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People of Faith in a Changing World

BookCoverPreview POFCWPeople of Faith in a Changing World. New From Jo Bower

“Much of what I know today will not be so tomorrow….” This quote from a devotion in “People of Faith in a Changing World” reflects the uncertainty of our world. Jo Bower has kept a journal through the changes in her life, and shares some 200 devotions based on those journals.

Encouragement, God’s faithfulness, growth, unity, asking ‘why,’ balance, change and overcoming are all themes readers will encounter in “People of Faith in a Changing World.” Seasonal Devotions are also part of this collection.

This book is available at Amazon.com, Kindle, and you local bookstore can order from Ingram Distributors.

Message from the author: It is my pleasure to share the book I’ve been writing my whole life. The I hope you glean as much from the devotions as I have in the living of them in God’s presence. Enjoy them and blessings to all.

Christmas Reflections

Matthew
1:24

When Joseph
woke up, he did what the Angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home
as his wife.

(Also see
:Matt 1:20, Luke 2:22, Luke 1:30-38, Luke 2:8-16, Matthew 2:12, Luke 2:13-14 for
more examples as the basis of this devotional.)

 

It’s the
week between Christmas and the new year. This has been one of those transitional
years. The death of the most loved member in my husband’s family, changes in life
stations, and a major move destroyed the way we have always done things. It has
been difficult for all.

So, with
the exception of a lovely Christmas Eve with my side of the family, (a year or so
further down the road to recovery from our own series of losses) this year Christmas
has mainly been a spiritual event for me.

In my silence,
it occurred to me each participant in this saga has at least two things in common:

They listened,

Then

They responded.

The
prophets of old listened. Mary listened. Joseph listened three times. The inn
keeper listened. The shepherds listened. The Wise Men listened. And the saga we repeat
each year is the story of how they responded.

Oh God, teach
us to listen. Help us relearn how to listen first to you instead of what surrounds
us.  

Listening
and responding to God’s way often looks odd to our market-categorizing culture.
We won’t always fit into the prearranged categories of society.

Part of the
story we tell recalls the remarkable ways the people involved stepped away from
how society expected them to react. (Let’s not get carried away with this and cultivate
Christian oddity just to flaunt society. That misses the point.)

The point
is God is faithful. God will call us out. If we will listen, and respond, God will
do some remarkable things in our lives. And that leaks out into the society around
us.

God, teach
me to listen.

 

 

 

 

Come

As we enter Advent I want to issue an invitation: Come, find Christmas as a renewed season……

Luke 2:15

When the
angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let
us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has
made known to us.”

 

Come, you who have written off Christmas

As an useless commercial, greedy,

Networking through-giving-the-right-gift-to-the-right person,

Hoping to better your position in the New Year,

And raking in all you can get celebration.

 

Come, you who weary of trying to please,

Or gain approval of the people who depend on you

And who you love with all your heart,

By providing the perfect holiday experience.

 

Come, you who refuse to celebrate because you believe

It’s the wrong time of the year,

Or believers’ redemption of an old pagan worship day

Was merely the early Christians’ effort

To wrestle dominance from everyone else.

 

Come, you who cannot see beyond the secular celebrations,

Of Santa, elves, goodwill, and tender, made for TV movies,

And the stories of Angels suddenly helping people.

Who, when you have outgrown those things,

No longer find meaning in the celebration.

 

Come, discover the simple, uncomplicated,

Love motivated, God-initiated gift

That began all this human madness as we have, as usual,

Gotten things backwards,

And put the emphasis on the wrong things.

 

Come, return to the celebration

Of a loving Creator longing for a relationship his creation.

Of that Spirit of power and might giving that most precious son

To humanity as the example

Of God the Father’s existence and scope of love.

 

Come to the celebration,

Not of the date, or of the traditions, or the giving and receiving,

Not merely the spirit of Christmastide’s goodwill,

But of the eternal love that prompted

That first gift of a baby named Jesus.

 

So, come, put it all aside:

The studies that tell us what we’ve gotten wrong,

The disapproval of what the season has become,

And celebrate, with heart, mind, and spirit,

The gift that changed the meaning of giving.

 

Anointment

​May God Bless your Thanksgiving season.

Psalm 133

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured
on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down onthe collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.

 

 In our society the idea of having oil poured over our head until it runs down on the beard, and drips onto our collar nearly makes one shudder. Of course we’re talking about anointing, which was a common ritual at the time this scripture was written.

 But I have come to love this image. Think about it this way. What if the oil was God’s blessings? The shudders are suddenly replaced with anticipation.

 I see God lifting a pitcher and pouring out blessings, and keeps on pouring. It lands on my spiritual head, runs through spiritual my hair, and drips to my spiritual collar, down my shoulders
and arms to drip from my fingertips. And everyone I touch receives some of the blessings God is pouring over my head.
  

 This idea nests in a scripture about God’s people living in unity, raising the idea of a river flowing from a unified community. If, as a believing community, we find ways to live peacefully with our differences, and people see how we love each other, I can see God pouring blessings onto the roofs of our churches. I see the blessings drip from our eaves, and flow into our communities.

       So I pray: God, Help me understand your blessings are gifts, not bribes to live a
certain way. You pour out your blessings because of your love. Help us share
those blessings, knowing you always pour more blessings over our heads.

Obedience and Opportunities

(On the Essential Practice of Preemptive Obedience first published by Seedbed.com) Numbers 13:27-29 They came back to Moses and Aaron on the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the desert of Paran. There they reported to them the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land. They gave Moses this account “We went into the land to which you sent us and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of a Anak there.” I have discovered a devotional web site called Seedbed. The study on this scripture follows a series on Gideon. In the end they are linked, and they have provoked a different way of thinking about this idea of what Seedbed writer, J.D. Walt, calls Preemptive Obedience. It started with a series of studies on Gideon. The essence of this series was about Gideon’s need to, first, have God prove to him it was really God talking to him. (The fleece.) Then, second, God’s actions to assure Gideon he had chosen correctly when he decided to follow God’s instructions for a strange way to lead the army. (Sending most of the men home and equipping the remaining with trumpets and pitchers with lights in them.) It was a story of God’s dealing with Gideon. This scripture follows those lessons and speaks of opportunity provided by God being approached on an intellectual level. Two spies reported the good but the other ten dwelt on the overwhelming odds. Giants in the land is the way our Sunday School lessons put it. Marching into the promised land made as little sense as God sending most of Gideon’s army home did. The Israelites hesitated. Gideon obeyed. Preemptive Obedience. I believe I will always remember the idea. I know, counting the cost, looking at things logically are all part of the process. But sometimes it still does not help us know which direction to go when we feel God’s call to action. I don’t know when I learned this, but I learned to talk to God about assignments (I always called it opportunities to use God given talents) and wait for God to send the opportunity instead of going out and trying to find/make my own. This is backwards from what we are taught. It really does not make sense in our society. When I feel I need to seek a place to serve God, to use the talents God gave me, I believe first and wait for God to present an opportunity. I have nearly despaired at times, but the opportunities, when they came, were tailored to my abilities. I also have learned many of the opportunities God sends are small ones. I quickly learned not to turn down the little opportunities. Several times in my life, those quiet little services have led to more opportunities to serve. Believe before you understand what God is trying to do. Believe before you understand God’s method. Obey before you understand everything you want to know so you can be comfortable before stepping into action faithful. Right now, I am in a believing state. I, as you may or may not know, am an arranger of sacred music and pianist. I just keep practicing and will see what God sends along next. If nothing comes along for the piano, I will keep singing in a choir and ringing in a bell choir. Hopefully, God will tailor something more for may particular talent on the piano. I am believing. Gideon and the Israelites are reminders about the way God deals with people. When we are faithful, God is always faithful.

Oh, To Be Famous

Matthew 3:7-12  Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. When they heard about all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon. Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him. 10 For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him. 11 Whenever the impure spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” 12 But he gave them strict orders not to tell others about him. As I struggled to understand some of the things that drove me to be obsessed with music and writing, I came to a point I had to know why I was putting all this energy into something with so little promise of big returns. If I were to become a famous pianist, I would have to give up my work as a pastor’s wife. My husband could not carry on normal pastoral work, as much of his time would be associated with the demands of that sort of career. If I were to become a famous author, it would be easier on the relationship and pastoral life. But still, I would have to deal with deadlines, publishers demands, decline and upturning sales. Life dealing with a corporation whose bottom line is money adds a whole new level of stress. Yes, but wouldn’t being famous be worth it? So, why did I want to play the piano any time I had an opportunity? Why Did I want to share the stories and devotionals with others so badly?  Why did I want to have my own publishing company? I never liked being the boss. I am a lousy businessperson. I learned that quickly thanks to some opportunities a cousin of mine who is a successful businessman offered me.  The more people depended on me for their success, the more frightened I became. I realized I am most comfortable when serving. I am a service person, not a businessperson. So, why did I want to do this? Merely to be famous, or to serve? In one of our pastoral stations, we attended a sister church’s special series of services presided over by a retired bishop. At the altar call, the need to know why overwhelmed me. As the bishop prayed with me, I explained what I was seeking. He told me when he was young some of the older people of the church named him the best preacher of his generation. His words were, “I wish they had not done that.” For years he struggled with that as he tried to figure out if he was just trying to live up the prestige of the designation, or did he truly want to be the best pastor he could be. He said he finally locked the office door, took off his coat, rolled up his sleeve and said “okay, Satan, let’s get this over with.”  He came out on the other end, (in my opinion) one of the best bishops of his generation. In this world where once you become famous, it is open season for all the reputation hunters, the professional critics, and gossips. It often becomes life’s work to maintain the ministry instead of being able to do the work itself. I came to know I really did not want to be famous. I wanted to serve. It is a delight to have something to contribute to people’s lives. My fiction is my fun stuff, yet the few people who have read it enjoy it and have been blessed. People have reported help in their own journey from reading my book of my spiritual journey. And my book of devotions has been used as discussion starters in at least one Sunday School class. Many have told me they have it on their nightstands. My book of readers’ plays is still selling online. But I am not in any danger of becoming a famous writer. The contentment of having played the piano well in a service is a joy that only God can give and is indescribable. My biggest worry now is maintaining the consistency of playing to the best of my ability. Yet, few know my name. Early on, I chose to remain one who serves on a local or denominational level, wherever God put me. My prayer is that God will help me to not let recognition, of the wonder that is the music He gave, me make me so aware of its beauty that it hampers my ability to just sit down and worship through the music. If that is lost, so is the wonder of it all. Many times this is the first thing that gets lost through fame. The devotional I am studying ends the study of the passage like this: Perhaps our best work is done in silences without the celebrity. Jesus asked the people he healed in this passage not to make him known….it wasn’t time for him to have to deal with all that yet. He had fundamental foundations to get into place before the whole world got involved. I am still wondering about that last line. I think I will leave the fruits of my labors up to God.

Rules and Desires

Mark 12:29-31

Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is, ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one, And you shall love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

This year I followed some rules that I never thought even would exist.

Just saying that makes us wince. Inherently we don’t like the sound of the word. Rules. Subconsciously most of us know there are rules in life.

With tongue in cheek I’ll remind us we even rename them so we don’t have to follow ‘rules.’ We say we are creating a culture when what we are doing is creating a set of flexible rules and callings them a community.  Guidelines, directives, commandments, suggestions are all flexible rules. Putting gentle fun-making at ourselves aside, let’s explore.

I had a gentle, kind piano teacher who would go across the room to listen to my arrangements, then after telling me what she liked she would say “Would you consider doing this instead of this?” Her demonstration was her teaching me the rules of arranging. I listened and learned the rules based on what the human ear expects to hear, what satisfies the human ear, how much to challenge that satisfaction, and how much discord and unexpected jarring listeners in a worship setting can be expected to accept.

I accepted those rules (and after you know them you can sometimes break them) because I really wanted to grow musically, not that I was paying half a week’s salary for lessons. (I was just out of college and was not making much money.)

We love our freedom, having our own style, and nobody telling us what to do. But even freedom has rules. If we don’t follow those rules, we get freedom taken away from us. Threatening others, taking what does not belong to us, hurting others, walking all over another person’s rights are but a few things that are against the rules of freedom. Even anarchists must accept a set of ideals. Jazz, one of music’s ‘rebellions,’ has always had rules. Criminal gangs have rules. Each academic subject has a set of rules. Professions have rules. Even retirement has rules.

We could go on for a while, but the point is, even if we don’t call our system of conduct rules, if they govern our way of life, they are rules.

Now, all that aside, let’s return to why I listened to my piano teacher.     

When the time came, I really wanted to return to the sanctuary for worship. With what my husband and I have been through with this virus, (four days in the hospital for him) how could we not want to be in the house of God to celebrate with His people who took such good care of us? So, I washed my hands, donned my mask, allowed my temperature to be taken, cleaned my hands again, was led to a specific place to sit and stayed put. I did not sing out loud and remained seated until I was summoned by the usher. Rules I never dreamed would exist.

If, in my heart, I desire something enough, I will be willing to follow the rules of engagement (so to speak).

Each of us can probably write our own devotion at this point. And each one would be different.

But for me, when I have come to the place where I desire a living, growing relationship with God, I will consent to follow the rule of love. I will model Jesus’ way of expressing God’s love.  I will practice putting others first until it becomes my life’s habit. I will consciously find ways to become someone who encourages the people I meet face to face – or mask to mask in these days.

Answer the question for yourself. What do I desire in life enough to follow the rules that govern that activity or way of living? More importantly, what am I willing to change to follow God’s rules of love? Do I desire a vibrant relationship with God enough to put aside my natural rebellion toward rules and follow some simple but life changing directives?

How much desire is in my heart to find ways to live out God’s rules of Love?

Stability

These are the first words from my devotional book, in a different form. I have come to know this is more relevant now than ever before. I have just lost two friends (husband and wife) at the same time to Covid, and we all know our idea of reality has changed forever. My hope is that we are forever changed in our understanding of our need for God. I hope we can never return to complacent Christianity. I hope we dive deeper into our relationship with God and never look back. May God be with us all.

Habakkuk 3:17-18

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.

God, I realize you are the one constant in a life of never ending changes. Much of what I know today will not be so tomorrow. If and when I plan for the future, it’s usually different than I can ever predict.

Even the people in my life are fluid. They move away, follow jobs or education, grow up or grow old. Even in a good sense of change, the man I love is not the kid I married. And even I am changing, growing, not the same.

Yet, through it all I have learned a few things. If everything I depend upon – even how I make a make a living- if everyone I love were taken away I would grieve, feel sorrow, cry and mourn. But you, God, would still be there.

And so, even my prayer changes to:

God, whatever changes that come I can learn once again to rejoice in the joy of your salvation. When all the changes are over, and, with your help, I adjust to each one, through all my life there is one constant force, and that, my God, is you.

What Makes It So Sacred Anyway?

Scripture. (God to Moses) “Take off your sandels you are on holy ground.”

Lately I have been hearing, and have said it myself: we, as a society have lost our sense of sacred. We no longer respect the old rituals, ideas, or places. Perhaps we need to quit lamenting and take a new look at why things, places, rituals and ideas were ever sacred.

Oddly enough, an idea behind a Syfy Network program called Warehouse 13 comes to mind. They dealt with artifacts that had taken on qualities of the people who owned them, or the events they were part of. Many times they were normal objects that had become “magical” because of the properties they had absorbed. It was a odd show, but fun and someties spoke the struggle between good and evil in the world. Pure fantasy.

On a more serious level, I love to go the an empty sanctuary and play the piano. I grew up in a pastoral family, and married a pastor. I have spent many hours in sanctuaries. I have met God many times in such places. It means something to me to be in the place where I come away and put myself into an attitude and position to open myself up and pay attention to what God is trying to get through to me. To many people that is a sacred place.  So, it is the activity that takes place there that makes it holy or sacred.

Rituals are sacred only if we bring understanding of what they mean with us as we partake in the ritual. We scoff and throw them aside in our contemorary society beccause we no longer use them as tools to open our hearts and minds to God. We have forgotten why they became sacred: because we met God when said the words, sang the songs, and took part in the actions.  

In Moses’ case, why did the ground he was walking on become holy ground? Because God had been there in the burning bush.

In our contemporary society, we must acknowledge the sacred will be different things for each of us. In our pop concert and theater world, many of us don’t really understand the sanctuary. It’s just like other gathering hall.  Ritual has become just something to do, not understood or meaningful. Things have lost sacred meanings.

Yet people still meet God.

New things take on sacredness as we associate activities and places with the times we open ourselves to God’s voice. In honor of the past, we recapture that which has helped us in the past, but we also allow new things and places and things to become sacred.

If we don’t allow this process, we are short cutting our humanity. We need the shortcuts and symbols. On the other hand, if we begin to place more emphasis on the doing and saying certain things than we do the reason we began doing them, we also lose their usefulness. 

Things became sacred because God was present. We met God, and these things help us recreate the times of meeting God. And we want to take off our shoes and honor the sacred ground.

So I pray: God help us recapture and not be afraid of the concept of  the sacred places and attitudes.

After

2 Corinthians 5:16-21

16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come far. The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

 

So, did it change you?

Did it challenge your faith, make it grow?

Or frighten you into doubts about your views of God

Did it make you less likely to give up your faith in time of adversity?

I think Easter does all these things. We are reminded there is truly evil, greed, desire for territorial protection and fear run deeply through humanity’s being. It’s frightening when we are forced to watch the innocent suffer. It touches our emotional core. We can barely contain our question of “Why?” and “How long God? How long must this go on?” And we pray “If possible let this cup pass from us.”

Or today we’d say “Really, God?” or “Come on, God, Seriously?” and “Are you really letting this go on?” And our faith is rattled.

But we have an example of a graceful meeting a crisis head on. From the time in the garden when Christ’s acceptance that the cup would not pass from him to his last words of the cross, we see how serious adversity can be handled.

But we protest, “Jesus was divine.”

True, we don’t fully understand how that worked, but we have hope because the same power he drew from is also the power available for us to draw strength from.

Bear with me here, I am not changing the subject.

Just as Jesus was not alone in his inner life, we are not alone in our inner lives. I use the ‘inner life’ term on purpose. It’s the place hope or despair, courage to face or fear to deny, acceptance or rejection, tolerance or prejudice, worthiness or unacceptability, competence for life or inability to function all live and call out for help. If the inner life’s needs are not met, a restlessness remains even after all of our other needs are met. That restlessness drives to a place where we never experience contentment. We are always searching.

Many times we substitute, mistake or misunderstand a physical presence as the way to fulfill our inner life needs. Perhaps, more precisely, we want to believe another’s physical presence also should satisfy our inner needs.

While the power of the physical presence and touch can satisfy physical and short-term emotional needs, it will not solve inner life needs. Many of life’s dramatic traumas are caused by the battle between seeking solutions to inner life needs in the physical world and not finding them.

Bitterness, disillusion, and cynicism invade our inner lives. Seeking wealth and power, oppression, greed, violence on different levels, and self-promotion are some of the actions that grow out of that discontent inner life.  This makes the healthy things impossible: the things that drive us to do well in all we do, do things right, or make a success of our work, be a positive voice of change and a witness to God’s goodness and love.

Here’s how the two are connected. When we finally put a finger on our own chest and say, “There’s something wrong in here,” we can have hope things can be different.  We can believe there is a power available to us to help us change what is wrong. That power is the same power God brought to bear to raise Jesus from the dead.

God has the power to meet the needs of our inner lives. When we look to God for completion of our lives, the struggle between spiritual, emotional and physical natures can be calmed. True peace is finally a reality. It changes how we act, what we do, how we treat people, and what we are no longer afraid of.

The only bad news here is that only a spiritual answer can solve the spiritual, inner life problems.  And if we allow it, God will resolve the conflict between the negative and positive forces that battle in our inner lives.

Because of the work Jesus did at Easter for the forgiveness of sin and, through the power of resurrection, we can live confident, productive lives full of love, action and peace.

God Symbols

 

I am editing and rewriting the fifth novel of my science fiction series. The society (the Snow People of Shushimee) the travelers encounter in this book had a written language at one time and, because it was associated with rituals they no longer understood, they had come to see it as evil. They knew the symbols, but no longer understood what they meant.

In this excerpt, the chaplain is getting ready to speak to his congregation. (Andez is his Chaplain’s assistant. Cooper is the Transport Chief who holds a particular grudge against God.)

As Andez conducted the early parts of vespers, Craig let his thoughts wander “We’re not much different than the Snow People. We don’t understand so many of the old society’s symbols anymore. We don’t understand the Shepherd, or the planting and sowing, or the patriarchal society. To the first believers it was comforting to think of God as father. And we think it’s as bad as it is good.” He looked around room and caught a glimpse of Cooper leaning against the chapel’s door jamb. “At least half these people don’t even know their fathers.”  Andez took his seat, ready for Craig to speak. “God help me tell them about you in terms they understand.”

As I revisited this paragraph I returned to a subject I have been wrestling with for a while. It has to do with the changing view of God and how we deal with it. Here are a few reflections. And this is in no way a complete discussion of the subject. Hope they start your own thought journey.

When humanity lived in violent times, God was understood in terms that matched the violent times. King, ruler, God was judged by how much power his followers had. How strong they were. The things that symbolized strength to them were used as symbols for God. (The right hand, the horns of animals.)

When the world’s most valued institution was/is the family, it was/is natural to understand God as a loving father figure.

When success, getting ahead, making something of one’s self and acceptance by society is most valued, God is viewed as helping us achieve these goals.
And when individuality is uppermost in value, God is understood as a partner in a relationship.
When law and civil order is most valued, the symbols of God reflect those values.
When head knowledge, and education are most valued, theology becomes most important.
We cannot forget (yet we often do forget) any way we speak of God is symbolic. We cannot understand the magnitude and breadth and depth and multi-dimensions of God as a Spirit otherwise. The total otherness of God escapes us.
Because of their function, symbols have this habit of slipping in to God’s place. We worship the symbol instead of God:
The Bible,
Ritual and words,
The blood of Christ,
The shroud Christ was covered with,
The trappings of theology, as well as theology and dogmatics themselves,
Traditional symbols such as father, mother, shepherd, sower, reaper, king, ruler, provider, sustainer, power source,
The symbols and style of worship,
Victims, (as the symbol of Jesus’ teaching of the strong empowering the weak instead of oppressing)
are but a few symbols we deeply care about.

When Jesus was sent to earth, God provided the ultimate symbol of His love. He sent his son. Something all humans understand and relate to. So, the family symbol has been most enduring.

However, today many people no longer understand the Old Testament view of God. When we try to apply our values as a victim oriented society to their understanding we question the authority and actions of the Old Testament God. Yet, there are societies that have not been part of the world’s journey and understanding as people and society have put into practice the lessons Jesus brought with him from God. Some still see God through the eyes and symbols of conquest and dominance of the strong over the weak as it was before Jesus was sent into the world.

And even, as people and societies who try to put Jesus’ teachings into practice, we stumble and fail in the application of them. Sometimes our symbols are faulty. Sometimes we try to make God fit the symbols we love. And that may be okay in certain instances. Illustrations are often valuable to help us understand things about God we could not otherwise. And Illustrations often grow into symbols.
Having said all that, we must also understand if we change the symbols for God we do not change the essential nature of God. For instance, God as a mother symbol does not change God, it merely helps us understand the nurturing action of God.

If we can grasp that each symbol illustrates a specific part of God instead of the whole, we can comfortably use the symbols. In fact, I think God does things the way he does because he tries to use the things we understand. He speaks to us differently because we are all different people.

I understand God as a loving father because I happen to be have been blessed with a loving, mischievous, thinking, teacher and pastor of a father. Imperfect though he was as are all humans, he was a good model for God as father. But I don’t have to look very far to see people who cringe at the idea of God as father, or even male. And many cringe at the idea of Mother God.

Music speaks to me. It’s part of my very soul. God can get into my heart and grab my attention quicker by using beauty than any other way. Music as a symbol for God makes sense to me. My mother is tone deaf…a monotone even. God as beauty and music makes very little sense to her.

What are your symbols? What are the things in contemporary life that can become symbols to people who no longer understand ancient symbols? We need to go back and understand the ancient symbols before we can translate them for our new generations.
Do not be afraid when someone else’s symbols are different from yours. God is God. Even when called by another name or symbolized by a not-male or not-female Spirit instead of male father or female mother or a relationship partner instead of authority. We can examine each symbol and see what part of God it is speaking of. We can check it out with the Bible and see if that which the symbol is trying to bring to light is really part of God’s nature. Then we can accept or reject it.

But we do not have to live in fear of the changing world and its symbols.