Spiritual PTSD

Why did Elijah flee? It’s a question I’ve heard asked quite often in sermons, typically with some laughter. Elijah just faced down all the prophets of Baal, saw God work a mighty miracle, and finally got the people of Israel’s attention. Then he runs for the hills when a woman threatens him. Really? What an appalling lack of faith, right?

A few weeks ago, my sister asked, “Do you think people can have spiritual PTSD?” Post Traumatic Stress Disorder “is a serious potentially debilitating condition that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed” a traumatic event such as “exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violation.” That could very well be something Elijah was dealing with in this story.

click to read article, "Spiritual PTSD" | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Image credit: “Elijah In The Desert” (1818) by Washington Allston

Elijah’s Traumatic Day

The first time Elijah steps on the Biblical scene, he tells one of the scariest kings to ever rule Israel, “As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word” (1 Kings 17:1, KJV). We know nothing of his background save that he was a Tishbite from Gilead. What we do know is that God promptly sent him into hiding first by himself and then with a widow’s family (1 Kings 17:2-24).

I don’t know why God hid Elijah. Perhaps God wanted him to learn patience and trust. Or maybe He wanted to keep Elijah safe. Whatever the reason, there’s no indication Elijah was hesitant to come out of hiding when the Lord said, “Go” several years later. First Elijah presents himself to King Ahab, then he calls the famous meeting at Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:1-20).

We often read this story and focus on God’s awesome work in demonstrating that He alone is God. Today, let’s try to see it from Elijah’s perspective. Continue reading

Send Me Your Stories: Christianity and MBTI Types

I have a blog post (or more likely series) that I’d really like to write and I need your help.

When I started this blog, I worried it would seem like an awkwardly smooshed together amalgam of INFJ blog and Christian blog. You’re supposed to find a niche or theme of some kind and focus your blogging there. Not start two blogs on the same site and post one on Mondays and one on Saturdays. But I felt this what what I should do and so I did. And it’s been wonderful.

I’ve heard from so many INFJs who find my blog through the Myers-Briggs posts and then comment because they discovered I’m Christian. I’ve also heard from other types. Most surprisingly, quite a large number of NTs want to talk about their faith. It’s been fascinating to hear from the types stereotyped as the least religious. Many talk about the challenges they face, especially in connecting with other Christians or in feeling like their faith walk doesn’t follow the “normal” pattern.Send Me Your Stories: Christianity and MBTI Types | marissabaker.wordpress.com

That has me wondering: if Christianity is a faith meant for all people then why aren’t we doing a better job of connecting with all personality types? It’s a very broad generalization, but most Christians in the United States seem to be Sensing types and/or Feeling types. And that’s who many churches cater toward. They’re focusing on the sort of traditions that make SJ types comfortable, or trying to engage SP types in sensory worship experiences, or appealing to the spiritual interests of a few NF types.

I firmly believe God created personality variations for a reason and that He longs for a relationship with all people. There are already Christians of every personality type who have strong walks with God. But they’re not all equally valued and understood in the churches. And I’d very much like to start changing that.

My Questions For You

Here’s where you guys come in. I want to hear from Christians of as many different personality types as possible. If you want to contribute and don’t know your personality type yet, please check out my post Finding Your Real Myers-Briggs Type (if you can’t narrow it down to a single type or just want to take one online test instead of researching typeology in-depth, that’s okay. I’d still love to hear from you).

I’m asking you to please share your personality type and answer some (or all, if you like) of these questions:

  • Which Bible characters and/or stories do you most identify with?
  • Do you have gifts or talents that you feel are not appreciated or that you don’t have an opportunity to use in the church?
  • Do you have gifts or talents that are particularly encouraged and supported in the church?
  • Are there expectations from other Christians that you have a hard time meeting because of how your mind naturally works?
  • Which teaching/preaching styles connect with you best? How do you like to hear and learn about God and His word?
  • In what ways could the church better connect with someone like you when preaching the gospel?
  • What’s one of the biggest challenges you face as a Christian?
  • Why are you a Christian? In other words, what makes you believe this faith is the right one?

You can either leave a comment here or send me a private message through my Contact Me form. Unless you tell me otherwise, I’ll assume tat by getting in touch you agree that I can quote you directly and credit you by first name (or screen name) and Myers-Briggs type.

Please spread this around! The more people sending in their ideas and perspectives the better. Hopefully we’ll get enough feedback for several posts. Maybe it will even grow into an ebook. I can’t wait to read what you all have to say!

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How To Love The Lord Your God

Jesus told us “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment” (Mark. 12:29-30).

Even though this commandment forms the basis of all other commands and is most important for us to remember and obey, it can also be easy to overlook. It sounds so simple: “Love God, check. Yup. I’m good.” But Jesus went into more detail than just “love God.” He started out by reminding us Yahweh is echad. He is united, preeminent, and the only one worthy of the title Lord.

With that reminder in place, Jesus goes on to quote an Old Testament passage telling us how to love God. The way we should love our Lord isn’t left up to our imagination or emotions. We’re told what we’re supposed to do.click to read article, "How To Love The Lord Your God" | marissabaker.wordpress.com

With All Your Heart

As today, most people in Jesus’s day didn’t just think of the heart as a muscle pumping blood. It was seen as the “seat of emotions” and the core of your “inner man” (labab, H3824). In Greek, kardia metaphorically referred to the “center of all physical and spiritual life” and the “fountain and seat of thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, endeavors (G2588, Thayer). That’s the first way we’re supposed to love God — with all our emotions, thoughts, and yearnings that come from the very core parts of who you are inside. Continue reading

Our Feelings Don’t Define God’s Truth

“Do what feels right.” “Follow your heart.” That’s the sort of advice we’ve steeped in living in Western culture. Problem is, that’s not really good advice. Sometimes your heart is wrong. Sometimes what feels good isn’t right.

Speaking more specifically to Christians, one of the hard truths we need to learn is that something can feel okay to you yet still be a sin in God’s eyes. Just because you’re okay with something doesn’t mean God is. And, on the flip side, your dislike of something doesn’t make it a sin. In short, how we feel does not define God’s truth.

God defines truth. Those truths are contained in His word (John 17:17), His law (Ps. 119:142), and His commandments (Ps. 119:151). Either you accept His standards as the basis for truth, or you’re not a Christian. You might be a decent sort of person on the whole, but you’re certainly not a follower of Christ. The Bible is our main link with God. It’s how He has revealed Himself to us. Rejecting the standards outlined in God’s word means we reject His mind and block the Spirit’s work to enlighten and transform us.click to read article, "Our Feelings Don't Define God's Truth" | marissabaker.wordpress.com

A Simple Test

Accepting an outside source as our ultimate authority doesn’t sit well with modern society. We tend to focus on individual freedom and self expression to the exclusion of objective morality. But the Bible says “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lord” (Jer. 17:5). A heart following its own desires is moving away from God.

Continue reading

Don’t Hate Me For Rejecting Your Holiday

The season touted as “the most wonderful time of the year” is my least favorite. I’ve found a few things I can appreciate about December (BBC specials, Star Wars film releases, Hanukkah, sales on baking ingredients). But mostly the unrelenting holiday cheer blaring from radios and dripping from public locations tries my soul.

Even though I don’t keep Christmas I try not to be a Grinch about it (which, by definition, means a person “who is mean-spirited and unfriendly” and “spoils or dampens the pleasure of others”). If you wish me a “Merry Christmas” I’ll just smile and thank you. I might even appreciate it because I understand the sentiment behind your greeting. I’m certainly not going to launch into a rant about how much Christmas offends me or how insensitive you are to assume everyone keeps Christmas.

But for some reason, not enjoying/keeping Christmas  horrifies some people. In an age where people go nuts if someone tries to “cram your religion down my throat,” you can still be shamed for not keeping Christmas. And I think that’s weird. Don't Hate Me For Rejecting Your Holiday | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Here’s one example of people “grinch-ing” someone for not being Christmassy enough. Yesterday I saw an article from Young Conservatives critiquing the fact that the Obama’s final White House Christmas card doesn’t feature the White House and wasn’t explicitly Christmas related. “It’s basically a ‘Holiday’ card,” they wined, “because writing the word ‘Christmas’ would hurt too many feelings.” Apparently, their feelings were hurt by the leader of a very diverse country trying to cover all the winter holidays observed by the people he’s leading.

It’s not just articles from biased political sites about public figures. It’s the unrelenting Christmas music for a full month on the radio. It’s the pressure to enjoy the decorations and participate in the “spirit of Christmas.” It’s when you say don’t keep Christmas and someone shoots back “Couldn’t you just go caroling?” or “Don’t you love Jesus?”

I don’t really deal with much pressure to keep Christmas. Most of the people I attend church with don’t keep Christmas either (a few Messianics do, but most people I know gave up Christmas when they discovered God’s holy days). When people ask, I’ll explain why I don’t keep Christmas. Mostly, though, I just try to ignore it. But I still see people, mostly online, talking about Christmas and shaming those who don’t get into the seasonal spirit. I don’t care if you want to keep Christmas. I’d just like a little space peacefully not keep it without being bombarded with holiday cheer that makes me feel anything but merry.

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Lessons From The Dance

Due to wisdom tooth surgery on Thursday I’m not dancing this morning (it all went very well, praise God and thanks to a good dentist, but I’ve been advised not to risk dislodging the blood clot that’s helping it heal by any sort of vigorous exercise so soon after surgery). But I was very tempted to risk it and I’m still wishing I could have danced. (Update: 1 hour after this posted, I showed up at church and they’d changed to slower songs so I did get to dance. Hallelujah!)

For those who that last paragraph left a bit confused, I’m referring to what’s known as Davidic or Messianic dance. It’s easier to show a video than to try to describe it in words. Here’s my dance team (several years before I met them) dancing to one of our very favorite songs:

I joined a Messianic dance team early in 2015. My first introduction to the dance was about a year before that, when a dancer shared some basic lessons at a Feast of Unleavened Bread event in Michigan. I absolutely loved it, and I picked up the dances so quickly my mentors say that God has given me a gift for the dance (there’s really no other way to explain why I’m good at it — normally I’m rather clumsy).

Dancing at church, especially to open the service, seems a bit odd to many Christian denominations. But there is Biblical precedent for dance as part of worship and I’ve found the inclusion of dance (and especially being involved in the dance) is a blessing I hadn’t expected. And it has taught me some valuable lessons about dancing in unity with God on a spiritual level.

Basics First

When you’re first learning to dance, you have to start with the basic steps. We don’t just expect new students to know how to do the Hallelu dance. First, we teach them how to do the mayim, tcherkessia, coupe, and 3-point turn that make up the Hallelu step combination. As they learn the basic steps, we start putting the steps together into patterns to match the different songs. And we keep going over and over those basic steps for the first couple months after new dancers join because they’re the basis for every dance we do.

It’s much the same when we first begin our Christian journey. We start out learning about the foundations of repentance and faith. We learn that we should “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” and “love your neighbor as yourself.”  Then we learn how to apply those truths in every day situations.

As we grow, God deepens our understanding and adds more foundational principles like “the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment” (Heb. 6:1-3). Then we learn more about His expectations for those following Him, what grace truly means, how He wants us to view His commandments, and practical ways to follow Jesus with every step we take. But it all starts with the basics.

Listen To The Music

Even if you know the basic dance steps, they’re not worth much until you set them to music. Music is so much a part of the dance that our dance leader often has trouble recollecting the steps of a dance when she’s trying to walk through and teach them slowly without music. As soon as the music plays, though, it all comes back to her.

You can’t dance without listening to the music. A waltz calls for different steps than a tune in 4/4 time. In some songs, you need to wait for pauses in the music. For others, you have to be thinking two steps ahead because the music moves so fast. Often, listening to the lyrics tells you which part of the dance you’re supposed to be doing in multi-part dances.

In the same way, we have to “tune” our Christian walks to the song God plays through His scriptures. While the Bible doesn’t use the dancing analogy much, it does talk about Jesus coming “to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:78) and of God directing the steps of good men (Psalm 37:23, 31; 119:133). We have to study His words so we know the right steps and we need to listen for the guiding of His spirit for how to apply what we learn.

Dance Together

Davidic dance isn’t a solo endeavor. We dance in circles of unity. Every dancer is responsible for knowing the steps to a given dance and how to follow the music. But there are some songs that just don’t stick in your mind as well and there are times (even when you’re no longer a beginner) that you just can’t remember what comes next.

If you can’t remember a step, you can follow one of the other dancers. You’re already watching them to keep in unity, and you know you can count on them for reminders. In turn, they should know they can count on you to know what you’re doing for when they can’t remember a step. We help keep each other on track.

Walking as Christians is made easier by fellowship with other believers. While God will certainly work with people who are isolated from other Christians, His intention is for the body of believers to come together and grow as we build each other up and learn to use our gifts (1 Cor. 12:1-31). We’re on this walk of faith together and we have the opportunity to help each other find the right steps to stay in unity with God.

Lessons From The Dance | marissabaker.wordpress.com

photo credit: “Messianic Dance Troup” by Larry Jacobsen, CC BY via Flickr

 

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