, it's worth the risk. We can no longer parrot the pat CHM answers to our children (or to those who ask us why we do what we do). We have to be able to take them to the Word and tell them, "This is how we're supposed to live. This is why we do or don't do (whatever it is)." That makes sense to them, and it gives them a foundation that I never had.
    The more we look at the CHM, especially now that we're kind of looking at it from the outside, the more we see the self-righteousness, hypocrisy, and cliquishness that prevails.
    Sure, we miss the security and the sense of approval that we had when we were deep in the CHM. There have been many times when we've said to each other, "Sometimes I think we should just go back to that...." But we always end the conversation with, "I could never live that way again!" And we would never place our children back into that bondage and confusion. With God's help, we'll teach our children to live according to HIS rules. Not man's.
    We have been deeply hurt by some of the people whom we loved the most. We've seen "true colors", as it were. We will always bear the scars of gossip and misunderstanding. But we can still say, "it's worth it." It's worth it to live in the freedom that God intended...not to sin or to do anything and everything we desire...but to live as He would have us to, and to be able to give an answer to those who question us about our faith and beliefs. It's worth it! And that is my answer.
    P.S. If you have never watched the documentary Trouble in Amish Paradise, you should. The parallel between their situation and the present state of the CHM is amazing. You can find it on YouTube.
    "One of the other anonymous-es"

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  5. Laura, I am so glad you are willing to hear the still, small voice, and are willing to not offend anyone. But PLEASE, put the bill cap picture back up???!!!!!! If you felt it was Spirit-led, consider that you have passed the test of willingness and not being obstinate.

    I feel so badly for that, I really do.

    David Cary.

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  6. To Laura--from Sherilyn
    It has taken me awhile to answer you due to the fact that I was preoccupied with my children’s competition and a birthday party. Since you asked me a specific question, I will attempt to answer it. By the way, it doesn’t matter to me where you answer it—blog or FB—I follow both. Just do whatever is better for you.
    First, I would like to commend you for retracting a statement that you made in a previous post. I think that was a gracious act! You asked me what deeply hurt a relative of the man you were referring to in your first post. Let me put the answer in a scenario.
    You are at IHC watching an older gentleman receive a special honor. He almost died this past year, but God has seen fit to allow him to live to slowly make his way to the platform to be called a hero of holiness. To my knowledge, all of his children are serving God. They are involved in various kinds of ministry. I know that his children were represented at IHC, along with several grandchildren. This man has been an incredible blessing to so many people! As he goes up to the platform, some of us are clapping and thanking God for bringing him to this place. At this point, let me turn the attention toward you. You are crying because one of his children can not be used at IHC. I find it interesting that you have referred negatively to emotion being a part of this discussion. While I do not believe emotion should be the deciding factor as we dictate our decisions; I do not think we can get around the fact that there was a lot of emotion in your first post. I think the part that hurt people is that this was a time to honor this man, not to focus on a little detail that bothered you. The theme of IHC was…”What really matters” and at this point of this man’s life—did that really matter?
    I agree with an earlier post that stated that this discussion would have been totally different if it had not been on the heels of an event that enabled us to know who you were referring to.
    Sherilyn

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  7. Hi Laura,

    I commend you for being brave enough to ask a question, and then follow it out in a public forum.

    I’d like to comment, not for the sake of argument, but for the sake of seeking and discovering truth. You framed a question, “Is it worth it,” re: a wedding ring and lost fellowship.

    I’d like you to examine the question even further than currently done, though. And please note: This is just for deeper reflection, and the sake of truth – following the Spirit of Truth into all truth, even when it is not comfortable for tradition. I respect your life, and respect your heart-felt dialogue with others – all this is being stated as a brother in Christ, with no desire to prove a point, other than all of us being better followers of Jesus.

    First, please note a hidden assumption in your question: The question as framed necessarily implies that the item at issue [namely, NOT wearing wedding ring] is a valid principle of divine law/will. Otherwise it would not even be asked.

    Second, flowing from the unspoken legitimacy given to the original issue in the question, it treats the wearer of the ring as the party guilty of breaking the covenantal fellowship. Very crucial, this unstated assumption and application!

    Be aware that this is the precise logic that the religious elites of Jesus’ day used against Him. Among other things, they asked in not so many words:

    • Jesus, is it worth it to break fellowship with your religious friends over healing on the Sabbath? Couldn’t you just as easily wait till Sunday or Monday to heal?
    • Jesus, is it worth it to be ostracized for shucking corn on the Sabbath? After all, that is specifically mentioned in our traditional application of the law – you are needlessly breaking fellowship with the true church!
    • Jesus, really, is it worth it to drink wine and eat with sinners? Everyone is calling you a winebibber and a glutton! You certainly aren’t reflecting well on our holy traditions, and you are risking your fellowship w. our conservative synagogues.


    Etc.

    The necessary position of the religious elites is that their view of divine law/will is completely valid, therefore the breaking of fellowship is on the head of Jesus and NOT their own. Their necessary position is that Jesus is NOT doing these things for the sake of TRUTH [and truly following/revealing divine will] but for the sake of personal freedom – and woefully misguided in that, even to the eventual point where they blame Him for His own death. ‘He made himself to be God after all – and we know He couldn’t be from God, for He didn’t honor our traditions. He didn’t keep fellowship with us.’

    Please note that I’m not putting the CHM on a level with the religious elites of Jesus day, Laura. I’m only showing that the underlying religious logic is the same, when for the sake of a wedding ring covenantal fellowship is broken, etc.

    So, with that in mind, I would respectfully say that the question you ask is flawed in assumption. And for the sake of truth, I would ask a different question, hopefully one that you can agree with – even after much soul-searching. And here is the question:

    Is it possible for a person to be truly holy – holy in the sense of divine holiness, and not traditional holiness – and break fellowship with another Christian over a wedding ring?

    The answer to that question calls into stark relief the entire house of cards of the CHM. The entire edifice of a movement that would ban people from its programs, platforms and fellowship over such a thing rests on the answer to this question. The destruction that has wiped out an entire generation of CHM young people, like a deadly spiritual tsunami, resets on the answer to this question... So I do not expect it to be answered without much pain, much soul-searching and prayer.

    Once again, thank you for being brave enough to ask questions and deal with them publically! God bless you and grant you strength and encouragement today!

    Yours in the Grace of Jesus,

    Loy

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  8. Laura you opened a can of worms and they are all over the place.

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  9. Thank you "Loy" for an excellent response. It gives us much to consider. I feel many are innocently caught up in this problem and are better people than some of their actions. The CHM needs leaders with God given wisdom and courage to lead back to solid ground. Let it be so!

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  10. Maybe a bit late to the game, but I was finally able to respond to your original post - although I had to post it on my blog as Blogger kept blocking me for some reason...

    Allen Patterson
    My Answer to the Question

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  11. Loy, I don't know you, but I thank you for putting into words, so beautifully and succinctly, what some of us have been trying to say.

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  12. Becky, thank you -- and I agree that many good people are innocently caught up in something where their collective actions are not as good as their hearts' intent. And you are welcome for the words!

    And to Anonymous: you are welcome. May we all be better followers of our Lord through this discussion!

    And I look forward to reading AP's response.

    God bless you all tonight. Have a good Lord's Day tomorrow!

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  13. I was raised in the chm. Graduated from HSBA in 70 and HSBC in 75. The reason the chm women don't wear jewelry, don't cut their hair, wear their hair in a bun, don't wear pants, don't go to movies, don't go Disney World, don't wear makeup and generally look like they walked off the set of "Little House on the Praire" is because they are told to do so by the preachers. It's that simple. Laura you can sit around and philosophize about it all you want but it is considered a sin to do those things and if you don't conform you will not participate. Meanwhile when the preachers retire and their paycheck isn't coming from the chm the first thing they do is buy a TV.

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  14. One thing I have definitely learned...if I see Laura at IHC and am wearing a ring, I am avoiding her like the plague!!!

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  16. To the Anonymous of 2:57 AM - Seriously? I think you've missed something huge...

    To Laura, fascinating posts and dialogue which I hope you archive for future studies on a wide variety of topics. You certainly have a bigger audience than maybe you thought. I guess what surprises me the most is the amount of pain coming through a lot of these comments....

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  17. Yes, Allen, seriously. If she is going to indirectly name this particular family in her blog for ring wearing, who knows??? I could be next. Nothing wrong with discussing this issue, but it is VERY wrong to identify this family.I am very disappointed in her for this, and will never think of her the same again. And the fact that she is refusing to delete that post just shows arrogance on her part. Would she like to see the Bailey or Ferguson family discussed in such a way? I doubt it. She needs to think about what that family is feeling right now, being the topic of all of this. Imagine the hurt and pain they are experiencing. And you can bet they are aware of this. This kind of stuff spreads like wild fire. She owes some people some real apologies.

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    1. I know this family personally. Not only is their father that she mentioned dying, but they just watched their son leave for Afghanistan last week They really didn't need this right now.

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  18. My pastor preached this evening on "The Highway to Holiness" from several passages in Isaiah. He asked the question, "Is holiness more complicated than salvation?" Our conclusion - they are both pretty simple.

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  19. In defense of Laura (whom I do not know),I do not believe she meant harm to anyone. Some of the other comments do seem to want to inflict pain. Just my opinion. This was in my reading this morning; .....giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self control, to self control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Peter chapter 1

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  20. David (biscuit), your spirit inspires me. Please understand that I changed the picture (I often do with the seasons) because when you mentioned it, I thought, well, if someone does struggle with such an issue, it might prevent them from reading what I am trying to communicate, and that would limit my influence. Honestly, I am not being obstinate; I’m not playing games here. Having a bill cap picture simply isn't important to me. I don’t have to have that freedom, and I certainly don’t have a heart to flaunt it. So, release yourself from any responsibility in that matter. On another topic though, I ask you to consider this; (from a sister who is alongside a brother in a pursuit of understanding truth) your point that the letters which prove you are not a robot is not an issue indicates that we are not thinking in the same mode. The alphabetic letters themselves are not the issue, but the spirit in which you typed them, your motive for typing them makes them an issue. Does that make sense?

    Allen, thank you, dear brother, for your kind words about how I would treat people wearing wedding rings were I to meet them at IHC, on the street, or anywhere. I think you know this is not about me sitting in a seat of judgment. If any think it is, they have grossly misjudged me.

    To all others who have commented or are just reading; I’m continuing to work on various responses. This just takes tremendous amounts of time and energy, and I only have so much.

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  21. Thank you, Becky (and others as well) for reading with open hearts and minds as to my intent.

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  22. Laura;

    Thank you for having this discussion. The only hope that any body of believers has of passing on their values to the next generation is by rational discussion(which excludes thinking strictly by emotion or legalism). Sticking our heads in the sand and saying, "you do your thing and I'll do mine" may work for a generation. However, we are seeing it doesn't take long for any group to lose it's identity in our culture and therefore it effectivness. That is why this discussion is relevant. Claiming that it is a "none issue" or that "it's just not nice" is simply avoiding the elephant in the room.

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  23. IHS - The only hope that any body of believers has of passing on their values to the next generation is by serving God consistently in every area of their lives and by basing the way they live their lives on the word of God instead of a list of man made rules.

    If everyone in the CHM would actually study God's Word and do what He requires of them as Believers without having to worry about whether or not they'd be accepted or rejected, then and only then will you see it grow instead of shrink.

    There are those within the CHM who are realizing that, more and more, and are doimg just that but for many, they still live in fear of the fallout. This is clearly evident by how many have commented as Anonymous because they can't express their true feelings and opinions. I find that terribly sad.

    G.

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  24. Anonymous "G", you said it exactly.

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  25. Regina Lavy BakerApril 30, 2012 at 8:33 PM

    Laura, I have commented only briefly in some of the other posts. I simply wanted to thank you for your gracious conduct and the very evident thought and time you put into posting. It appears you have some rather negative 'commentators' in some of your posts so it is apparent you touched some nerves. Thanks for your time and effort! What's the next controversial top? :)

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  26. Regina Lavy BakerApril 30, 2012 at 8:34 PM

    top=topic

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  27. Regina, Your comment (about the next topic) made me smile. Actually, the next topic is trying to close out this broader issue of legalism. I hope to finish up the post tonight. I appreciate your kind spirit, and I'm thankful that you sense my desire to be gracious to others. Isn't it you I got to meet at IHC this year? I'm thinking your sweet mother-in-law introduced us... Hope to see you again next year. It's obvious from your earlier comments that you wear a wedding ring, but believe it or not, I didn't even notice whether you had one on or not when we met. Contrary to what some may assume, the wedding ring and items like it are not constantly on my mind. :) Blessings.

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