Ticket to Heaven

I was captured recently by the lyrics of an old 3 Doors Down song, "Ticket To Heaven":

I’m walking a wire
Feel likes a thousand ways I could fall
To want is to buy, but to live is to die

And you can’t take it all
When everything is said and done I won’t have one thing left
What happened to everything that I ever known?

All thay gave me was this ticket to heaven
That ticket to heaven said to lie in the bed that you make
Now I’m restless and I’m running from everything
I’m running from everything
I’m afraid it’s a little too late

Soft voices lie, innocents die
Now ain't that a shame
And all your dreams, and all your money they don’t mean a thing
When everything is said and done, you won’t have one thing left
What happened to everything that I ever known?

All they gave me was this ticket to heaven

That ticket to heaven said to lie in the bed that you make
Now I’m restless and I’m running from everything
I’m running from everything
I’m afraid it’sa little too late
It’s a little too late

All they gave me was this ticket to heaven
That ticket to heaven said to lie in the bed that you make
Now I’m restless and I’m running from everything
I’m running from everything
I’m afraid it’sa little too late

All he gave me was this ticket to heaven
That ticket to heaven said to lie in the bed that you make
Now I’m restless and I’m running from everything
I’m running from everything
I’m afraid it’sa little too late
It’s a little too late

I am sure that I found these lyrics as interesting as I did because I have lived them. I remember still "knowing Jesus" but no longer considering myself worthy to be part of the covenant community and not knowing any remedy. If you were "saved" and then "back-slid", how did you find a way to any kind of salvation beyond that "ticket to heaven"? I was permenantly disqualified from anything better than God's "second-best" for my life, and I should be grateful to find myself actually still saved once I was on the other side of the grave.

The truth I found -- both in scripture and in the covenant community -- was this: I wasn't any closer to God's "best plan" for my life when I was still an unblemished pharisee, and all the parts of my salvation -- my justification, my sanctification, my usefulness now and later -- are wholly dependent upon His mercy and His grace. And in His mercy and grace, he justifies me, washes me clean, heals me, nurtures me, trains me, and uses me!

The gospel of John was the first place that I re-read and could read with new eyes! And then Romans, and then Hebrews, and finally, book by book, all of the Bible. The Bible tells of a God who created us all and created this world for a purpose, and who is not allowing our sin to get permanently in the way of His purpose. He is bringing His salvation to each age and to each people, and will finish the work with a flourish -- not in a heaven with us all sitting around on the clouds with our harps, but in a new earth that we will all inhabit in our resurrected bodies.

So I don't have to lie in the bed that I make, and I don't just have a ticket to heaven! Nor do you!


My "Blended Family" . . . and "Marketing" vs "Obedience"

I had to leave a meeting at St. Andrew's early to go to a photo session with all 6 of our "mine/his/ours" boys. I'll post more of the photos later on My Passions. But this one gets posted here, because the world Steven and I created when we "blended families" and added 2 more is the context in which a whole lot of my theology has been refined, and is the context in which I get to try to live it out each day.

(Not one of the eight of us would recommend the "blended family" attempt to anyone who has the option to live in an original and intact family . . . and "blended family" is a term that is way too optimistic with older children! Families with teens or pre-teens never actually "blend", in my experience. It does get much less painful and much more workable with time, though! For instance, today everyone showed up, pretty much "dressed and on time", and the only "problem child" was little Brooksie . . . oh, yeah, and the photographer who instructed our kids to "smile and say "I'm f***ing glad to be here!"", which Brooks promptly repeated.)

My husband pointed out the other day that I may as well use my name, because I've given enough identifying information that a "stalker" would have no trouble walking up to me at church -- so we'll just worry about some basic privacy now. I am Maria Anderson, married to Steven Anderson, the founder and owner of Anderson Bat Company, LLC. That's us in the middle. And then, starting with our oldest son on the left and moving through that row of kids, we have my sons Mike and Josh Sullivan, Steven's boys Tyler and Cody Anderson, and in the bottom row -- left to right -- our littlest ones -- ours together -- Noah and Brooks Anderson.

So I am outnumbered! 7 males to 1 female, and not one among the bunch of men and boys that shares a theological orientation that matches mine -- although Mike and Josh seem to be right where God wants them to be in each of their walks, and I am still actively teaching Noah and Brooksie. But I do see God at work in our lives, changing each one of us. And He is able to bring His kingdom even to this family and even to me!

God doesn't restrict His grace and His revelation to the ones in my family who have "got it all together" in what they believe and in how they live, or even to those in my family who define themselves as Christians. God is at work in each one of us, right where we are today. And, although He sees truth and wants to lead each of us into a life blessed by living in the TRUTH rather than continuing in the places where we are in error, He does that by using our relationships and experiences to make us increasingly aware of Himself and increasingly aware of reality.

He does not create a safe little world of devotion and let us "Christians" pull into it and shut out the "sinners". Because the truth is this: I am just as much a sinner as my husband is or as is any one of my sons, and it really is only God's grace that opens my eyes to any greater knowledge of Him or ability to obey Him. He is my righteousness. And He calls me to hold the doors open to any who would see Him . . . not to "create good boundaries" so that I won't be corrupted by their error or be seen to validate their sin.

If God can take real people like us and move us forward instead of backward, so that we are an increasingly healthy family created by increasingly healthy individuals . . . He can take real churches in our denomination and move each one forward toward His truth and an ability to live out that TRUTH . . . and bring us to a place where we are an increasingly healthy denomination created by increasingly obedient individual congregations and individuals!

Our obligation in obedience is not to market ourself as a congregation to the world around us to attract more wonderful young solid Christian families. Our obligation is obedience in holding good theology and obedience in living out good theology -- in how we treat each other, how we teach our kids, and how we engage the world around us.

Sometimes obedience drives people away, at least for a time. But the fruits of obedience are the fruit of the Triune God at work in our midst without barrier to His agenda. And, in the long run, that will nurture each of us and anyone else who is serious about finding an authentic way to live . . . and we will be the community God intends us to be: sinners being transformed together into saints, and being used to reach out to minister to the rest of the sinners whom He wants to love through us.



I had (and have) a mother who prayed with me on the fly for anything going on in my world -- so my 5-y-o Brooks coming to me to do the same makes complete sense to me. He's been home from preschool for these 2 weeks, and it's been fun! Just now he came one more time for me to pray about something -- and, as I prayed as requested, he whispered "Fast!" as he always does -- to remind me to tell God to answer the prayer quickly. And, as I always do, I responded by ending my prayer "and please do this quickly, Lord!"

I firmly believe that God teaches us to pray by answering our "silly little prayers" with a response that is full of respect and love, and that I help Brooks learn to pray "properly" by letting him learn that I respect his desires in prayer -- even if I also expect that his desires in prayer will change and mature as he does. I believed this with my older boys, too -- and am gratified to see their respect for prayer and their practice of it. Sometime I will share some of the amazing stories of how God answered "silly little prayers" in dramatic ways that amazed me, the mom who didn't really have faith that God cared to do something like make a rainbow appear suddenly on a rainy day with no sun or hope of sun breaking through when we prayed, or the prayer of little Josh for a porcupine in a yard that hadn't seen a porcupine in all the years I'd grown up there, and the porcupine that scrambled across it the next morning, or the . . .

Anyway, God leads us to respect Him and to ask Him for the "right things" (ie His Kingdom and His purposes, in His way and His time) by answering the prayers we pray out of "silliness" or "wrong motives" or even Brooks' continuing impatience by saying "YES!!!" as often as He can. He is the perfect parent, even though I'm not, and even though I don't deserve His gracious response to me and my boys.

Learn to pray by praying for what you want, how you want it. You will be amazed at the answers you get! And the best answer of all is when you don't even notice if the answer was "yes" or "no" or "what about this instead", because you're so taken by the One you're talking to that He becomes the only answer that matters!


"The Pursuit of Happyness" and My New Year's Resolutions

I am a fan of a church-planter/writer named Steve Sjogren. In response to some things he wrote, I have a list of short-term and long-term goals that I review each morning as part of my "quiet time", and ask God to show me what His priorities are -- so that I can modify, scrap, add to, or execute today's tasks out of that vision. This morning discipline (started mid-2006 after I read The Day I Died and Community of Kindness ) made "New Year's Resolutions" irrelevant this weekend. Stewardship and discipleship calls for daily examination of how we are using our time, energy, and money, and for daily change where needed, and for daily commitment to an obedience in our habits and goals. Our cultural tradition of just assessing that once a year in our personal lives clashes sharply with the way effective businesses are run, doesn't it?

Last Friday night I saw The Pursuit of Happyness , and loved it! It showed an ability to compete and an ability to be proactive and an ability to be faithful to one's loved ones and one's goals in circumstances that would flatten most of us. It was a true story that inspired us to go with courage toward the American Dream, and reminded us that God does help those who help themselves (as my Grandpa John told me.) Rather than allowing failure and heartache to rule, the protagonist gambles 6 months of deprivation and hard work on a "pipe dream", and it pays off for him. His hard work and talents land him the success he deserves.

This is a wonderful movie, and it contains biblical lessons about life. I highly recommend it! It is a picture of the best values of our culture and the pursuit of those values. To our culture, nothing is more important than a basic level of success obtained in a way that doesn't hurt anyone else, and we are called to do everything we should to pursue that, and to trust that God will help us. This is the protestant work ethic, is it not?

But back to the subject of daily discipleship and stewardship . . .

What if God has something else in mind for my life than the American Dream? Something better?

What if I had a vision of Jesus where He promised me that I could actually get to know Him well enough that I could be increasingly useful to Him here, and have that intimacy and usefulness continue into eternity in the new world our returning Messiah will bring all of us?

What if the intimacy and joy in that relationship were so compelling that they motivated me to devote everything to that relationship, even at the expense of the "American Dream", or even at the expense of even "successful ministry"?

What if there were others called to the same kind of devotion and stewardship, and God used us together to do real things in the real world -- not in "successful ministry", but in service and kindness and humility -- even when that looks like failure to everyone else?

And what if my focus each morning -- not once a year -- was on renewing that intimacy with that man Jesus and resolving to spend this day pursuing the goals He gives me, in community with others?

What would that look like after 5 years, or 10, or 20, or 30?

I pray that I will see! And, by His grace and power, I will!

How about you?