Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Church has Lost Its Way
I find myself increasingly upset about the reputation the Christian church has developed in the United States, especially among those who aren't affiliated with it. I was reading an article in Vanity Fair recently about diversity and how cities that welcomed diversity were thriving, while those who didn't weren't. The author went on to talk about states with reputations for being hostile to diversity--specifically homosexuality--and then explained that (at least in his view) that was because these were heavily rural states where people went to church.

Now wait a minute. I will confess that I do live in Oklahoma. And that Oklahoma is not known as being on the cutting edge of tolerance, culture, diversity or much of anything else. And I go to church. But that does not mean that I'm comfortable with the dominant cultural/political/social stances of the people I live around. Nor are many of the Christians I know. In fact, the thoughtful Christians I know (and there are many) are appalled by the way we in the church have allowed people with hateful, hostile, angry political and social agendas hijack a religion that has as one of it's core missions to reach out and nurture every single person on earth as a beloved child of God. That's the command, and anyone who starts drawing lines and sorting groups into us and them is flouting the very commands of Christ himself. (And before anyone starts sending me any snippy e-mails about sin and judgement, let me say right off that those are God's responsibilities, not ours, and to try and help God out with His job is the core of arrogance itself.)

So there it is. We in the church have forgotten ourselves--who we are and what we are supposed to be about. We have allowed ourselves to be sidetracked from our main mission. What about it Christians? What can we do to help put our faith back on the right track?

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Church Members Behaving Badly
We've got this thing going on in our church right now where a few people are accusing another group of people of behaving badly--welshing on a bill for using the church nursery, being exclusive, taking advantage of the church name and church facilities to essentially facilitate their private socal activities, etc. I know, it sounds really petty, and when you just look at what people are saying officially, it probably is. What it really feels like, though, is one or two people have been deeply hurt and now feel that justice can only be served through public humiliation of the parties involved--preferably by the re-introduction of stocks just outside the sanctuary or public floggings in the gym. The truth of the matter is, I don't think even that would help as long as anyone involved in this chooses to hang on to their anger and bitterness as the defining theme of their life right now. It is all so sad to watch.

The other sad thing is that they are using the church as the focal point for their fantasies of revenge. Both sides. And trying to pull everyone they can into the brawl on one side or another. And so a place of peace and healing has once again become a battleground, at least for some people. Fortunately for them, some people are blessedly oblivious.

Of course, this kind of stuff happens in churches all the time. And, having been in and around churches my whole life, I've often wondered why people are so often at their worst around the place that is supposed to be the best part of their lives. And it's ususally people who are the most devoted to the church that act the worst. I don't know that anyone has the answer, but I've come to my own conclusions. I think that people act stuck in kindergarten at church just because it is so important to them emotionally. It is like, this place, this institution is so important that when things get tough they lose all perspective, all balance, all reason and respond strictly emotionally. It's almost too important to them to allow them to respond like adults, and they revert to being children.

I think this explains a lot of rabidly conservative evangelical thinking a acting these days.

Oh well. God save us, and our church, from ourselves.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The Terri Schiavo case got me thinking. Of course, with all the publicity and posturing the only biological life forms not forced to think about it were sea slugs in the south Pacific. No wait, that would describe most politicians and media pundits. Maybe there weren't any life forms that managed to avoid it. Except, of course, all those people who are just trying to stay alive themselves and having a hard time of it. I guess it doesn't matter how many poor people starve to death or die unnecessarily because of bad water or inadequate health care as long as we can wring every single drop of emotion out of 1 middle class white woman in the United States. In case you can't tell, I don't think much of people who passionately care about every single life--as long as it belongs to someone just like them.

The person I really feel sorry for in this whole thing is Terri herself. I can't imagine that anyone would want to become the center of that kind of hurricane of hate, bitterness and self-serving anger. Terri, I hope you find blessings and peace in now.

Anyway, all this made me wonder about how well parents really know their kids. As a parent of teens, I like to believe that I know my kids really well, but if I'm honest I have to admit that I have no way of knowing if that's the truth or just my own personal fantasy. As a child, I will be quick to tell you that my parents never had the foggiest idea of who I was or how I felt. My own personal belief would be that was because they were very careful to only see me through a fog of how they wanted me to be. In fact, one of my own personal nightmare scenarios would be my well-intentioned parents fighting with my husband over what I would want if I were incapacitated. I can tell you right now that my parents would be wrong, and the husband that I loved and had chosen would be right. I can also tell you that my parents would never have believed that.

I guess that's why my gut response about Terri's parents is wondering how much was about their fantasies and needs and inability to let go of their adult child and respect her as an adult. When should a parent let go? What does it mean to let your little eaglets fly as adults? I guess that since my own daughter just turned 18, it's my turn to figure out.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

So, much for my Lenten intent to post every day. We're a week into Lent and this is my first post. Oh well, as Anne Lamott says.

I was thinking yesterday about just how much single events can permanently change our approach to the world. I was out zipping around from meeting to meeting and realized that my gas tank was below about 1/3 of a tank and I just went into a panic. I started getting really concerned that I find a gas station right now and fill up. I could not rest easy until I knew that there was plenty of gas in my car. Then I realized that this is kind of a new thing for me. I'm not a person who has habitually run out of gas, but it seemed odd to be so concerned about it. Then I figured out the connection.

A couple of years ago, just 4 days after she got her driver's license, my daughter was in an accident, broke her pelvis and totalled her car. Like all other parents, I don't think I will ever forget getting that phone call and going up to watch them pry her out of the car and then following the ambulance to the hospital. But of all those impressions, one of the clearest is that when we left the accident site for the hospital, my car was almost out of gas. I mean, down to the fumes. All the way over, while comforting my son and making phone calls, I was terrified that we would run out of gas, not make it to the hospital and cause other people she needed to not be there for her because they were coming over to help me. We made it, but I was changed (in many ways). Now, whenever my gas tank gets low, I just get frantic to fill it up--what if something happens and I need to be mobile. I have a feeling that will always be with me.

Funny how single things like that shape our lives.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Boy, did I sound whiny last week. Of course, nothing's changed (yet), I just feel embarrassed for being so whiny about it all.

That's especially ironic when I realize that my youth message last Sunday was about the fact that as people of faith we really don't have to walk alone. Nor do we have to carry all our burdens on our own. Funny, isn't it, how often when we speak to other people we are really talking to ourselves. Maybe that's why so many disfunctional people I know are studying to be therapists, counselors, or social workers. I know for sure that the best ministers, theologians and spiritual directors are the ones who are still seeking themselves. Moybe feeling like you're an expert on something doesn't really give you all the answers, it just means that you're out of touch.

On a personal note, my poor husband has been working on upgrading our home computer now since Saturday. And it's not like he's an amateur or anything. He runs a computer processing center for a major bank. But this PC has just been acting Twilight-Zone level weird. He was up until 4 a.m. Monday morning and then worked on it all day yesterday. Good thing he waited until a holiday weekend to start working on it.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Change is so hard. Recently I've come to the decision that I have to change jobs, even though I love the job I'm in, and I love the kids in my youth ministry. But.... But, I just need to move on. I need to be in a different place. I'm ready to go. I'm ready to move on. The problem is, I don't know where to go. I know I'm not supposed to be here. My work here, whatever it was, is over. I just don't know where I'm supposed to go next.

I know that not everyone who reads these blogs are believers, of any sort. And I know that for people who think that they are, or should be, in control of their lives, this kind of talk is pretty ridiculous. Laughable, even. I mean, what kind of loser thrashes around desperately seeking God's will (or at least His preference) for every little (or big) thing instead of just going out and getting a job. Do what you want. Just go.

But, for some reason it's just not that easy for me. I know I could get another job easily enough. In fact, I know of a couple of things that are open that I could probably just walk into. I don't make that much money. I could probably match my salary working at Target and get better benefits besides. But that's not the point. That's not how I want to live my life. I've had 'just jobs' and I've had 'careers', but ultimately the frustration and just plain wrongness of not doing what you're supposed to be doing makes it not worthwhile. I just don't want to waste anymore time that way. I'm not on earth just to make ends meet, to survive. I want to do what I was born to do. Or at least what I'm supposed to be doing right now. I just don't know what that is.

Why does this have to be so hard?

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Mysterious Trees
We had an ice storm here last week, and as I was driving (sort-of, skating sort-of) around town I happened to notice the trees an how beautiful they are when coated with ice. It's amazing really, that something that can be so destructive can also be so beautiful. Anyway, it got me to thinking about trees themselves, and how wonderfully mysterious they are. I mean, when you look at a tree, it looks like it is just sitting there--like a rock or something. But when you actually think about it, there is always something going on inside trees, you just can't see it. There are roots digging down, getting a better purchase on the earth or seeking nourishment, sap running up and down inside the tree, twigs lengthening cell by cell, leaves and buds gathering themselves to spring forth. Yep, even though it looks like nothing may be happening with a tree, it is actually quite a busy place. There's always more going on on the inside than you can see on the outside.
I think the same thing is true of people. When you look at them, it may look like nothing is going on. But I believe that God's grace is at work in them and their lives all the time, just in ways you sometimes can't see. Sometimes God's grace is even invisible to us in our own lives. But it's still at work, deep down and without a lot of fanfare, just growing here, preparing there, always busy, always moving toward becoming a stronger, more beautiful, mature person (or tree).