Sunday, December 23, 2007

"You be an optimist, I'll be a realist!"

"No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars or sailed an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit."

~ Helen Keller

Yeah so I said that I was going to get back to where I am with J.C. and still haven't. I will, I will, just not today. We don't even have our tree decorated for Pete's sake.

A friend posted something funny so I thought I would relay it to you. There is a website called, which does not surprise me considering the Gen X perpetual state of angst - rage against the machine, stick it to the man - not to mention the turmoil that the world is in nowadays. My fave so far is the mug that reads, "this glass is now half-empty". Suh-weet! Maybe I will get myself one except that I have enough junk already and that in and of itself causes me to despair.

I hate that stupid glass half-full analogy with a passion. The glass is half-full? Who says that? No one that I know! Not unless they read Norman Vincent Peale, Zig Ziglar, Robert Schuller and listen to their tapes. kooky.
Your head is half-full is what I'd like to say! I'd tell you what else is half-full but I am a lady so I won't mention it here. (whatever that means!) My diaper pail is half-full, does that count? It reeks enough to be all the way full.

Now that I am on "serious drugs" as my Auntie Leilani likes to call her meds, I'm thinking that I shall become one of those dang Pollyanna types. ha ha ha I love Pollyanna though. She is a cool kid. My friend likes to tease me by saying that I am the crabby hypochondriac woman on Pollyanna who told Pollyanna that she was an impertinent child. This friend of mine can be a little obnoxious at times, as you can see, and I am not being negative, I am merely telling the truth. I love him anyway so that proves that I have a positive side. ha ha

In closing, I offer that whoever can tell me who said, "You be an optimist, I'll be a realist!" will win a prize. Maybe I'll send you a half-empty mug. Just tell me what you want it half-full of.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Not A Moment Too Soon!

I know I left ya hanging and still have not been able to encapsulate my thoughts to write a decent post.

It's snowing outside! I love to watch snow falling; it's very soothing. I am rocking in my chair, needing the peacefulness of the setting. I hear Eeyore in the background, "I could use an umbrella to keep th
e snow off my house - not that it matters if I don't get one." My mental state, summed up by Eeyore's bleak outlook! After nearly two years of debilitating depression I finally asked my medical professional for anti-depressants, a move that I was sore afraid to make. But when a friend intervened, saying," This is me stamping my foot: I want you to call the Dr., and I want you to do it by Tuesday because I'm going to ask you to make sure that you've done it!" Well, I could hardly refuse without getting drop-kicked into the Dr's office so I made the phone call.
Another friend emails, urging me to call an acquaintance who is a counselor. My friend hopes that I don't mind her being bossy. Au contraire, it's high time that some steps toward progress were taken!
I will say, so far so good. The meds are working already; hopefully getting my thinking realigned will soon follow. It's true what they say about being able to take life on once the medication begins helping. It's amazing how hopeless a person can become when mired in deep depression.

Who knows?! I may even get some Christmas cards sent out to more than 20 people this year!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Radio Silence

We apologize for the temporary lapse in our regular programming... the station seems to be experiencing technical difficulties... Please standby until further notice... Possible snowstorm and icy road conditions...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Lip Balm?

It seems that I have made the transition from being "Pastor's Wife Barbie" to being a "Chatty-Cathy Doll". You know how it is - we go through those giant pendulum swings as we're working things out in our lives. I know there will be a middle ground one of these days.

We've been facing a tremendous amount of discouragement lately and it's been coming at us from many directions. I think that last Thurs. night was one of of our darkest. You know it's bad when not just one, but both of us, are discouraged at the same time. Yeah, not so good. We must have spent at least an hour last night praying: yelling at God; pleading with God; asking Him WHY?! and WHAT?! and WHO?! and most of all, HELP!?! HELP!! NO, REALLY, HELP!?! On that note, we went to bed.

At 7:30 AM, the phone rang and there was John B. - the head of the church-planting organization that we are under - speaking word after word of encouragement. Let me tell you, we were so parched that it felt like someone giving us water after we'd been dumped in the in the desert - much unlike Chevy Chase's character in The Three Amigos who only offered, "Lip balm?"

I feel like a cat in a bag these days, panic-stricken, pawing around in there trying to find the way out. When I was a kid, my sister and I slept downstairs on the hide-a-way bed, in our sleeping bags, due to the high wasp population upstairs in our rooms. We had these army surplus sleeping bags that were practically airtight. One night we were goofing around and I hid in the bottom of my bag and the opening of the bag somehow got folded underneath me. At first I just sort of felt my way around to get out but when I couldn't find the opening I began to panic. My super military quality sleeping bag did not have one of those little air holes in the bottom by the zipper - it zipped all the way to the end. And it was getting hot in there. It was stiflingly hot and I was freaking out. I was old enough to have some notions as to suffocation and death so I started yelling for help.

"Get me out of here! I can't get out! I'm stuck in here! Somebody please! I'm gonna suffocate to death! HELP!!!!" Finally one of my parents came and untangled the sleeping bag so that I could get out. My sister must have slept through it all or was too little to know how to help.

The remembrance of the sleeping bag distress came to me the other day because it parallels my life. In the past year and a half I've been realizing that I'm stuck in the bag and can't find my own way out. As I've reevaluated my priorities lately it's become apparent that I've run out of my own resources to excel within the various roles of my life. All of those roles, not just one or two of them. I can't magically make myself communicate better or resolve conflict more effectively; or parent with grace and humor that I do not possess. I need help finding my way out of the bag. Most of us come to these places in our lives sooner or later and it's very humbling. I happen to be a person who is very motivated to change, grow, and deal with things even though I also happen to be a person who struggles against high levels of negativity and perfectionism.

I can't run out on my family as much as I want to some days because I feel like a failure. I am not a failure but I get sucked into believing that when I have mere moments of failure. (Who knew?! I'm not perfect?!?) I am reminded that idols come in many forms and that many of us have some ugly gargoyles named "Feelings" that sit enshrined in special alcoves; we scrape and bow to them all throughout the day and we lend them the power to control our minds and actions, and we give them permission to set the mood in our very environments. Are we gonna do anything about it? If we need help will we ask for help? Will we admit that these are gods that we have brought into power - not someone else's gods?

For me, I have to seek the help I need so that I am equipped to make the changes that I need to make. In that I also have to differentiate between who is offering lip balm and who is offering water - on so many levels. It was not likely that I would die of suffocation in my sleeping bag and it's not likely now that I won't find my way out of whatever this is with some help - if I am willing to receive it, that is.

Next time, the latest on where Jesus and I are in all of this.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Here's to Handel - and My Life Coach

So, I spoke with my personal Life Coach and she told me to quit being a martyr and to quit being involved in children's ministry. (Strains of the Hallelujah Chorus are playing in background) I picture Jeremy Piven (the actor) characteristically holding his head in his hands, looking up at John Cusack and shouting, "Man, you're like my oracle and s---!" (From the movie Serendipity) This is what this friend is to me, an oracle. We are that for each other - we are both oracles. My other "processing" friend is a healer. I'm into those old world terms lately.

Anyway, she walked me through a very logical process to find out who I really am and what I'm really called to. It boiled down to this: I am a Christ-follower, a wife, a mother, a homemaker, and when needed, a friend/relative. That's it. I am not called to anything else; I have no other openings at the current time, including children's ministry. (Again with the Hallelujah Chorus...) These are the specific things that I am called to at present. She asked me why I was trying to add more responsibilities beyond the ones God has already called me to. She told me that the things God has called me to are the same things forming the lens that I need to filter life's other stuff through: "If I add X,Y,Z is it going to make me a better wife, mother or homemaker? Will it fit anywhere into the existing picture without causing harm in those areas?"

It's amazing how a paradigm shift can create some breathing room. She may not realize it but I feel like she rolled a giant oxygen tank up into my space and now I am getting my color back. It makes me cry just thinking about it. She said a bunch of other stuff about boundaries and not being a whiner, and to you-know-where with the whole "pastor's wife" crap, as only a friend who really loves you can say.

Later that night I read some powerful words that a wise man said to his son, Ralph Moody, nearly a hundred years ago:

"You know, a man's life is a lot like a boat. If he keeps his sail set right it doesn't make too much difference which way the wind blows or which way the current flows. If he knows where he wants to go and keeps his sail trimmed carefully he'll come into the right port. But if he forgets to watch his sail till the current catches him broadside he's pretty apt to smash up on the rocks."

All I know is that I had a mouthful of gritty sand and that I was a long way off the course. Once I got my little boat off the rocks and back on course it was very apparent to me just how far off the course I had been. My boat must have been careening willy-nilly all over the lake, crashing into other water craft, dragging bottom across rocks and who knows what else.

As I focused my myopic eyes looking through my newfound lens I was disheartened to see the level of neglect in my "wifering", mothering and "householdering". Good thing I am married to a strong and independent individual with a sense of humor because he seems the most intact of the three.

As for the children, where is Nanny McPhee when you need her? It's like the children who live in our home have either lost their hearing a.k.a. Helen Keller's difficult early years; or they no longer speak English - seriously, "Do you not understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?!?" as Chris Rock hollered at Jackie Chan. It is also possible that they have become characters from the book "Lord of the Flies". Because of my sailboat detours, this week at our house has been Baby Boot Camp only I don't get to cuss anyone out or call them derogatory names to make them feel like certain kinds of ants. There is no barking, "Drop down and give me 50!!" You know, that would be waay easier than trying to discipline in love - hopefully including patience - along with the giving of encouraging words while trying to keep the lectures and yelling to a minimum (that's where the duct tape across my mouth comes in). The poor little tykes have needed a lot more direction than I had been giving them and it's been a long week for all of us. Those drill sergeants don't even know the meaning of boot camp. I now understand the words, "This hurts me more than it hurts you."

As for the home, it looks like a bunch of hogs live here - not that it's a new look or anything - but now I feel like I have permission to focus on some care and keeping of it instead of the bunch of frenetic add-on activities that I usually succumb to.

And last but not least, the following of Jesus. Well, we're working things out. I felt emboldened enough to asked Him the same question his cousin, John the Baptist, once asked of Him, and you'd think John would know his own cousin better than this, "Are you the Christ or should we look for another?"
True to form Jesus reminded me of His miraculous signs from then and now and asked,
"Who do you say that I am?"
So that's where He and I are at but that's a post for another late night.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Twist of Lemon with That?

I wish I could say that I am the quintessential pastor's wife who is full of wisdom and grace and able to singlehandedly create - and lead - amazing ministries out of the miry clay. The truth lately is that I spend more time in the miry clay than I do outside of it.

I'm not gonna lie to you, my faith is on the rocks. Too bad "faith on the rocks" does not contain alcohol because at least that would numb my senses. It's not because of the miscarriage - I actually felt this way before that happened, although experiencing that loss did not help. Depression, compounded by grief, compounded by the relentless pressures of the church plant, compounded by emotional unhealth: in case you were wanting the recipe for the drink. If you mix it correctly it should come out in a perfect Barbie doll pink.

Basically my spiritual life isn't amazingly great and I don't want a bunch of moronic Christianese cliches as to how to "get back on track". I'm not off the track. I still think God is real but I am extremely frustrated with all of this crap and the feeling that I am missing something spiritually. The cliches only serve to infuriate me anyway. If there was a punching bag that spouted cliches I would have pulverized it by now.
(If I were really honest I would include all the expletives that are involved in the alternate conversation in my head.)

"God is in control" *POW*
"This is all part of God's perfect plan." *WHAMMO*
"Let go and let God." *BLAM-BLAM-BLAM"

Yeah, whatever. None of those things mean anything to me. All the rotten things that happen in this world aren't part of God's plan. Why the hell would God's perfect plan include murder, rape, mutilation, abuse, war, AIDS, starvation, disease, and all the other hard or heinous things in this world? It's just bad theology to suggest such a thing. GOD IS GOOD NOT EVIL. God doesn't inflict evil things upon us to "teach us a lesson" or "build our character" - if He did that He would be abusive, not loving. People make choices to participate in some of these heinous acts and God is not in control of that; He allows humans to choose whatever they will. God is sovereign but that is another matter.

So what is my problem? I'm tired. I want to go live in a cabin in the woods for a month where I can be still and know that God is God. I often hear of others who go on pilgrimages to Buddhist monasteries or Ashrams and this seems like a good idea to me. (I know that I said hiding out in a monastery is cowardly in a previous blog. I am not contradicting myself. I am suggesting the value of going there for restoration purposes rather than to hide from life's problems for an indefinite amount of time like Sister Maria tried in The Sound of Music.) The closest thing we have in Christendom is a Catholic monastery; however, I am not Catholic and some of our beliefs would differ. Many churches host so-called retreats; I have yet to find any rest or restoration on one of these seminar-filled, activity-packed venues. Going to a cabin in the woods sounds more realistic since there ain't much else to choose from. Many Christians don't seem to value mystery or mystics much; a jam-packed seminar will keep our little minds off the greater mysteries of our existence. However, these mysteries have become a deafening part of my existence and there is no drowning them out. As I say to my husband, "I'm not a typical pastor's wife - I am the kooky-mystic-writer person who doesn't fit the profile and doesn't do any of the expected pastor's wife things." (This may be why I feel like a crazy person. What's with those perfect go-getters?!)

Jesus specifically talks about doing the impossible with God's power. How does that work exactly? And if my faith is too small will God make it bigger? I really want to know the answer to this question and my heart hurts for the not knowing. What about seeing people healed? What about my own healing? I have so many questions for God and some of them need answers here on earth, not just in the hereafter. There have been human beings who knew God on a whole other plane than the one that I am currently on and I need to be where they were in their understanding of God and in their relationship with Him.
What I really long for is restoration. I long to have a clear picture of the health vs. the unhealth in my life so that I can make better decisions. I am weary of making bad decisions based on guilt or pride or just plain pigheadedness and then hating my life because of it. Right now I am helping co-lead children's ministry. For anyone who knows me well, you know that this is neither a gift nor a passion area for me. I have never dreamed of doing this. I have never wanted to do this. I have dreaded doing this. So, basically, I am an idiot right now that I am even doing this and then wailing, "But if I don't do it who will?!" Doesn't exactly sound like a decision made by a healthy person, right? Maybe what's on the rocks is all of this cliched, guilt-inducing, perfect-pastor's wife nonsense that is ruining my life, not my faith. I dunno. It's hard to differentiate.

When life hands you lemons...
slice them up and garnish your drink with them.
Instead of the little umbrellas, serve with a Barbie head on a swizzler stick.

Being Present

Sometimes I think we suffer too much alone during these things and it sure does help to have friends and people who offer encouragement and love and prayers and it really doesn't matter if you are hundreds or thousands of miles away because I still feel your support somehow. The older (and hopefully, wiser) I get the more I want to reach out and be present for other people and have them be present for me. Hopefully this is a safe place.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Grief Observed

"I thought I could describe a state; make a map of sorrow. Sorrow, however, turns out to be not a state but a process." -C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

C.S. Lewis wrote these words in a book I will soon read because those few thou
ghts resonated with me. A friend of mine uses the word "process" in conjunction with the word grieving, as in "processing through it".

Where am I in the process?

Well, yesterday I felt very alone in the process. Not only that, I felt lost. I felt as though what had happened was a blip on the screen; life went on and we had to move forward in the pursuit of other happenings. Some of you know that our first "official" gathering for the church plant is this Sunday. Needless to say, life goes on whether you are ready for it to go on or not. In this case, I don't feel ready and instead feel rushed in my grieving to scurry ahead and to shelve my grief over the loss of our baby
so that I can do all the things that I need to do on Sunday. In the past, this would include me being unnaturally cheerful and "strong" in the face of my circumstances. But, no, that is not who I am. Nor is it who I want to be. There are too many plastic people walking around out there with perky Barbie doll expressions that no one can relate to as it is. But guess what? I'm just finding out that most people don't relate to grief either. My "processing" friend observed that she had almost no one to walk with her through her own grief when a friend of their family died in a tragic accident that they witnessed. There was almost no one to talk it through with in the months afterwards and she struggled through much of it alone and feeling unheard.

Why is it that we have education up the wazoo - degrees, certificates, licenses - but when it comes to healthy communication skills, healthy conflict resolution skills, and healthy relating-to-others-and-engaging-in-their-lives-skills we are woefully unequipped??
Why are we so afraid of being present in the suffering of others? Why do we draw back when others shed tears or voice their hurts, or rage, or doubts or fears?

"Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape." That is how Lewis describes it. It is a journey in and of itself, not an event to get over. I suppose that if we have never experienced grief then we may observe it to be a process which ought to be gone through in an allotted time span. It doesn't work that way though. In some respects, life is a series of losses and our hearts never forget those losses. I was at the San Diego Zoo a couple years ago and I passed by the aviaries containing the Bird of Paradise birds. When I heard their particular bird-calls, I was flooded with sadness and a sense of loss and I literally began to cry right there in front of their cages. I had not heard their calls for over 13 years, back when I lived in Papua New Guinea where I had heard those same mournful cries from the rainforest surrounding our home in our village and our home at our regional centre. My mind could not have recalled their call if it had tried but my heart knew it instantly.

Grief is held in our hearts even though it is our minds that try to make sense of it.
I suppose that processing through another's grief with them requires that our hearts engage their hearts.

These are my preliminary observations.

Friday, September 14, 2007


Conversation in the bathroom between my four year old daughter and I regarding the loss of our baby:

HER: (perplexed look) "Why is your potty red, Mommy?
ME: "It's not red; it's blood."

She goes to bed. Later she comes back to use the toilet. I am in the bathtub.

HER: "Mommy, why do you need to get clean in the bathtub?"
ME: "I don't feel very well so it's helping me to feel better being in the nice warm water."
HER: "Why don't you feel very well?"
ME: (deep sigh, look of indecision) "Well... we were going to have a baby but now we're not because the baby died."
HER: (sighs, sounds sad) "MMM-mmm... What baby? Where was the baby?"
ME: "It was in my tummy. it was only about this big (holding up fingers to measure about an inch) but it died."
HER: (face lights up) "I have an idea, Mom! I have a mouse! It can swim! The mouse can go down the toilet and get the baby out!"
(we had been listening to the story of Stuart Little, the mouse, on CD earlier)
ME: "That's a good idea, honey, but it's too late - the baby already died."
HER: (sadly) "Oh-h!" (pausing to think) but why do babies die, Mommy?"
ME: "I don't know, honey."
HER: (contemplative) "Sometimes that's just the way it is, Mom."
ME: "Yep. That's true."
HER: (lighting up again) "But, Mom, my mouse can swim! It can swim down there - it's a girl one, not a boy one - and it can swim down there and take care of the baby!"
ME: "Okay, honey!"
HER: (scampers out of the bathroom) "Good night, Mommy!"
ME: "Good night, sweetheart. I love you!"

These are the best days of my life and the sweetest moments, regardless of the pain.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Poet Life

"Draw forth the sword of success from out of the iron of circumstance"

"If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it, blame yourself. Tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches. For to the creator there is no poverty and no poor, indifferent place." -Ranier Maria Rilke

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Going Retro

Yeah, what does motivate us to "minister to" those people on "the other side of the tracks"? If you ask me, humans have a lot of pride. I read a quote recently that, "If Jesus were on earth you'd find him in a gay bar in San Francisco. He'd be working with people suffering from AIDS. These people are the new lepers. If you want to find out where Jesus would be hanging out it'll always be with the lepers."

If that's true then I must be a leper because He hangs out with me and I know that He hangs out with several of my friends and they still have all of their body parts intact. It seems like those who make a religion out of social causes like to put the "Jesus-stamp-of-approval" on what they are doing because it makes them seem more spiritually mature or aware. No doubt many of them care deeply, as do I, about people who are suffering. I believe wholeheartedly in caring for others, for sure, but what is our motivation when we help the "lepers" of society?

Jesus did not, in fact, "always" hang out with the lepers. He actually spent much of His time with a motley band of 12 men. He also hung out with every type of person imaginable: blue-collar stiffs, federal workers, desperate housewives, religious leaders and religious nut-balls, military men, average Joes, his family, the wealthy elite, social climbers, the handicapped, the "mentally" ill, and the terminally ill; three groups of people who were usually homeless. He was not exclusive about who He spent time with. Jesus hung out with anyone who wanted to hang out with Him. If someone indicated that they didn't want to spend their time with Him then He politely went on His way. He wasn't out to peddle himself to people. He also wasn't trying to make Himself look better by hanging out with all these people.

We forget this but we are all broken. There isn't a soul out there who does not have some level of brokenness. If Jesus is the standard and being like Him is the standard, I am here to tell you that none of us can ever reach that standard. We might as well try to fly to the moon. Even if we practice jumping all day long we will never build up enough muscle to get ourselves up there. If we climb the tallest building we are still millions of miles away. A few people get on board airplanes and claim to be pretty close but they haven't even broken the earth's atmosphere. So is my only option is to go to Kennedy and steal a space shuttle? The problem is, I would need millions of dollars to pay the highly-skilled burglers who would do the job for me and I still wouldn't have a clue how to fly the darn thing. I'm too old to be chosen for the NASA program - not that I would have ever been chosen to begin with -
I don't possess the right set of skills to "get in". There is just no getting me on the moon.

Even if I do hang out with the "lepers", it ain't gonna make me any more perfect. (And, oh, how they love being referred to as "the lepers"!!!?)
The only way that I can achieve the standard is to allow God to take my broken self and adopt me into His family and then to see me forevermore as one of His own. There is no ladder to climb or set of rules to follow perfectly. There is no hiding out in some monastery like a coward, trying to avoid the evils of this world so that I can attain more perfection. Perfection is such a futile goal because it is absolutely not possible by any of the standards out there.

The amazing thing is that God sees me as if I am on the moon not as if I am still gravity-bound by earth. There is a tremendous amount of mystery in that for me; I don't comprehend it but it does give me a peace and sense of reassurance that I cannot duplicate through any of my own notions of "spiritual disciplines". No matter how many disciplines I were to practice it would not get me to the moon and that is where I wish to be when it comes to God. I am just going to trust Him on this one even though it sounds totally nuts. (See Ephesians for further insight)

I always thought moon boots were cool anyway.
And what about the Moonwalk, baby? Way cool.
Guess I am going retro.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Official Statement

That's all I have to say.

Monday, August 6, 2007

People-People, Part Deux

My computer has been away for a couple weeks so I have not been writing or checking email much.

I meant to write "People-People, Part Deux" awhile ago but it turned out that I didn't get a chance to. Recent adventures, while rife with humor, gave me pause for thought...

The other night my friends "Molly" and "Jill" had a hankering to go sing Karaoke. In our two-horse town there are only a couple places to do this: in the Bar/Lounge of one of the hotels and at this - shall we say - quaint little dive where I fully spent the whole two hours expecting a bar-fight to erupt at any moment. Not to mention that "Jill's" observation of the bar-folk was that they all seemed to have some sort of nervous system disorder due to the way they were dancing.

How does this relate to engaging in community, you ask? Let me tell you. When we walked into the dive, my pal "Molly" felt right at home. "Jill" did not necessarily feel quite so much at home but she was friendly and down-to-earth nonetheless - it also helped that some of her family reunions resembled the crowd we were mingling amongst. And then there was me - the designated driver who did not have any of the advantages of alcohol to carry me through. I was hooked at the hip to "Jill" and let me just say that I was as stiff as a board. It was not helping that we were being flanked by short, googly-eyed guy who was making lewd references to sex, something about nipple-twisting, and Lynyrd Skynyrd (the band). It was a good thing his speech was too slurred for us to understand the full scope of his hopes for the evening. We finally managed to elude him - only to later find ourselves faced with gangly tattoo guy whose lewd references included mention to genital size as well as a high level of f-word usage as an attempt to impress us with his sexual prowess and wishes for the near future with either of us. I could not have imagined a night of ecstasy with either of these hapless fellows even if I had imbibed upon an entire bottle of any sort of alcoholic beverage. It is beyond my creative powers to envision such a thing.

It was actually a blessed relief to sit and chat with Kyle - the young fellow who first introduced us to the quaint dive. At least all he did was show me pictures of his three boys and then tried to give me his phone number to which I kindly demurred that I was married, and thus he said that he was sorry for trying to give me his number and that he had been married but that his ex-wife was a "f-ing, cheating whore *sorry* but she cheated on me." All this, and he could not have more than 23 years old. Poor guy.

I realized something about myself though, and it is that I am a snob. When I described my impression of the place I used some unfavorable words about a certain neighborhood, I am ashamed to say, and it's made me realize that no amount of saying that I have nothing against those people is true if I can say something like that. It's like when people make references to those people who live "on the other side of the tracks". I don't want to be someone who refers to others in a derogatory manner and these were the words that came to me at the realization of my snobbery:

"No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks."

You can probably guess who said those words. (Jesus, in Luke 6:43-45) I can't deny the truth of those words. That was the overflow of my heart and it was contempt. Granted, most of my contempt was aimed at being treated like a piece of meat which is something that I utterly despise; I cannot stand the user/consumer approach when it comes to sex. My contempt would be just as great for a Manhattan-ite, or a Londoner, or any guy, anywhere, treating me like a conquest. On the other hand, I was at a bar at 1:30 in the morning amongst a bunch of people so blubbering drunk that the bartender was refusing to serve some of them drinks. In other words, if I actually expect to be treated like the lady that I consider myself to be when in that scenario then I am completely out of my gourd.

The whole thing made me realize that it is absolutely essential to separate the behavior from the person. Yes people are responsible for their choices; however, a person's worth is not based upon their behavior. It is a broken person who pursues others in such a way as to not even care who they are but to only want sex from them. It's a broken person who tells you more than once how "f-ed up" he was as a kid and how much trouble he got into, and who is now alone, without much support as the father of three small children. I don't need to go on but I can say that I saw a lot of loneliness and misplaced longing in the eyes of some of those people.

We are all broken at some level; we are each in different places as far as healing and restoration go. Some people are only in for more brokenness due to their inability to make better choices. I found out that I don't want to engage in community with someone who is that broken because I know that I can't trust that person. Even if there is prudence in that, it still shouldn't stop me from behaving in a compassionate manner,at the very least, instead of behaving like a snob.

It would also help not to go to bars at 1:30 AM when people are at their worst but are thinking it is their best.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Being People-People

I've been thinking a lot about community. You know me, I dislike any word that has become a buzz-word. "Being in community," "Doing community," "Having community," "Creating a sense of community"..... and other such buzz-wordish phraseology.

This is always what happens. Always: Someone "gets it" and goes out and lives it and it is genuine and brilliant and beautiful and then the herd of sheep absently munching grass in the field get all excited about what the one sheep is doing and try to turn it into a formulaic concept. We have all done this. You have, I have - even the two-steps-ahead sheep has done this before. We are liars if we say we are exempt from buying in to great ideas at times.

Being part of a community is tough. We live in the most individualistic society in the world. (It is so true that I can write it and you will nod your head in agreement even though neither of us has done any research to see if there are any other countries that compete with our level of individualism.) And we have continued on in our pursuit of individualism. Futurist Faith Popcorn predicted in the 1990's that we would see a trend she called "Cocooning" in America. Cocooning being that our homes would be our sanctuaries - we would shop from home, eat-in at home, go to movies at home. Now we have the internet and movie theatre seating and elaborate sound systems and food delivery services galore. We need to stop this terrible trend toward self-seclusion because it is really just self-absorption to the extreme. We have actually bought into Burger King's motto, "Have it your way" as a lifestyle.

In direct contrast, those who are mature operate from a place where they ask these two questions:
Is it the right thing to do?
Does it express ultimate love and truth?
The mentality "having it your way" doesn't even come close to asking these questions.

All of my buzz-word prejudices aside, I'm beginning to understand what living within community is about. John Donne understood it long ago when he penned the words, "
No man is an island." Being in kinship with others provides strength and hope and love and protection. However, it also requires something of us. It requires that we engage in the lives of others and that we offer strength and hope and love and protection. Being part of community requires that we develop a cooperative spirit.

Now, more than ever, I believe that functioning well within community is something that we learn to do, it is not something that is inherent to our natures. Learning to engage in people's lives is a process that calls for our participation. Initiating contact with others is a maturity issue not a personality issue. Being extroverted or introverted merely means that we have different limits as to our level of interaction with others and our ability to process what went on during our times of interaction. We say, "I'm not a people person," or "he is a people person" to excuse ourselves for the fact that we do not begin conversations with others, waiting instead for them to come talk to us. If community is the sum of who we are as individuals then it is going to be pretty pathetic if we all sit by on our park benches waiting for others to approach us. Ironically, it is usually those who are spectators of community who do the most whining about how they don't feel connected or how they feel lonely and misunderstood.

I was given some insight regarding feelings recently while talking to my four-year-old. She tries so hard to express herself but unfortunately the sum of her expression is, "I'm MAD!" I've been trying to figure out how to give her more words to express her feelings. Then it came to me: talking about how we feel is only the beginning. The next step as we mature is to express what we need or want. The feeling itself is not the end; it is the beginning of the process. For instance, all children go around whining that they are hungry or thirsty. My response to that is, "Thanks for the information - are you making a statement or asking a question?"
Feeling hungry for what?
Food? Companionship? Entertainment? Intellectual stimulation? Good music? A trek into the wilderness? A way to express yourself artistically?

When we are in relationship we have to identify what we need or want from others - which is often based upon our feelings - and then express it:

"I'm mad; I didn't get what I wanted and I need to know that I can still hope for good things in the future."
"I am feeling hurt. I could really use a hug and some encouraging words."
"I am so excited about this. I would love for you to share in my excitement."
"I am feeling lonely. Would it be possible for us to hang out and just talk?"
"That really made me feel rejected. I need to know that I am valued by you."
"I feel unloved. I want to hear that I am lovable. I need to know what you see in me. I need to know that you care... I want to hear about my potential and about God's potential for me."

If all we do is sit by and expect others to know what we are wanting or needing then community will never seem to work because we will have never engaged ourselves in the process.
We cannot mistakenly believe that we are entitled to have community our way or that we are somehow exempt of law of "reaping and sowing". St. Francis of Assisi illuminated these simple concepts of creating effective community:

...Oh Divine Master, grant that I may not
so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand; to be loved
as to love; for it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned...

Our growth within community is about the ultimate good for others, not just for ourselves. Beyond that, it is about the ultimate good for for everyone, not just for the individual. That is the sum of what Jesus lived and died and rose again for. He sure wasn't living down here in our messy world so that His own wants - or even needs - could be met. Talk about being misunderstood. Nobody got what He was about while He lived on earth. Even now we struggle to get what He was about - it's a learning process; spectators will never be satisfied and nor should they expect to be:

It's not about "having it your way". It's not "all about me".

It's about US. We have to become "People-People".

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Don't Worry, Be Happy!

After writing the last post I went and read my Bible to get myself back in orbit.
I had been reading in the book of Matthew because I wanted to reacquaint myself with Jesus words and actions.

I left off in Matthew 9 so I finished chapter 9 and read on through chapter 10. It was all very interesting but I had to laugh out loud when I came to verse 24 where Jesus explained, "A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household!" Jesus said this in reference to the Pharisees (religious folk) who had said, "It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons." (Matt. 9:34) These were the same folks who accused Jesus of being a drunkard and a glutton because of who He hung out with. (Matt. 11:19)
We are on the right track since we are receiving these same unfounded accusations and that makes me laugh. Laughter is good.
Life is short and we have not too much time for gladdening the hearts of those who are traveling the dark way with us. Oh be swift to love! Make haste to be kind!
-Henri Frederic Amiel (1821-1881)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Keepin' It Real

First of all, thanks to Sean who created my vastly improved Blog Header! Now I have to write stuff as interesting as my Blog marquee.

Secondly, I hope that you are listening to Herva (see right) while you are reading the posts for your well-rounded blog-perusing experience and listening pleasure.

Awhile back I had written a post about bumper stickers and how dumb some of them are. (I deleted the post) During this rant I suggested that a sticker be created that says:
Religion is not a crutch - it's a lobotomy.

In the interest of keepin' it real, a recent response to one of our church fliers was that it "looked like it could be demonic". (We had a picture of a guy with an arm coming out of his head under the caption, "Nobody's Perfect".) This "demonic thing" was the judgment call of an unknown church-goer who was strongly discouraging a person from attending our come-get-to-know-us BBQ. The person came to our BBQ anyway which is how we know all of this.

Here's how lobotomy comes in: no one wrote, no one called to bother to speak with us in person and see what our purposes are (apparently sacrificing chickens in the moonlight?!). I am resting my case on my bumper sticker theology. It doesn't surprise me that people have these default settings they think are working so they don't bother changing them. "I am uncomfortable with this, therefore I deem that it is eviil." Simple. Neatly wrapped, tied, and thrown into the rubbish bin nevermore to be dealt with.

Here's what is real in all of this: this is how genocide begins. Yep, that's extreme. Give pause though, and think about it. Once we write someone off as being evil, worthless, wrong, or subhuman we begin treating them with less respect and dignity. I wonder where the concept of honoring others comes from? Let me think - was it Jesus? The "golden rule" perhaps?
"So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." Matthew 7:12

What would I want, ideally? I would want someone to call me and ask me where I stand. I would want the other person to give me a chance; I would want him to withhold judgment until he had met me in person. Even after meeting me, I would want that she, or he, would extend grace and seek peace. Even if we didn't agree on all of the particulars, I would want that we still be honoring to one another; not contemptuous. I would want us to be straightforward with one another. Those are just a few of the things I would love to see brought into reality.

Ironically, an acquaintance who runs a local coffee shop heard about the "demonic" comment and said, "That is such a disservice to you!" This kind fellow does not make any claim to follow Christ but he gets it. Makes ya wonder.

What good is a default if we've chosen the wrong settings?
"Believers may not often realize it, but even as believers we are either centered on God or centered on man.
There is no alternative. Either God has become the center of our universe and we have become rightly adjusted to Him, or we have made ourselves the center, and are attempting to make everything else orbit around us and for us." -Paul Fromke
Gotta go change some of my own default settings; my recent orbit trail suggests that I think that I am the sun, rather than earth. Not working so well, Master of the Universe. Please forgive me.

Tweaking my settings:
  • God
  • Love
  • Grace
  • Honor
  • Peace
  • Joy

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Sometimes You Feel Like A Nut...

I've been busy coming up with all these new "mantras" to replace the 8-track of garbled 70's music that is psychedelically ruining my life, particularly because I do not trip on acid whilst listening to these horrific tunes that fry my brain.

I admit that it all feels so Tony Robbins but I know that feeling like the ultimate cheese ball is only a phase. Next thing you know I will be Robert Schuller and then, Norman Vincent Peale.
You are so gonna love being around me then. Not only will I be loving my life but I will also throw in a set of Ginsu knives and a free inspirational booklet.
If I can get to the level of Billy Graham (and I mean that respectfully) then I will have faked it 'till I maked it.

Oops, there I go again with the ridiculous burden of expectation.

Billy, please forgive me. You are you - and a wonderful you you are. I am me, and a stadium-filling evangelist I am not called to be. A nut ball writing real blog posts is more my speed. Oh, I am not like all the other nut balls who roll through here. I am a bona fide original.

No sir, I am not whatever type of nut someone else prefers. You want me to be a peanut? A walnut? A pecan? An almond? Well, too bad. I'm a coconut. You don't like it? So I'll fall out of a tree onto your head. Hey, you shook the tree hoping for a different kind of nut, not me. Peanuts don't grow on palm trees, you know! You figure out what kind of nut you are and then you'll know what kind of recipes to make. It's revolutionary! For me it's macaroons, coconut cake, aromatic Thai curries, coconut battered shrimp - see, if you're a peanut then you are making different recipes.

Once a coconut, always a coconut that's what I always say.

Inspirational booklet, anyone?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Bat Girl Checks In... To the Loony Bin

What do you think about bats? We went to the Portland Zoo and they had a sizable bat habitat. I happen to like bats because they remind me of P.N.G. where I used to live. When we lived out in our village there, these bats would fly overhead every evening during twilight. I always wondered where they had been all day and where they were going every night. I vowed that I would follow them someday and find their mysterious bat cave but I never did and still wonder about them.
I heard that bats were some good eatin' too...

I suppose this feeling of being "batty" has been a part of my life for longer than I'd like to admit. I think that there are times when everyone feels out of control amidst this thing called life. My four year old has actually picked up my phrase, "You're making me crazy!" I regret that she missed the sarcasm because I do not actually believe that anyone can make me do anything let alone go crazy.
(unless they are holding a loaded weapon) The other day I tried to pin my looniness on my children and then I stopped and said, "I am a total idiot if I am going to hand my remote control over to you!" Yes, it was another stellar parenting moment, I admit. If I had a dollar for every one of these moments... I'd have at least six or seven hundred dollars by now.

Thus I have added several new phrases to my mantra list:

I can handle this!
I am calm!
This isn't that big of a deal!

So far it's helping. That and prayer: "Help! I'm losing it here!"

I read a verse from the book of Proverbs the other night: "Laughter can conceal a heavy heart, but when the laughter ends, the grief remains." (Prov. 14:13 NLT)
That may not seem so encouraging but the reality of it was encouraging to me. See, God gets this. He really does get it. He gets that we can laugh and still be sad. It's not all either/or to Him. He gets that there are layers to our lives. He gets that some days are better than others. He's the only one who knows what is causing this depression in it's totality because He knows all of the contributing factors, right down to my DNA and very molecules. He also gets how hard it is for we humans to be in control of ourselves - which is why He offered to help us out with that.

When our four-year-old asked where were going one day I said that we were going to the "Loony Bin". I described to her how there are people who wear white coats there walking around with big butterfly nets. I also mentioned that sometimes you get to wear special jackets. (It sounds like a fun place, right? A place where you don't have to be in control of yourself because, ultimately someone else will do it for you with the nets and special jackets)
As it turned out we were only running boring old errands and going to a coffee shop so we hear this wailing from the back seat, "Where's the Loony?
I wanted to go to the Looooony!"

Me too sweetheart.
Me too.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

That's My Story...

One of my best friends from high school started a My Space called Free from Ed – as in free from an Eating Disorder. She has struggled with it for nearly 18 years and is on the long hard road to recovery.

The thing is, she is not free from Ed in the truest sense but she is claiming that statement for herself in order to keep encouraged.

I took my girls out for a walk today along the river and it was absolutely gorgeous out. Was I enjoying myself? No. I was on the verge of tears and feeling once again like I was being pinned underwater by a giant boulder and there was no way to get out from under it. That is life with depression: drowning with land in sight.

Maybe it was in my subconscious due to my thoughts about my friend but as I watched my kids playing in the park I thought, “I can’t take this anymore. It’s killing me. What if I just kept telling myself that I am loving my life right now? Even if it sounds like a blatant lie right now, but what if I keep telling myself that anyway? Is it possible to create a new version of reality?”

At this point, what does it matter? I am on the verge of self-annihilation. Every day, week, month, that this goes on I am losing myself and not in a good way; I cry for no reason, I am tired and filled with melancholy and pain, and I dread each new day, feeling that I cannot cope with the day’s demands. What is the point of going on? It totally sucks.

So I started saying it: I am loving my life right now. I am so loving my life. Look at these great kids; they are so sweet. They are amazing! Look at where I live. It is so beautiful here. Look at all that God has given me. Look at the ways that He has provided for us.” I kept saying these things over and over like a mantra. I repeated verses from the Bible that came to my mind.

Was I miraculously cured? Nope - but I agree with Albert Einstein when he said, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” It is causing me insanity to keep doing the same things. If I can create a new internal reality I might as well try because there’s no point going on otherwise. I’m not going get all spiritual about this because I already know what steps to take in that direction. Steps in any direction away from the one I’m going in would be a relief. I have no doubt that part of this thing is chemical imbalance because there is no rhyme or reason half the time, just fatigue and crying and heart-pain. I don’t have enough bad experiences in my entire life to cause a problem like this. There are no freaky-deaky skeletons in the closet or people that I hate and want revenge on so that a desire for revenge is eating me alive. I have suffered no losses save those that were to be expected. I said a lot of long, hard good-byes to friends from high school (overseas) – friends who were family to me and who I had an intense sense of belonging with and deep community that I have never had since, save with a very few. For many of those friends, I knew that I would never see them again. That was hard. Good byes are hard. Is it possible that I have unresolved grief? Sure. But who doesn’t? There just isn’t anything there that I can come up with to explain this idiotic soul-sickness. Thyroid problems? Genetics? Loneliness? Who knows?

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18) He is close; He is not glaring at me from across the room telling me to get over it already. He gets that I am hurting and that my pain is real. He saves; He doesn’t try to run me down for my flawed thinking or condemn me for being such an idiot. He wants to save my life and make it beautiful. Listen to this: “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17) He delights in me? He rejoices over me with singing? Who does that? Do I know anyone who has ever said that they delight in me? Sean, maybe, but no one else has said that I can think of. It’s the image of a mother soothing a child, rocking and singing, full of strength and calm to weather life’s storms.

So I say:

I am free from Depression.

I am loving my life right now.

That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

What Have You Done For Me Lately?

I was reading the words of a friend today:
The other thing that has snuck up on me is how badly I want to find a church that I "fit". A place where all else fades and all I am there for is to worship. There's not the fashion contest, or the who can talk more spiritual contest...or even the worst, talk about where the church has gone wrong contest...I'm so sick of it all. I don't trust peoples actual words, it takes years for me to believe in someone, that what is coming out of their mouths is really how they live...but at first meet, I am SO skeptical it's ridiculous really.

There were other words, of course but I was struck by the hurt in those words. Most of us relate to this I think, and we reject those same things. In this world of advertising and hype we get so sick of feeling like we are being used by the media or the church or politicians or even by our friends and families. One pastor I know said that he and his wife had made some friends outside of church who didn't know that he was a pastor and he said that it was great to be in a relationship where you didn't feel like either they wanted something from you or you wanted something from them. I totally related to that.

Doesn't anybody love me for me? Isn't that what we are asking?

I got in touch with an old friend recently and we've been emailing back and forth, trying to catch up. The thing that has surprised me the most is how much I love this person for who he is and how deeply loyal that I am even having not seen him for nearly 17 years. I have this little band of friends from those days and I feel the same way about them: deeply passionately loyal. I think that this is how God views us. He is deeply passionately loyal.

That doesn't mean we don't get on each other's nerves at times. But that kind of love goes so far beyond that stuff.
So I say to my friend:
I love you for who you are.
I love your you-ness.
And I am deeply passionately loyal to you.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

New World Order

I've been reading about five different books simultaneously and finally finished Lifesigns by Henri Nouwen. Near the end of the book he quoted Jean Vanier, founder of L'Arche who said of teens in the 80's (Gen Xers!), "They feel powerless in the face of the enormous powers that rule the world. Twenty years ago young people believed they could do everything, and now they are convinced that it is impossible to do anything" Nouwen was addressing the problem of fear and how it keeps us from being fruitful, intimate and ecstatic in a spiritual sense. As a Gen-Xer I can relate to that statement. When I was becoming of age as an adult a whole slew of problems seemed dumped upon us: saving the whales, the hole in the ozone layer, the massive debt of our government, air and water pollution, species facing extinction, overflowing land-fills.... the list goes on an on with new problems being added daily: the AIDS crisis, cultural genocide, the "War on Terror", global warming, waning natural resources...
What are we supposed to do as individuals? I can't possibly fix all of those things or even a few of them. I am all for being part of solving these tough issues. However, it seems illogical to allow them to be my life's purpose; there must be some higher purpose in this life. For, in the end - no matter how great our efforts - we cannot control the actions of others; nor can we control the weather. Thus our efforts can only take us so far.

Earlier in the book Nouwen shares some profound insight regarding activism. He says, "All Christian action - whether it is visiting the sick, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, or working for a more just and peaceful society - is a manifestation of the human solidarity revealed to us in the house of God. It is not an anxious human effort to create a better world. It is a confident expression of the truth that in Christ, death, evil, and destruction have been overcome. It is not a fearful attempt to restore broken order. It is a joyful assertion that in Christ all order has already been restored. It is not a nervous attempt to bring divided people together, but a celebration of an already established unity. Thus action is not activism. An activist wants to heal, restore, redeem, and re-create, but those acting within the house of God point through their action to the healing, restoring, redeeming, and re-creating presence of God."

I am to be a vessel.
I am to allow God and His love to flow through me; this is my choice, however. God won't force me to do anything. If I would rather spend my days being paralyzed by fear then God will allow me to do that. I know that this kind of order exists when I see the ways in which God works and heals through His love and grace. I don't fully know how, even though I keep asking and yearning to understand more of God and His order.
When I reject taking part in God's order, I am an anxious, selfish, petty, prideful fool.
When I do take part in His order, I am the person that I was created to be.
I may be powerless but He is not and His power is at work within me.
I so needed the peace and hope of that reminder.

Sometimes I must consciously seek to jump into God's existing order. I pray, along with angels who are presently in chorus:
Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, and is,and is to come;

Holy, holy,holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come;

Holy, holy,holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come
That is but one layer of the pattern but it is a place where I can jump in and take part.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Come As You Are

Come as you are – no perfect people allowed.

This is at the heart of who we are as a “church” (recognizing that we are a small part of a greater whole). Sometimes those who don’t follow Christ respond with skepticism, and rightfully so; I cannot love perfectly but I believe that God can and it is up to me to respond to His leading.

One of the ironies I have found is that when we state this as a value a few Christians have responded with fearfulness.

“What do you believe? Do you teach the Bible?” they ask. What I read between the lines is that there are certain types of people who they cannot imagine God loving or accepting for who they are.

Contrary to that mindset, Henri Nouwen explains:

Living in the intimacy of God’s house, we gradually come to know the mysterious truth that the God who loves us with a perfect love includes all people in that love without diminishing in any way the unique quality of God’s love for each individual person.

This is probably one of the hardest things for us to understand. In our competitive world we are so used to thinking in terms of “more” and “less” that we cannot easily see how God can love all human beings with the same unlimited love while at the same time loving each one of them in a totally unique way. Somehow we feel that our election involves another’s rejection, that our uniqueness involves another’s commonness. Somehow, we think we can only fully enjoy our being loved by God if others are loved less than we are…

When we enter into the household of God, we come to realize that the fragmentation of humanity and its agony grow from the false supposition that all human beings have to fight for their right to be appreciated and loved. In the house of God’s love we come to see with new eyes and hear with new ears and thus recognize that all people, whatever their race, religion, sex, wealth, intelligence, or background, belong to that same house. God’s house has no dividing walls or closed doors. “I am the door,” Jesus says. “Anyone who enters through me will be safe” (John 10:9). The more we fully enter into the house of love, the more clearly we see that we are there together with all humanity and that in and through Christ we are brothers and sisters, members of one family. (Lifesigns by: Henri Nouwen)

We are broken and hurting and cannot truly restore order for ourselves or for the wrecked world that we live in. Coming home to life in God is to come home to the place of perfect love and perfect order that He lives and moves and has His being in. To say, “come as you are” is to acknowledge one’s own humble position within the bounds of God’s perfect love. Fred Rogers said, “You know, I think everybody longs to be loved and longs to know that he or she is loveable. And, consequently, the greatest thing that we can do is to help somebody know that they’re loved and capable of loving.”

We prove that we do not know God when we respond with fear or rivalry towards others rather than responding with this spirit of loving inclusion that Nouwen and Rogers speak of.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Hope Pinned

Writing of any kind is a monologue. Fiction, nonfiction - it's all just some person's thoughts and opinions packaged in so many different ways.
I've been reading Anne Lamott recently. She has her own set of opinions and I am fascinated by them. This is mainly because they are not my own and I am glad for relief from my inner dialog. At one point she writes about hope and her words resonated with me:
The reason I never give up hope is that everything is basically hopeless. Hopelessness underscores everything - the deep sadness and fear at the center of life, the holes in the heart of our families, the animal confusion within us. When you do give up hope, a lot can happen. When it's not pinned wriggling onto a shiny image or expectation, it may float forth and open like those fluted Japanese blossoms, flimsy and spastic, bright and warm. This almost always seems to happen in community: with family, related by blood, or chosen:at church, for me; at peace marches. (from Plan B Further Thoughts on Faith)

I mainly like the bit about expectation. I don't necessarily agree with her statement that everything is basically hopeless although I do think that it is without God. i am curious to read her latest book because, honestly, I thought she was positively neurotic in Plan B. I just have to see if she is trusting more and fearing less.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Getting into the Mix and Out of the Bubble

It struck me how much I have changed over the past year since we left the O.C. to "plant a church". I don't write about "church planting" much in my blog, I realized. I don't like the term "church planting" or the words "starting a church". As we always say, we are the church so how can we plant or start something that we are? So far the best I can come up with to describe our work is that we are creating favorable conditions for the spiritual growth of all who enter into our community. That's too long though so I'll have to keep working on it.

Within our group of leaders we have been discussing the "Christian Bubble" lately. To me the "Christian bubble" is defined as a self-protective, self-serving subculture. We are definitely functioning outside of the bubble. We actively strive to discard all things "bubbly" - such as Christian-ese; using the word "Christian" as an adjective for things (you know, Christian music, Christian nation, Christian bookstores, Christian company etc.). I don't even like to call myself a "Christian". The truth is many people associate such a negative connotation with the term Christian.

So much of the language and lifestyle within the Christian bubble is exclusive in nature rather than being inclusive. We have been learning that words like unbeliever, nonchristian, and "the lost" are terms that keep others at arms length. Would you like to be referred to as "the lost"? Everyone is on a spiritual journey. Unless a person is an atheist, he or she does believe in something, spiritually speaking. Coming to faith in Christ and growing in that relationship could become part of his, or her, journey. We are not trying to "get people into church" we are trying to connect people with Christ by meeting them where they are on their journey and walking with them. If we, as a team, can draw others into caring community where Christ can be found, that is church at it best.

Church isn't buildings or services, or programs - it is people working together as a body in order to grow in faith; to worship the living God; and in order to advance the gospel. People shouldn't have to "go to church" in order to experience community within the body. The body - that is, you and I - should be going to them. Buildings, services, or programs are merely avenues by which some
might come to faith or grow in faith. Ultimately, you and I are the incarnation of Christ for one another and it is our responsibility to reach out as the hands, feet, heart, eyes, ears of Jesus. In a practical sense this means inviting people into our lives - having them over for dinner, going to coffee, going out for a drink, hanging out at the playground with our kids or dogs, going for a walk, a hike, a bike ride, going surfing, visiting them at their work. It all goes back to an active demonstration of love; making sure that people feel heard and valued and cared for in the place they are at on the journey; it means that we can't make people into "projects" or conversely, we can't just use people for their time, talents or resources.

If we become too attached to life inside the bubble then we tend to become defensive of it and of all of our pet ideas and programs and opportunities there instead of focusing on whether or not those things serve the needs of those around us. We also become overprotective of our comfortable spot and our carefully cultivated image within the subculture. Mainly what I'm trying to say is that we can forget that there are so many out there who are not part of anything that goes on within that tiny world and there does not seem to be a way to get inside of the snow globe like bubble - especially if so few ever come out of the bubble. So few can even relate to the "Christian subculture" to begin with.

If we really are about permeating the culture around us, we can see that living in our own subculture isn't an option; I can't permeate something unless I am mixed in with it - like yeast in bread dough.