Our Father

Before I read Slaughterhouse-Five for the first time a couple of years ago, it seemed like everyone else on the planet had read it. Since then, I’ve discovered that is not the case, so I’ll give a brief summary.

Billy Pilgrim is an eye doctor. He was drafted into World War II, and he was taken prisoner during the war. He says he was abducted by aliens, Tralfamadorians, and lived on their planet for a while. Tralfamadorians do not see time as a linear thing, and Billy Pilgrim doesn’t either after interacting with them. He spends the entire book going back and forth in time.

Billy says:

They can see how permanent all the moments are, and they can look at any moment that interests them. It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever. When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in bad condition in that particular moment, but that the same person is just fine in plenty of other moments. Now, when I myself hear that somebody is dead, I simply shrug and say what the Tralfamadorians say about dead people, which is “So it goes.”

For those who have never seen it or noticed it, tattooed on the top of my wrist is “So it goes.” That’s because I love this book, and I really like the way the Tralfamadorians view death, so much so that the first time I read that passage, I cried and read it over and over again.

I don’t consider this tattoo to be in honor of my dad, but I do think of my dad sometimes when I look at it. It gives me a great sense of peace because even though my dad is no longer alive, he’s alive in my memories, he’s alive through me now if I live out or impart things he taught me, and he’s alive in heaven, in eternity, where I will one day join him. He’s alive in so many other ways and moments.

I love my dad, and I miss my dad, and I am so thankful for the 20 years I had with him. I’m proud to be his daughter. Mostly, I wish my dad was still with me, but I can see how my life has changed in positive ways that it wouldn’t have if he were still here. And I feel no guilt in saying that because I know my dad would understand, in part because I’ve grown and found people and things that make me happy, many of which are a result of following God and receiving His blessings.

I’ve always viewed God as a Father, but losing my earthly dad changed the dynamic of my relationship with my Heavenly Father a bit. My dad was fantastic, and I couldn’t have asked for a better one. And my dad certainly shaped who I am as a person. But God is perfect, and in my dad’s physical absence since his passing, I’ve relied more on God and grown closer to Him, and that has shaped who I am and how I see the world more than anything.

I understand why Jesus taught us and the disciples to address God as “Father” when we pray. Jesus says in Matthew 6:9 (KJV), “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.”

Jesus could’ve addressed God but any role He plays in the universe: Creator, Alpha and Omega, I Am, The One True God, etc. And all of those roles certainly affect us, and those roles show how big and powerful God is. But Jesus identifies God in a way that reflects His relationship with us, and in doing so, He proves how intimate prayer is.

Being children of God, our prayers are heard and listened to by our Father. We can go to Him at any time, in any place, with any situation and any state of mind, and He hears and responds to us, whether we can see that response or not. The God who formed everything into existence and who has always been and always will be cares about us and communicates with us. He’s adopted us and made us royalty within His kingdom.

And Jesus acknowledges us as children when He says “our Father.” He doesn’t say, “MY Father because I’m the real Son of God…” or “Dear Father of the Messiah, Jesus Christ…” He includes us. He recognizes us as children of God as well.

Jesus follows this display of intimacy by showing reverence to God: “Hallowed be thy name.” In doing this, He recognizes who God is as an entity, not only in relation to us. He is holy, and His name should be respected for His holiness.

This duality, familiarity and reverence, are hard for us to grasp and maintain. In my experiences, most people gravitate to one side of the spectrum or the other. For example, I tend to see God in such a personal, familiar light that I often lose sight of how mighty and holy He is. I love that He’s my Father and my friend because those are usually the roles I need Him in the most, but it causes me to forget how grand He really is. Other people are really into how holy and powerful God is, so much so that they lack a lot of intimacy with Him. Jesus shows us in Matthew 6 how to balance this duality by being aware of and acknowledging both aspects.

God is a perfect Father, one who loves you, accepts you, disciplines you, and stays with you. There’s nothing you, child of His or not, could do to make Him love you less. As His child, you have access to Him in ways that others don’t, and this is only possible through the blood of Jesus. Because of what He means to us and because of who He is, we should show reverence to Him and His name through our interactions with Him and others. Demonstrating that respect will draw us closer to Him and impact those around us.

By Carrie Prevette 

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The Fourth Commandment

I love not having anything to do on Sundays. Resting on the Sabbath is no problem for me. I ordinarily just go to church, eat, sleep, and watch T.V. For what it’s worth, I’m a fairly lazy person, so this isn’t hard for me.

If you’re an active person, resting on Sunday may not come as easily to you as it does to me, and that’s okay. Because ultimately, the whole point is that what you do on your Sabbath isn’t labor.

“Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy” (Exodus 20:8-11, NLT).

So no labor. But what about those who have to work on Sundays?

The most important part of the Sabbath is not the day of the week that we observe it. The seventh day is important because that was the day God rested after creating everything and because the number seven is symbolic of completion and wholeness (i.e., the seventh day of the week is the last day of the week, signaling its completion). If we have the option to observe the Sabbath on Sunday, we should because it is the seventh day. Life doesn’t always fall neatly into seven-day increments, though. The most important part of the Sabbath, whenever one can observe it, is that it is a day dedicated to God. This follows with the theme of the commands that precede it.

We do not get gold stars for not working on Sundays nor do we get gold stars for simply going to church. If the Sabbath is to be dedicated to God then we have to engage with God and the conversation about Him.

When the worship band plays, don’t just think about whether or not you like the songs. Think about what the lyrics are saying, and if a song resonates with you, express that to God, whether it’s by singing or dancing or raising your hands or meditating quietly. There’s no one way to worship, but we do need to worship.

When they’re taking up tithes and you are able to give, give. Whether you view it as a form of worship or sacrifice, do it for God by giving to God.

When someone prays aloud, don’t just stand there and listen to them. Talk to God by praying.

During the sermon, interact with the message. Personally, I take notes, and if it weren’t for this blog, I doubt I’d ever look back at most of them. I write down the points the speaker is making, but I also write down scripture that fits the message that wasn’t used and my own perspective on the scripture and points being made if they differ from the speaker’s.

An example of this is my post on the woman at the well. The way I see her and her story is different from how Alan views it all. We read the same scripture, but our life experiences (specifically, his as a man and mine as a woman) create different lenses through which we see and analyze the text. Thinking about these different perspectives and writing about my own was a way for me to interact with the message and the scripture.

This interaction with God and His word is what He wants from us and, I believe, what He ultimately commands us in Exodus 20. Not time when we’re with Him and ignoring Him, but time when we engage with Him.

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t always take the advice I’ve given here. (I believe it’s Alice in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland who says, “I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it.”) I don’t always do or want to do these things, but if I want to observe the Sabbath and dedicate my time to God, I need to focus on Him, be mindful of Him, and interact with Him.

This is the importance of the Sabbath, whenever that may be for you if not on Sundays: dedicate your time to God. Not that we always want to or that we always find it easy but that God is always deserving of our best efforts and our affections.

By Carrie Prevette

P.S.- For more on resting and spending time with God, check out this post of mine from quite a while back. I hope you find it useful.

The Holes in Our Holiness

People who seem to be perfect really irritate me. You know, the ones who are good at everything, who everyone loves, who never do anything wrong or risqué, who dress just right and talk just right and stand as a shining model for all to adore and follow? Those people. They bug me.

They bug me because I can’t relate to them. I know there are people in this huge world who dislike me, and I’m very okay with that. I’m certainly not good at everything. For proof, let’s go bowling or play video games sometime. And I’m goofy and weird and sometimes very awkward. I’m not an uber human; I’m not a perfect person. I’m simply a human, simply a person. So these “perfect people” get on my nerves because they don’t seem terribly human. They seem so much better than me, and it’s bothersome because I happen to know they’re not.

The phrase “holier than thou” comes to mind.

As Alan has said the past couple of weeks, our vision of God often looks exactly like what we see in the mirror. We want a God who just gets us. We want one who knows and understands and who will readily forgive us because of that. We want a God who, coincidentally, feels the exact same way we do about everything – that some sins are worse than others, that some things aren’t really wrong, only frowned upon, that Sprite is better than Sierra Mist, and that the Clippers should and will win the championship.

But the real God is much bigger and holier than that, and as flawed little humans, we struggle with that. Quite frankly, holiness makes a lot of us uncomfortable because we just don’t have much of it ourselves.

I find the concept of being holy (not seeming holy) intimidating. To be so pure, so refined. It feels so impossible to make me – a filthy, flawed creature – into something that could be described as “holy.” Thankfully, the word “impossible” means nothing to God.

“But Carrie, I sort of like being flawed.”

As odd as it sounds, I do too.

“Then why would I want to be holy?”

Because you get to be more like God, and I don’t mean that in a Lucifer-Paradise Lost sort of way. I mean, we get to draw closer to God by being more like Him. Instead of making Him more like us, He helps us become more like Him. And isn’t that what we were designed for, to be with God and to be undefiled?

I think we can all agree that it’s important to be close to God. Everything sort of crumbles when we’re not, so it’s important for our sakes, but it’s important for others because God demonstrates His love to them through us.

A fairly scary thought, but it’s true nonetheless. We are the avenue through which God reaches people and the example of God that people will see.

It’s one thing for us to see God as us, but something else for everyone to see Him that way. It’s inaccurate and wrong. That’s why we need to be as much like God as possible, especially in our holiness.

Some of us know people who seem to already have that holiness, and instead of turning us away, it pulls us in because it’s genuine. We don’t hate them for how they seem; we’re inspired by how they are. They’re great examples in many ways of God’s love, grace, forgiveness, and holiness. And they mean a lot to us because of that.

Wouldn’t it be cool to be that person for someone else? To know that someone values you because you help them see who God really is?

If anything is clear, it’s that holiness doesn’t come to us easily. So we’re going to have to work at it.

Ugh. More work. Don’t we all work enough? It’s like we’re always working on or for something.

God’s been showing me something in the past week. There’s a band called State Champs that I’ve basically been listening to nonstop since I saw them open for All Time Low. In State Champs’s song “Hard to Please,” there’s a line that goes, “It only matters if it’s worth it.” And on Sunday, Alan posed the question, “Is the struggle worth the reward?”

We all have a lot of struggles. We have to put in work. If what you’re working towards is worth the fight and struggle, pursue it. If it’s not, why waste your time?

Is the struggle to be holy worth being holy? Definitely. Is it worth the fight to be like God and to be closer to God? A resounding “Yes.” Anything that ends in God and His glory is always worth it. God is both our inspiration and aspiration. To neglect holiness is to neglect Him, and we absolutely wouldn’t want to do that.

By Carrie Prevette

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