Tag Archives: culture

What in this World Is the Kingdom of God?

Mt Hood - person standing -expansive view

Jesus taught: “Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all of these things (food, clothing, shelter, and guidance) will be added in your lives.”

Are these beautiful words with no practical application?  Or is there a depth here I’ve not yet totally understood?

 

How do I seek first the kingdom of God?
Does this mean if I seek other things first, I am shooting myself in my own foot?

 

How much do I believe of what Jesus Christ teaches?  Everything ? or only what makes sense in my own mind?

Are His words stretching reality just a bit, or are they truth?

 

 Not easy questions!  But questions that bombard me at different times.  And I wonder about  you?

 

I will be writing more about the kingdom of God – from how I view it today. In reality, my view is interwoven in everything I write and teach, and now I hope to write about some fascinating specifics I’ve learned. I’ve been surprised at some of the concepts I now perceive. Perhaps they are different from yours. I will enjoy receiving comments and ideas from you!  Please put them in the comment section at the end of this post. . . thanks!

 

First Questions
– is the Kingdom of God actually a real kingdom?  A different kind of nation?  Why would I want to be part of it?  What is in it for me ?l

 

However, before we tackle the above questions, I desire to share with you some different “building blocks.” They created a foundation of belief for me, that becomes firmer the more I learn and experience the reality of God’s Word.

 

Building Block 1 –
Me, as a person.

My name is Voni.   I’m 83, one of those white-haired women you may meet on the street or in church.    I walk with a cane and, sometimes need help getting up out of a chair.  It takes me a few minutes to unfold this tall body (5′ 9 1/2 inches have shrunk to about 5′ 8 1/2 inches.)

At this very moment, I’m sitting in our small living room in an apartment in Natal RN Brazil: a city most of you have never heard of, and where I feel “at home.” .. The sliding glass door onto our minuscule veranda (where my husband hangs a hammock for me every day), looks out at tall buildings framing views of the ocean and sand dunes. The solid wood front door is open right now. Looking out that door, I see a corridor open to all  weather because of large open “windows” without glass  The breeze between the two doors is controlled by how much we open them; during the days both remain open.  Sitting here, the wind ruffles my hair and refreshes me as it swishes past.
I live in two different nations: the USA and Brazil.  My experiences have taught me much more than any “book learning” about the differences between different nations and different cultures. Living the phrase of “cross-cultural communication”, with many tears and times of laughter,  weaves an ever larger tapestry in my life with myriad colors.

 

 

Building Block 2 –

As a child, I had a strong and loving human father – which makes it much easier for me to relate to my Father in heaven.  Dad was not a “perfect man”, and I was certainly not a perfect daughter!  (I still remember in the summers, when I was 10 and 11, grabbing a book I delighted in reading and climbing up into my favorite cherry tree, where the branches came together to create a wonderful chair, perfect for me to sit and read.  The leaves of the tree hid me from sight of anyone below.  When Mom called me, looking for me to help her, I would remain totally still until she had passed by.)  Those were wonderful days for reading!

 

Building Block 3 –

As a child, Mom and Dad told me about God.  I learned to talk to Him, starting with my nighttime prayers.  He became my Friend, and I learned to converse with Him on a daily basis.  I had much to talk over with Him: life wasn’t easy. 

At home: Green-cherry fights with my brother. Chasing the chickens and gathering eggs (those chickens did not like either one!)

The geese in our field chasing me (that was not pleasant!)  Riding our plow horse bareback, only with a halter.  Walking the country road a mile to the school. (That mile was loonng! especially when it was raining.)  Setting the table for Mom before our family meals; then drying the dishes.  (My younger brother had other chores: I believed his were much easier!)

At school: I am the tallest person in my classes until the 8th grade.  My body felt awkward to me.  I wore steel rimmed spectacles and my hair was bobbed. I was self-conscious of my looks and lack of athletic ability. I felt like an “outsider”.  Only in junior high did I begin to “blend in with” the others at school.

 

Building Block 4 –
I learn how to read the Bible. I talk to God about it.

 I definitely test it, over and over again.
I learn some basics:
a) God does not play with words
.  What is written in His Word is the way it is.  I can rebel against His word, refuse to obey Him and live with the consequences. . However, the pain I may feel as I obey Him is far less than the pain that comes as a result of not obeying Him!   I also learn, I may dislike the word “obedience”, but there are definite advantages or blessings for me as a consequence of obedience.
b) The realization that God keeps His Word. 
One of the basic verses I learn as a reality:

Romans 8:28  “ALL things work together for the good of those who love the Lord, and are called according to His purpose.”  That includes good and bad, steel rimmed spectacles, kids snickering because my body was awkward, feeling alone – and it is the loneliness which causes me to turn more and more to God.

 

Building Block 5 –

Without my being aware of it, I was raised in a different culture than the outward culture of the United States.  Many things overlapped culturally:  but if there were a conflict, God’s laws were the final word.  This created a basic foundation for the many changes that I face over the years, as well as my physical and emotional challenges

 

What about you?  How were you raised?  

Can you identify building blocks in your life?   positive or negative?     What are they?

 

What do the building blocks have to do with the Kingdom of God and my questions at the beginning?

 

The building blocks are the foundation upon which we unconsciously base our beliefs.  It is good if we know what kind of foundation we have.

 

  • Voni                                                              

 

Jihad and God’s Kingdom?

globe7
It’s dark outside- midnight black
. Looking out the window I see street lights scattered out over the area. It’s cold, dark, not a scene I want to walk into – and I’m thankful that our small apartment is warm.  I am playing music from a pan flute on my computer as I think about these past two days.  The calming Indian melody is soothing to my mind.

Since yesterday, our home has been invaded by people: reporters, victims, FBI; a continuous parade of images, commentators, more questions than answers. The television is showing a tragedy in a normal community in California, as a man and wife, radical Muslim jihadists, used automatic weapons to literally mow down people who had come together for a Christmas party.  The added touches of unreality: these were friends and co-workers they killed and maimed, and they left their six-month old child at home with a relative to go out and kill people they knew.  Their motive: these people were infidels and deserved to die.

 

I am still attempting to absorb this.

I live in Oregon at this time – the state to the north of California.  I’ve walked on the streets of San Bernardino, felt the sun on my back. I’ve been there. This wasn’t in Paris.
This was here, in the United States.

 

The world has shifted.  The nation I once knew as home, changed gradually, then like a snowball the changes picked up speed. At times, it is frightening to learn of the new laws against the citizens of this nation and against Christianity that are enacted behind the fabric and façade of a theater-in-the-round in Washington DC.  Our eyes are pulled to one scene of action while the setting hides what is really happening on another part of the stage.

 

What does all of this mean to me personally?  As I work through the sorrow and sick feeling in the pit of my stomach?

 

One: I no longer fit into this culture. 

The nation I once called “home” no longer exists.
The stage setting is still the same: looking at a Google map, mountains, cities, rivers, lakes, oceans – they are still where they belong.  However, there is fear in the land.  An unease is in the air we breathe.

 

I remember the fear and unease after Pearl Harbor, and during the 2nd World War. I was only a child, but I picked up on it. I also remember how the nation came together as grief was a companion to all of us.  I still remember the pain of learning that a young man we’d learned to love would not be coming back. The feeling of desolation.

 

That feeling has been repeated too many times these last years as a new word, terrorist, has become part of our daily vocabulary. However, now the word terrorist is no longer just a word. It is a living, breathing person.  And the nation is no longer united but splintered into factions, a set-up for attack.

 

That old song, “This Old World Is Not My Home”, carries an added depth in its words, as I comprehend that I don’t feel at home here . . . and search to understand.

 

Two:  I’m not supposed to fit into this culture.

Jesus the Christ tells us that we live in this world, but we’re not of this world.
I live here, but I don’t fit in.  My home is in His Kingdom: a nation made up of people scattered all over the world.

Luke 16:16
God’s Law and the Prophets climaxed in John;
Now it’s all kingdom of God — the glad news
and compelling invitation to every man and woman.

(from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language
© 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved.)
 

Christ’s followers are a unique people, considered strange by many.

We are to follow Him, King above all kings, the creator of the incredible complexities of and in nature, on this planet and all the vast extents of the universe:  a King who came to live among his subjects, His kingly lineage hidden under the disguise of common clothing, walking in sandals on dusty roads; unafraid, not forced into the religious traditions of the day, speaking and moving with truth in love, allowing himself to be killed because He was a threat to the religious leaders. Then after completing an item of law (remember, on the cross He said, “It is finished”) He entered hell and tore the gates of death from the entrance to Satan’s abode. Finally, He rose from the dead – victorious over death so we don’t have to fear it.

Once again, donning His kingly robes, He was given even more authority than He’d had previously; He is alive today, involved personally in our lives, when we choose to follow Him and live in His kingdom. 

Just as I chose to move to Brazil, learn their laws and obey them, so I choose to live in the Kingdom of God. I know the King personally and He calls me His sister! ( But I don’t have squabbles with Him, for He is also my King.)

You know? I’ve never been invited to know or speak with the president of Brazil but I know my King and speak to Him several times each day. And He answers me!

Does that sound a little crazy to you?  Remember, I said Jesus Christ’s followers don’t really fit into this world we live in.  We follow a different drumbeat and hear a new and fresh melody.

Can you hear it, too?

– Voni

 

 

 

Simply Writing

handwriting
handwriting
Tonight, I am frustrated… not sure why..
I want to write – not only about  sorrows and learning… but about the Kingdom of God/the nation I live in.
How do I share about cross-cultural communication and the Kingdom of God as my home.
I am American, hoping to get my Brazilian citizenship, but my “home nation” is God’s Kingdom.  Those are the laws and principles that don’t change.  How can I share across cultural lines and divides?
God’s laws have proven themselves to me,  countless times.  The more I learn from history and science I am saying again and again “WHAT AN AWESOME GOD!”
globe n & s america
 
I also want to write about some of the funny things that have happened; some of the scary things; and about some of the challenging things.
How can I draw word pictures about when a parrot was on the table at our host’s home, and pecking food off of our plates?  And a toad was calling Joe’s name out of the jungle.
Or the time I sat in a roadside restaurant where we stopped to eat, and the dogs and chickens came and went at will, cleaning up whatever food fell to the floor.
 (Sometimes those who were eating simply threw something down on the floor if they didn’t want it.)  No, I didn’t check out the kitchen.
Contrast that with some of beautifully  incredible restaurants where I’ve eaten . . .
Wonderful hotels  I’ve enjoyed – contrasting to my memories of a hotel where we spent a night that had no ceiling, only the bare tile roof, and the hundreds of spider webs woven between the roof and the wooden rafters. (fortunately no spiders fell upon us during the night.)
The magnificence of Iguaçu Falls (to me even more beautiful than Niagara Falls), and the “meeting of the waters” on the Amazon.  The wonder of O Redentor – the statue of Christ in Rio de Janeiro.
VIEW ABOVE RIO
VIEW ABOVE RIO
The day almost 100 people were baptized in a pool at a private camp: we all drove there and – just as the baptisms were beginning – a huge tropical rainstorm started pouring buckets of water down on everyone.
All of us watching got just as wet in the drenching rain as those who were baptized… and we all laughed, sang, prayed and rejoiced together.  Those who were baptized had brought a change of clothing. All the rest of us went home – WET
The incredible sky full of stars that came close to the earth as I walked at night in a field of a farm far from Brazilia and any electricity.
The loneliness – and the joys – failures and victories – the challenges of  learning a new culture, country and language and raising our six children…                       
 
My heart yearns to share these thoughts and experiences.
Does anyone want to hear them?  would they be encouragement to some?
 
Voni
IMG_20140830_181743