Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Vengeance on Children.

Here is a list of things I dream of doing to embarrass my children one day when they are teenagers. These things have all been proudly perfomed by my children... most of the time in public.

When my kids are teens I will seek retribution by...

1. Dropping to the ground in the middle of a Wal-mart and kick my legs and scream.

2. Pull something from my nose and bring it to them like a gift OR just wipe it on their pants.

3. Walk into a crowd of people and exclaim, "I NEED TO GO POOOOOP!"

4. Yell loudly from the bathroom, "I Peed! or "I pooped again!!!" (dependant upon situation)

5. Return from said bathroom with pants down and ask them to fasten them.

6. When they ask for the car keys simply reply, "MINE!!!"

7. When walking out of a crowded hall start screaming, "DON'T BEAT ME! DON'T! PLEEEASE! QUICK SOMEONE CALL 911!!!"

8. Rub an entire jar of Vicks Vaporub into my hair and style it into a mohawk ten minutes before worship.

9. Ask, "Why?"...every five minutes. (this one might really prove beneficial during adolescence)

10. Create an outfit so obnoxious with stripes and plaid and polka dots and announce proudly.."This is what I'm wearing to church today!"

Obviously for those of you who know me well, you know I probably will not have the nerve to perform these heinous acts to my kids. BUT I think it is safe to say their dad may.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I don’t want to lie anymore.

Things are not fine in my life right now. As a matter of fact I am unbelievably angry and bitter. Last week, I was crying all week. I haven’t written out these feelings because part of my job as a minister’s wife is to encourage people and try to hug away other’s pain. I haven’t been able to do that lately.

Two weeks ago I received news that shattered a false reality. Blinded by the lies of some and by my own inadequate way of watching life through rose tinted glasses, my world crumbled. I won’t go into detail of what has brought me to my knees as of late out of respect for dear ones, but I will tell you out of utter desperation to get things of my chest that I am sick of disillusionment.

So often in my life I have asked or been asked “how are you?” Easily and systematically I reply “fine”. The words “how are you?” don’t really mean…”I really want to know how you are doing”. They are just a simple greeting although, they shouldn't be.

I am not fine. Not today and maybe not for a few more days.

I think it is safe to say that I won’t ask anyone how they are doing unless I really truly want to hear. Because we should want to know how people really are doing; because we should not want to force others into lies and false realities.

There are broken people in this world. There are broken Christian people in this world. I am ready to be real. I am ready to watch Christians be real with each other.

Watching hurting people from the sidelines clues you in on a few things. Bottling up pain only creates bitterness. Sharing the load makes life lighter.

We are so afraid of each other’s rejection or ridicule. This is a real fear because there are some Christians who find it their duty to condemn after a confession. I've never quite gathered the purpose of that kind of rebuke. Once someone confesses to a problem there is no need to further destroy or ridicule them to their face or behind their back in an attempt to make oneself feel sinless.

We are also afraid to hurt other’s feelings. Let me be a testimony to you that hiding your brokenness will do more damage in the shadows for you and everyone else.

It is time we meet people where they are. There are no perfect people. There are no perfect lives only perfect lies. Being real with each other is a dirty process. People cry. They have real problems. Sometimes those problems are horrific, but life can be horrific and we are called to love regardless. Sometimes leaders make horrific mistakes because they are people too... just like you...just like me.

Whenever I am faced with a heart wrenching ache of a bombshell and whenever someone lets me down I remember King David. The bible shares that David was a man after God’s own heart. God loved this man. I’m not going to mince any words here. David was a jerk. He watched another man’s beautiful wife bathe like a peeping tom. He misused his rank and authority to have sex with her. When she became pregnant he sought out a way to murder her husband. Nice guy, huh? This is the man after God’s heart…the man God loved.

If this is true then God can love me. If this is true then God can love any of us.

Consider the world looking in on a bunch of liars. We smile and pretend life is fine on Sundays then we go home and ache alone in our little dark corner trying to hold together the pieces of a crumbling life…alone.

Forget that the world claims that we are hypocrites. Duh. They don’t get it.
Forget the world’s lie that claims that you can make it on your own. You can’t.

You and I need each other. We need people to help carry life’s burden. We need to experience forgiveness and acceptance and unconditional love. That is what the church is for. The church was never intended to be an arsenal of liars who condemn the one courageous honest soul that confesses their humanness.

Simply said, I am looking for authenticity. I want to hear about your joys. I want to hear about your successes. I want to hear about your hurts. I want to help bear the burdens.

It is time to stop lying to each other. If we have hurt or disappointment or sin that is a struggle the best way to deal with it is to share the burden.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Commiting to Community

I was raised in the church of Christ. My parents theologically brainwashed me in the fundamental beliefs of church of Christ doctrine. I hold no ill will for that. I'm ever thankful that my parents shared their faith with me. I'm probably the only person thankful for brainwashing.

My upbringing differs slightly from many members of the traditional Churches of Christ. I was raised in a church plant in a small town in Idaho. We were too small for elders and my dad was central in making many decisions for the congregation. Unlike mainstream churches in the South, we were able to cancel services on Sunday nights when the snow was up past the car door. I'm sure many eldership's of the day would have cooked my dad's gizzard for that one.

Regardless of our surroundings, our church resembled its parent churches. Bible class started at 10AM every Sunday. Worship started at 11AM, where we typically had the traditional two songs- prayer- communion- song- sermon every week. I do remember a story about my grandmother when she visited once. She was greatly disturbed that the worship closed with a song that particular week. I believe my dad received a tongue lashing from her for that. It would appear he was leading the church down a slippery slope with that closing jingle.

When I was eight I distinctly remember visiting the ACU lectureships. It was fascinating to me that so many Christians existed, and all in one place. You see, in Idaho, being about a 1000 miles from the bible belt, we didn’t often see other believers…much less members of a Church of Christ. That was an exiting trip for me. I remember hearing 'There is a God' sung by over 1000 people. That sound changed my life and perspective, and I treasure the memory still.

Upon moving to Arkansas my perspective changed again. I witnessed two friends of mine fighting over doctrine…Baptists versus the Church of Christ. I remember watching them face off, getting red faced and hostile over scripture. I suddenly wondered what Christ would have truly thought about their dissonance. At that point I received an education in the failures of my faith tradition. While we were deeply steeped with the nuts and bolts of scripture, we also became judge and jury determining who went to heaven. We often forgot grace, love, forgiveness, and mercy. We made believers our enemies because they had a different interpretation of worship practice. Instead of recognizing a common goal of heaven and team in Christ, we secluded ourselves in our own painted world of narrow salvation…ignoring the minority of Christendom in general and sacrificing many dear friendships on an alter of tradition idolatry.

In high school I swore to never ever marry a minister. I witnessed my parent’s hearts break time and again over matters of church work…whether it was not feeling supported by elderships, losing loved ones to a world view, witnessing countless ministers abandon the ministry, or simply suffer the oftentimes lonely road a ministering family faces. With all that said, I was and am relentlessly proud of my family, sores, battle scars and all.

I love the Church of Christ.
I love the smell of old church song books.
I love the sound of acapella singing.
I love the faithfulness of our older believers who put full trust into scripture.
I love being a part of a tradition that was once praised for their bible toting verse quoting.
I love pot lucks.
I love that in nearly every congregation there's an old man missing a finger do to a farming accident, and an alto that carries the tempo for the whole church during the song service.
I love that there are most definitely alpha females who run most of everything that goes on, but that they stay in the shadows out of their deep adherence to tradition and devotion to honoring scripture.
I love that there is always a supply room loaded with countless bulletin board ideas and old flannel graph pieces.
I love that we sing old hymns.
I love the guy with the tie too long on one Sunday, too short the next that still says “guide guard and direct us” in prayer at the close of every worship.
I love that we share communion every Sunday.
I love that we baptize and ask for a physical sign of commitment from believers.
This is my family.
These are my people.
This is my heritage.
These are my roots.

Family’s change. Traditions are lost in time and die silenced with a generation gone home.I’m not proud of my generation. In fact, I’m quite disgusted with us. There seems to be a movement to neglect our past and mock it dwelling only on its failures. We seem to pat each other on the back for denying our heritage.

Don’t misunderstand me…loyalty should be to Christ not to the sign that is in the front lawn. However, we have forgotten our community. We have forgotten how important it is to have community. In our country it is so easy to get what we want when we want it. We have fast food of every variety and clothes of every style. We treat marriages like underwear and leave jobs because we can. We are not loyal to much of anything…except ourselves. This plays out in how we treat our churches…our faith communities. We float here and there abandoning one place because they sing too much, another because sister so and so didn’t smile. We can’t go to that place because they have old hymnals. We’re going to leave this church because it doesn't seem as spiritual as the one next door. There are too many grey heads at that congregation. They have a choir at this one. This church body sells coffee! That one has a huge membership.etc. etc.

The Church of Christ isn’t the only fellowship that is shrinking. They all are. I think people are beginning to figure out that imperfection runs deep throughout ALL faith traditions regardless of worship styles or demographics or brand labels. So we leave…because after all... we’re loyal only to Christ…and ourselves.

I’m not bothered that people leave the Church of Christ like I used to be. I am bothered by a generation of people who think it is OK to abandon their roots with pride; to wave goodbye to communities of believers for foolish selfish reasons. I’m more disturbed about the acceptance of a worldview that teaches the ‘happy doctrine’. “Jesus wants me to be happy so I’m leaving. I’m sinning. I’m forgiven. I’m on my own…I’m happy.”

I haven’t completely sorted this one out yet. Here’s what I’m leaning toward God is our parent, right? If that is true, let me share a parent’s story. My son only ever wants to eat cookies and milk. He also neglects to watch when he runs into the church parking lot. He’s nearly been hit FIVE times. FIVE. Now…it does not make him “happy” when I put peas on his plate or yank him up from the ground and protect him from certain death. In fact, often times he screams and kicks me directly in the kidneys. BUT according to the "happy doctrine" I should let him only eat cookies and milk and run directly in front of a mini-van…because that makes him “happy”. Somehow…I can’t reconcile that kind of happiness. If you have a better idea…you tell me.

I guess, what it comes down to is this. I don’t want to abandon my roots because I’m frustrated. Frustration seems to follow people. I don’t want to adhere to a “happy” doctrine and believe that the world and Christianity revolve around my preferences or hang ups. I don't want to be ignorant and disrespectful of the wisdom of a generation that put a priority on scripture and once memorized great portions of it out deep reverence and out of fear that it would be taken away. I’m just not willing to walk away from my family.

In our culture Christianity isn't easy. We are bombarded with indiscriminate sexuality. We are justified in our gluttony. We are hypnotized by good marketing. We are praised for selfishness. We are ridiculed for having standards. We are scorned for believing in ancient theology. We are mocked for being faithful. I'm willing to ignore it...because I need community.

I need to be surrounded by people who know me. I need to be surrounded by people who witness the terrors of this world and can still come together and sing on Sundays. I need to have relationships with people who love me because Jesus does too. We all need that and we can't find that when we aren't there. We can't find community alone.

In a world where the traditional family is no more, you CAN still find a family of believers. Jesus came. He found a community with twelve. They traveled together. They ate together. They worshiped together. My guess is...they irritated each other. Jesus loved them, regardless. Jesus rebuked them. He was loyal to them. He saved them. They went on after him...together...for Him.

Please don't buy into individualistic salvation. I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but Christianity is not an individualistic tradition. Yes, your faith is your own. Yes, your salvation is up to only you. BUT facing this world alone never works. It is never fruitful. Find a community. Get plugged in. Commit to it. Make them your family.

Families are not perfect because you and I are not perfect...so expect that. I find that I can appreciate imperfections because I recognize I also have many of my own. You may find a deeper faith than you ever had before when you love and forgive regardless, and when you are loved and forgiven in return.

Ode To Eve...the sequel

As I was editing Ode to Eve again. It is a weird habit of mine to edit and edit again and again...

I noticed something...check this out.

Eve ate the fruit after the serpent said it would allow her to be like God. My question then was... why wouldn't she want to be like God? I would be tempted to eat too if I could be the creator of all things wondrous and beautiful. Eve fell for that temptation and ate.

Up to this point no children had been born. Could Eve had known her anatomical ability as a female to give birth or is it possible that God when dolling out the consequences allowed her the gift of feeling life grow within?

Women, although we do not create the life, we experience something of creation while those precious bundles grow within our bellies. Eve was able to feel, to carry, to experience a tiny bit of what it is to bring life into the world. As women, most of us get to experience the amazing joy of watching life emerge from nothing. Every pregnancy I experienced was amazing to me. Even when some ended in loss, I never for a moment discounted the sheer wonder of life within.

The interesting point here is that life is born through pain.

Does this pain then symbolize the pain that God feels when He looks at His bundles of joy as they turn their backs on Him?

Just some more thoughts on our old friend Eve.