Why are you a Christian?

Why are you a Christian?

Reading time: 2 minutes

Silly question, you say.  But have you really pondered it?

You probably know many non-Christians, as do I. If you have conversations with them (and I hope you do), they may even say “I don’t have to be a Christian to be a good person.” Guess what? They’re correct. Atheists and agnostics alike can do everything we as B-Flat Christians can do. In fact, many of them do even more than we B-Flat Christians, and can put us to shame for the prodigious amount of volunteer and philanthropic work they do. I’ll be honest and say I see and read about many supposed Christians who are far from the moral, generous people God made them to be, including myself.

So, why be a Christian at all, if you can be a good person without being a Christian?

Perhaps you think I’m going to say “because you’re going to hell if you don’t believe in Jesus.” In my opinion, hell should have nothing to do with it. If the only reason we choose to be Christians is to avoid getting that “giant spanking from the sky” when we die, then life is truly bleak indeed. In his book The Good and Beautiful God, James Bryan Smith argues that God is not an angry authority figure for whom we perform in order to gain favor, and whom we always disappoint.

If God were our parent, he would withhold his love, just as our parents did when we behaved badly (“Go to your room! No dinner for you”). If God were our teacher, we would get an F (“This was a poor effort”).  If God were our judge, the verdict would be “Guilty as charged.” (p.  78)

Smith also contends that we should not be about trying to earn God’s favor—that is called legalism, and it is a form of superstition and attempt to control God (p. 96).

My feeling is that, though the Bible, movies, books, and legends claim hell is a place of unending fire and damnation, I am convinced that such a description is a way of putting hell into a box that we humans can understand. No one—NO ONE—knows exactly what heaven and hell look like, so pinning our entire behavior on a place we don’t know about is useless.

Even when Jesus described heaven, saying it was “a place of many dwelling places” (“mansions” in the King James Version)(John 14:2) I think he was trying to put into words what was indescribable in order to paint a picture for the disciples—a bunch of B-Flat guys, who could only imagine what a “mansion” looked like.

Do I want to go to heaven? Yes, but only God can decide that, and I can’t earn my way there by my behavior. He gives His love freely, whether I follow all the rules or not. As a B-Flat Christian, I can truly say I do not follow the rules every day, and even go against the rules on both a conscious and subconscious level. I’m not proud of this fact, but it’s true.

So, if I’m not a Christian to avoid going to hell, and I’m not a Christian to curry God’s favor, and I’m not a Christian in order to be considered a good person, then again, why be one at all?  There are days when I know life would certainly be a lot easier if I weren’t.

The answer for myself always involves three things: Christ, connection, and correction.

 

 

Continue Reading

Can a B-flat Christian be special? March 24, 2017

Can a B-flat Christian be special?

Reading time: 2 minutes

 

Luckily, the Bible (and all of history, actually) is bursting with examples of people who were living lives that were quite ordinary, but ended up doing unexpectedly astonishing things. The first B-Flat Christians in the Bible that come to mind (though they actually were Jews at the time) were the first Disciples Jesus called—Peter and his brother, Andrew.

Think about it. No, really think about it.

These fellows were commercial fishermen—not like the brave folks who go out fishing for Alaskan king crabs in the Bering Sea that you can watch on “Most Dangerous Catch.” These fellows got up in the gray-dark of early morning to get their nets ready. They went out on a boat every day and threw those nets in the water. They brought back their catch for the day, cleaned it, and prepared it to sell. They fixed any nets that had torn so they would be ready the next day. They got up the next morning, and the entire process began again. I think we could safely call these guys “B-Flat.”

What in the world could Jesus, the Messiah, have seen in these smelly, less than astute men that made him think, “Yep, these guys are who I need! They’re going to build my kingdom on earth! They’re going to be written about in the Bible, inspire a new religion, and change the world!”

I have decided that it is the very fact that the fishermen were ordinary that appealed to Jesus. Ordinary Folks in Biblical times were even more B-Flat than you and me. They were more than likely not highly educated and had no preconceived notion of religion other than keeping the Mosaic Law (avoiding eating unclean foods, observing the Sabbath and other holy days, etc.). They worked hard; fishing is a physically demanding career that requires commitment and self-motivation. Most important, though, was that their minds, were open–“unsalted” and “unlit.” They were ripe for becoming “The Salt of the Earth” and “The Light of the World.” They certainly had the stamina for the long haul Jesus knew was coming.

Now, think even further. What made the fishermen listen to Jesus? What would cause them to stop their work for the day—and eventually, for their rest of their lives—and give ear to some wild-eyed son of a carpenter? Ah, there it is. Yes, I’m saying that Jesus was from a B-Flat background, too! Isn’t that amazing to think about? Don’t read that statement and think that I’m saying that Jesus wasn’t special—of course he was. Yet, every Christmas, we read in gospel of Luke how Jesus the King came into the world and are reminded how very “un-kingly” his entrance was.             .

Yet, even as a twelve-year old boy, it was beyond a doubt that Jesus was unique and had a compelling personality. I remember what my twelve year old son was like, and believe me, I cannot imagine him teaching in the temple with eloquence, charisma, and, as the Bible says, “with understanding” as Jesus did (Luke 2:41-52). I think it was fairly obvious that Jesus was going to be way more than B-Flat for the rest of his life.

I would also, add, however, that it was because Jesus was known for having blue-collar roots that the disciples did listen to him on that first day. Had he been a scribe, a priest, or a Pharisee, I can’t help but think those fishermen would have felt intimidated and unworthy. They would have remained hidden behind their ordinariness, remaining B-Flat fishermen, never imagining they would bear witness to the Son of God on earth—and become True People of God themselves.

Continue Reading

March 23, 2017

If you’re a musician, you know what a B-flat is: it’s a note on the scale in Western music. Flats are sometimes the black notes on the piano, and B-flat is located to the left of B-natural.

B-flat can also be used as an adjective, too. Musicians often refer to something as being “B-flat,” meaning “ordinary,” “common,” or “normal.” This probably is because many beginning instrumental pieces are in the key of B-flat, making them easier to play for youngsters who are just learning notes and rhythms.

It can also mean something more negative, as in “boring,” “un-exciting,” and “dull.” For example, “That’s your basic B-flat pizza—not really good, not really bad.”

So, why would anyone want to be a B-flat Christian?

Who strives to be ordinary, or worse, dull?

No one.

Yet, I feel certain that many Christians imagine themselves to be exactly that–just “average” people, myself included. They believe in God, Jesus, and the Bible, but they lead fairly every-day lives both in and out of church. They go to work, they take care of their families, take an interesting vacation now and again…but so does everybody, right? Certainly, they know they have talents, but they feel they possess no skills that are earth-shattering or worthy of admiration, much less acknowledgment. They spend a great deal of time thinking they should be doing great things with their lives, but feel tentative and unsure and how to do so, since they don’t think they have what every charismatic, True Person of God should have:

 

A Compelling Life Story.

 

You know what I’m talking about.

The True Person of God overcomes circumstances that would devastate ordinary people; events such as surviving multiple types of physical and emotional abuse, addictions, lack of education, homelessness, depression, life-threatening disease, loss of a loved one, financial ruin….any of these things are what propel the True Person of God into a life of service and godliness. True People of God bravely face the myriad of tests put before them, and they do more than just survive—they succeed beyond belief, and go on to plant churches in Third World countries, to study at prestigious religious institutions, to write best-selling books, to have movies made based on their amazing lives, and to appear on the Today Show.

And then there’s me (and I’ll guess, many of you).

I was brought up in a loving Christian home in a wonderful family. My three sisters and I have had our ups and downs, but truly, we are from a background of privilege, affluence, and love.

Addictions? Not really, though I do love to shop. While I might enjoy my glass of wine, drugs have never appealed to me. In college, I was offered drugs on several occasions, and it never even crossed my mind to take them. I was a hopeless goody-goody, and frankly, was too much of a control freak to give in to something that could take over my body and my life (yeah, that hasn’t changed, either).

Depression? I do take depression medication, which helped me a great deal, but my depression is not at all the type of depression that haunts many people I know and robs them of sleep, peace, and joy. I manage mine with a small amount of Citalopram and function normally.

I am a professionally trained musician with a bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate in music education performance. I currently teach at a small liberal arts college whereby I am certainly not wealthy, but I make enough to pay our bills and to have health care.

I am happily married to a thoughtful, funny man with whom I have two thoughtful, funny children. My husband did have a major bout with Stage 3 colon cancer, but he fought the good fight and is cancer free today.

I have a wonderful church family and attend church every week, not because I feel obligated, but because I enjoy it. My church is full of people who reach out with gentle, healing hands to those in our community who need it. My church is not perfect, but it is trying to discern God’s purpose for us.

Basically, I am a boring person whom God has showered continually with blessings for no reason at all. I have had very little conflict in my life, and feel embarrassed by how easy my life has been. [I can hear you yawning as you read this. I’m yawning just writing it.]

I am a true example of your basic, vanilla-flavored B-Flat Christian. So, how can my life be an inspiration to anyone? How can anything I write have an impact on you? When there are countless compelling life stories out there to read, why would anyone read this blog at all?

I want to grab you by the hand and take you on a journey where we can explore how extraordinary we truly can be. My aim for this blog is to write about B-Flat people and events, and to try to look at them closely through a different lens. I want to attempt to see the boring machinations of the mundane as events that can lead to moments for learning, growing, and changing.

I hunger to see ordinary objects—water, bread, wine, salt, and light–transformed in ways only Jesus could transform them. In so doing, I hope to embrace being a B-Flat Christian, to celebrate it, and to uncover the hidden and utterly common-place transformations I see every day in this mysterious journey we call life. I hope that we, too, as B-Flat Christians, can celebrate our ordinariness while continuing to strive for even better selves. I want to self-reflect, but also church-reflect, on a deeper level, and discuss questions that continue to chew at us.

Continue Reading