Monthly Archives: April 2017

The Oldest Daydream: A Review of The Benedict Option

One of my oldest daydreams is gathering up the people I love best, moving far-far-away from the rat race, and starting a community of our own.

When I was in high school, having been exposed to too much Heinlein at an impressionable age, I wanted to start a commune.   Starting around the turn of the millennium, my focus was just going back to the land.  And for years, my husband has called the dream of getting a big piece of property with several buildings on it, and importing our besties to come live with us, the “when I win the lottery” daydream.  (This being my husband’s daydream, there’s a forge and not so many hedges).

I’m not alone in this kind of daydream – I know at least two online friends who have the same hankering.  One of them is actively working on it, much to my envy.   I even have a couple online buds living on farms… I suspect it might be a GenX thing.

So, when I heard about The Benedict Option, I was intrigued.  Many of my online buds have already checked Dreher’s blog out, and were familiar (and somewhat annoyed by) the concept.  I hadn’t, haven’t checked it out yet, though I will.

Quick and Dirty:  I liked the book, didn’t agree with all of it, and think Dreher is a bit misaligned in his priorities, but overall I thought there were some great points for every Christian.   I am not an Orthodox Christian or Catholic, but Dreher had nice things to say about crazy evangelicals too.  As I mentioned in my blog about Christian Unity, when your back is against the wall, what matters is your commitment to Christ Jesus, not whether or not you use incense in your church services.  Our backs are moving rapidly towards the wall – and Dreher sees this, it’s the basis for his book.

What I loved:  I loved the description of living within the natural world – I hadn’t realized that the enlightenment church had intellectualized the faith so much.  I find that odd, since Creation is supposed to witness to the Creator.   And of course the idea of living simply, working shoulder to shoulder with fellow believers is the epitome of my Oldest Daydream… 🙂  I got quite a lot of sympathy for the Orthodox and Catholic churches (even though I am still firmly Sola Scriptura/Gracia/Fide) from this reading.  The schism came at a cost, and there were things lost.

What I found convicting:  That we return to/develop the communities of our youth, and deepen our connections there, rather than gallivanting off to where-ever we might want to go.  OUCH.  See, I live in SoCal, but unlike most folks here, I am a native.  A second-generation native, which practically makes me an elder stateswoman.  I would rather live in a forest somewhere, but y’all know the beach is in my bones.  If you don’t know that, come watch my face when I’m near the sea.

But maybe I should be working more on strengthening the connections on my block, in my neighborhood, in my church… and less time daydreaming about a swiftly moving stream and nodding pine trees?

This was the most unexpected part of the book – I thought Dreher was really all about going back to the woods, or at least back to small towns.  Instead, he talked about blooming where you were planted, and how one might make that work in different situations.

What I found helpful:  The suggestion to think outside the box and start actively preparing ourselves and our children for the approaching time of persecution.  I have teenagers, and suggesting to them that they might want to think creatively about their professional futures rather than just hitting the college/career track is useful.  (So much dovetails now with what we’ve been talking about as a community about the skilled professions being a wiser choice than college, the Mike Rowe scholarships, now this… of course I am not the one making the choice).

My church has been preparing the youth for home churching and studying the Word in small groups for years now – so that bit of prep is something that Crazy Evangelicals can do, and groups that are dependent on a priest (Orthodox, Catholics) cannot.  (I think, I could be wrong and feel free to correct me – can laypersons prepare Communion in those traditions?)

What I found meh:  Dreher really pounded the idea that we should be working on getting religious freedom laws saved.  It seems to go against his general thesis, that the World is going to largely throw against us.  Dreher also emphasized Christian education to a fault – not that I have an objection, but it seemed to be a bit more intense than I’d have chosen.  Of course my kids only have a few more years before college (if) so… YMMV.  But even since the very recent publication of his book, the few delicate religious freedom laws have gotten overturned.   Put not your faith in princes, dude.  If you’re going to posit a return to small community based church, don’t waver.

The end of the matter?  I thought the book was pretty good, especially the first half, and there were several things I found convicting.   It’s worth a read.  Get it from the library and have a think.

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Unity in Christ

John 17: 22 The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; 23 I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.

I was listening to a Francis Chan sermon today as I was doing kitchen work, and he was speaking on this verse.  Perfected in unity… so that we can be a witness that God sent Jesus, and that He loves us.

Are we unified?  No, not really.

But then again, there’s a tie – a tie that CS Lewis spoke of in Mere Christianity.   When I get together with Scott, or Chris, or Elspeth or Cassie or Fiberaddict – I know they love Jesus.  We have theological differences, some of which are pretty big.  But they’ll go to the wall for our King.

Stuff’s about to go down.  I don’t know when, I don’t know how, I don’t even know if we’ll still be here or get airlifted out first.   But the signs of soon-persecution for the Church are there for anyone to see.   If you’ve ever opened a history book, and then open a newspaper…

Chan was asking what it would take to get us unified, what it would take for God to answer Jesus’ prayer… I’m afraid I know all too well.  Exactly the same thing that it took in the early days of the Church.

But what about the meantime?

In the meantime… as far as I’m concerned, we’re all on the same team.  We might quarrel and debate – but we’re family.   Sometimes maybe we need someone to remind us of that, to not pull sister’s hair too hard or put ipecac in brother’s gatorade.

There are a lot of liberal Christians, people who say they love Jesus and don’t walk the walk.  Who, put to the test, don’t really believe Bible, they’d rather follow the World.   I keep hoping those distant cousins will step up and come to the truth of our faith – there’s room at the table.  But I figure Dr. McGee was right – no one hates more bitterly than someone who’s turned their face from what’s right and has a reminder of what they’ve lost in consequence.

Truth will out.

And in the meantime – hey guys, remember that we’re all part of the body of Christ, and that He has stated that He wants us to be in unity, unity that might bring more folks into the fold and save them from hellfire.

Isn’t that why we’re still here?

In and out of the Holy Spirit

My church (Calvary Chapel) is “charismatic with a seatbelt” – which means we’ll ask for miracles, but don’t get too attached to getting.   It’s a big, highly varied church – so some of the folks are pretty charismatic, some folks are more seatbelt.   The church of my youth (Baptists) were on the side of “gifts are for yesterday, not today” – so very seatbelt.  And I hang out with at least one lady who is very charismatic.   I find her faith inspirational.

I’ve been thinking about this, and trying to figure it out, if not in words, at least in my heart.  It’s part of my faith walk, and this is a season where faith is something on which I’m concentrating.

Something came to me as I was driving around this morning… how is prayer different from any other spiritual gift/discipline?  We are enjoined to pray without ceasing, to pray for our sick, to pray for our daily bread, to thank God in everything… so there is a very solid  place for habits of obedience – in this flesh.  I will pray for you if you ask me to, I believe that this is an obligation of every member of the family of Christ.  (And I will, likewise, show very little hesitation in asking you to pray for me if I need it).

But sometimes the prayer becomes something more, and while I know that the Spirit is always with me, and prays for me/through me (Rom 8:26), but sometimes there is more.  Sometimes the power of God moves, and I pray with greater boldness than I would normally.  And on those occasions, I often feel the peace of God which passes all understanding – after all, we know that we receive what we ask, so long as it is within God’s will.  (It isn’t always here yet.  Like a giant dry-cleaner with clothes on the racks, your suit is clean… but it might take a minute for it to make it ’round to you).

Romans 8:26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Does that mean that all of my prayer, including prayer that I believe *should* be in God’s will gets answered with peace like that?  Extremely nope.  Does that mean that I always pray like that?  Also nope.  (Ah, if only).

I’m not the one in control.

Sometimes I think my Charismatic and Pentecostal brethren mistake the obedience and faith that drives us to our knees with the power that comes at God’s discretion or not at all.

Likewise, I have certain spiritual gifts, and most of those mesh nicely with the person that I am.  But when things become more, when God speaks through me… that’s not my choice.  I showed up, I was willing to serve, and then God did what He would do, when it suited Him – and no, again – not that often.   I’m not in control of those gifts!

So, I’ll ask.  But whether or not I get is up to God.   I do find that the more I offer myself up to serve and obey, the more I am used – and the more unexpectedly.   That’s my bit – the obedience bit.  God’s bit is… everything else!

And that’s just fine with me.

So, you ask about my faith – my faith in God is unassailable, my faith that the prayers I know He’s answered but haven’t shown up yet is growing every day, and my faith in my own efforts is very small indeed.