Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Backstory to last week's list about the liberal church movement

*** I am moving this post forward because it seems rather timely now.  I wrote it last week right after my post, rounding out my reasons to use humor to cut through some of the spiritual rhetoric and noise around me.  Now after this article and all of the responses, what I have to say seems so much more timely.  It is lengthy, but I think important.  I can't begin to answer the big questions swirling around about why churches are feeling an exodus, but I think the way we are behaving is at the heart of the problem.  We as a collective church are missing the mark.  We are messing it up in different ways and pointing fingers at each other, rather than being iron sharping iron as we are called.  So here you go.


Rachel Held Evans has become one of my favorite writers and I am so excited that my bosom friend and my Dh are both currently reading her latest book- A Year of Biblical Womanhood.  I read it when it came out and loved the entire reading experience.  She is smart, she is funny, she is honest, she is full of grace and still totally a real human person.  Probably the most important reason I love her work is that I believe her social commentary on the evangelical church is spot on.  She loves the evangelical movement and she is able to speak so candidly because she is talking from first hand experience.  So while I'm listening to my bosom friend and dh as they are experiencing this book, I am processing why I think what she is writing resonates with me and so many others.  They both grew up in the evangelical church, one in a conservative expression, and one in a moderate movement; so it's rather amusing to hear their responses.

I did not grow up in the evangelical church, but I went to an evangelical Christian university so I totally get it.  Not only that, but I resonate with an evangelical perspective on Scripture.  I grew up in the liberal branch of the church and my experience of the church during childhood was verrrrrry different.  This little snapshot from the my life proves this point perfectly:

When I was applying to my top choice university, I had to have a pastoral letter of recommendation and so I got to ask the new 30 something pastor at my church.   (She is awesome btw and we are in touch to this day)  When I handed her the form she pulled me aside with this very concerned look on her face.   "You want to go to Biola...you do know what that stands for, yes?"  I responded by saying, yes...that's why I want to go there...it's the Bible Institute of Los Angeles.  I grew up in this church and don't have a clue of what is actually in our sacred scripture."  I added my 17 year old snark to that last bit.  She did not seem to understand my response...but a little while later I realized she did not actually grow up in the liberal Protestant movement.   

I spent 4 years at the university of my dreams and it was water for my soul because I got an intimate, comprehensive, and balanced schooling in faith, the bible, and the integration of knowledge and spirituality.   I drank from it deeply because I needed to know scripture...really know it.  It was also fuel for my fire, but luckily I chose the right field to major in so I was able to find my tribe eventually.   I came to truly understand what was lacking in my upbringing and what was solid ground.   I also learned great discernment on what was kind and grace driven and what was fear and hatred.  That ability was mostly inside of my own heart, but I also learned how to recognize it in others as well.

I began working in the church towards the end of my college years and then stayed on for a solid decade working in a liberal mainline denomination church.   That’s when I really became dangerous, because I actually know what the bible says and I know which perspective I come from when interpreting it.   Not to mention I hold the Scripture as the most important thing.   I understand there is nothing new under the sun, so I went against the grain a time or two.   Once I “retired” to care for little ones for a season, I spent about 5 years in a fairly conservative evangelical church, then their church plant, and it was during these years I learned one important thing about myself and what works for me:

I feel more comfortable being the most theologically conservative one in the bunch, than I do being the most socially liberal in the group.  I love the evangelical church as much as I do the more progressive church.   I see the good, the bad, the ugly and in the end people matter to me more than ideals.   I am one of the people that matters and since I was born in this time as a female and raised with liberal Christian values, I choose a progressive community to worship and grow in. (When I actually show up)   Most days I am happy with that choice, but then there are other days I have clenched teeth and fists raised to the heavens. I have a sort of first love for the progressive church though and since I am a progressive believer with evangelical tendencies, I am going to poke fun at everyone.  I am no Rachel...but I am me.  

There are many issues of contradiction to work with when looking straight on in evaluation of the current Christian movement.  There is much fear and panic going on in the progressive mainline denominations right now...and there should be.  We lost our way more than 2 decades ago and we are scrambling to make sense of all the fall out.  Our roots were shallow and we were not living out the gospel the way we are called.  Decline is a part of life, but when there are no roots strong enough to withstand the storm, chaos happens.  I was not taught the core of the gospel growing up in the progressive church.  I was given a shallow version of God loving me...but I was missing the meat of the redemption story.  There is much fear and panic going on in the evangelical denominations too.  Rachel covers that territory well though, so I'll leave that be.

My purpose in making light of the contradictions in retrospect is to say:  We need to know our stuff and own our stuff...so we can change that stuff and reach out to the world around us.  The thing the progressive church has gotten right historically in a very consistent way is the embodiment of Galatians 3:26-29

“For in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.  As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.  And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.” NRSV
But I had to go to an evangelical Christian university to figure that out.  The progressive church has been the voice out in front when it comes to equality...and I know that is by the Spirit’s leading.  We need to own that and teach our children exactly why we believe what we do in a social context, and we need to do it biblically.  We need to be serious about the basics...Scripture, Worship, Stewardship...and not distracted by the next newfangled idea that pop up in the culture around us and feels good to tag along after.  I'm pretty sure those outside of the the church are not impressed with our poser tendencies.

Hurting and oppression are all around us and we have a choice to make.  Is the progressive church going to crumble as the system crumbles, being more interested in licking wounds as the cumbersome hierarchy crashes down?  Or are we going to own our stuff, stop thinking about our bruised egos and start really connecting with others around us?  In my thinking, a very important first step to deciding what to do next is to laugh at the contradictions we have set into motion in the past and then let it go.  

It’s time to move forward and use our collective voice to speak out for those whose voices are silenced by oppression.  It is time to march again, in a non violent way, to help move the causes of equality forward in this time.  It is time to respond to our culture with love and dignity, so there is something besides the hate spewed rhetoric cloaked in religiosity out there proclaiming what Jesus would do.  We must join together with our evangelical brothers and sisters and embody faith in the way Jesus actually taught us how to do....not fight within the ranks to be most right.  There is no longer evangelical or progressive, rather we need to be the believers of Jesus fighting injustice in this age.

Who’s with me?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Transcendance Movement Two- innocence crystallized

despair- a human response to depravity

innocence crystallized

when we’re young our innocence requires us vulnerable
the gift of childhood is plasticity and wonder
so when life happens as surely it must
our childlike qualities wrap around us
crystallizing to keep the harsh winter out
all so life can continue deep underneath 
where living water will sustain for a time 
when the new creation can reemerge
in the springtime of life

Friday, July 26, 2013

You might have grown up in a liberal Christian Church if you:

* Sang that Father Abraham had many children...not just sons.

* Learned to feed the poor at actual food pantries and care for those in need in rest homes and non profit organizations in your community, but couldn’t find the verses in the Bible that implore Jesus followers to do these acts of compassion as a embodiment of the gospel.

* Were invited to join the church membership and fill out giving pledge forms before you could drive, vote, or drink legally.

* Remember a lot of “worship songs” (and I use that term loosely) with rainbow symbolism and they were not about Noah’s story but rather,  that we are all beautiful children of God.

* Referred to God as “Creator”, Jesus as “The One” and The Holy Spirit as “The Holy Ghost” before 1982-ish and then just the “Spirit” after.

* Read The Living Bible version of children’s bible when you were young and then were given a version with no reference to gender whatsoever during your teen years, probably around the time you went through confirmation.  And during none of those years did you carry said bible to church with you...and neither did anyone else in your Sunday School class.

* Used to sing about being in the Lord’s army until the new baby boomer choir director visited your children's church time and then the song was never uttered again...

* Had no idea that patriarchy and sexism was so alive in the American church because you could personally name 3 female pastors in your community by the time you went to your first youth camp.

* Had no idea that once you decided to walk with Jesus and proclaimed that publicly, some of your gay friends in high school would be afraid your friendship was over because there were loud voices out there proclaiming who gets in to heaven and who doesn’t based on sexual orientation alone, all because the bible told them so.  So then you spent a lot of time in your social system making clarification that you believe a relationship with Jesus has no barriers and really isn't even about eternity, as much as, it is about the here and now.  No matter what.

* Only heard of popular fundamentalist preachers after you left home or as an example of how not to speak about faith.  They were the church leaders that shall not be named in your church or family home.  But you did know Billy Graham, and maybe even went to one of his crusades with your youth group.

* Were aware of the issues surrounding the AIDS epidemic and participating in compassion ministry with those effected in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s...in this country.

Your church bulletin listed more recovery groups and book discussions than bible studies.

* You could name the 4 Beatles quicker than the 4 Gospels... even if you weren’t on this planet yet when they were all still alive.

***I do not often write in this style, even if I am naturally drawn to this sort of listy meme thing on Facebook and Pinterest.  This list kind of fell out of me though...so I had to share***

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Facebook Killed the High School Reunion...

My 20th High School Reunion was a week or so ago...

I stayed home.  I stayed in my comfy clothes and played Words With Friends with a friend I’ve known since middle school.  I didn’t want to brave the age old tradition where I might be faced with basic questions like place of employment, marital status, or where I feel like my success and happiness is on a scale of 1 to 10.  

In the months leading up to the reunion I had some difficulty deciding whether to attend or not.  At the 10 year reunion it honestly didn’t even occur to me to think very deeply about whether I would attend the planned festivities.  I was a new mom and I was right where I had chosen to be in my life...
Career of my choice- check
Happily married- check
Blissfully mothering-check

...so I was excited and deliciously curious about reconnecting with friends from the past.  I was also still marching to the drum of conformity in my life, so I was not even aware of the conflict within my soul.  

Sure I dealt with the anxiety that one faces when attempting to squeeze my *just had a baby* body into a cute little black dress I had no business wearing postpartum.  I silenced the fear/jealousy/inadequacy/pettiness/just plain ol’ fashion meanness and I put on my masked smile and graceful countenance.  Then I dragged dh along on my descent into high school memory lala-land.  I regretted that *decision* immediately upon entrance to the hotel where our banquet was being held and that feeling stuck with me the whole night.  It was like a monkey on my back and I just couldn’t shake it.

The timing this time around isn’t nearly as neat a fit for me; that and everyone I know is on Facebook now, so I’ve pretty much had my curiosity satiated regarding what my fellow classmates are up to these days.  The reality of my life in this season is messy and lacks an airbrushed photoshop appeal.  Though my head knows I’m most certainly not alone in this reality, the 17 year old girl within my heart is still not convinced.  

My chosen life, well...
If by *career* you mean kid wrangler/referee/ taxi driver/no fun voice of reason- then check.
If by *happily married* you mean the honeymoon is a distant memory so now it’s a daily decision, not an experiential bliss in this season- then check.
If by *blissfully mothering* you mean bliss comes only while tuning out the noise of little people who refer to me as mom, just to crush some candy- then check.

I can fake it on Facebook, but I will not put myself through the misery of attempting to fake anything at that level of magnitude in real life.  I don’t even want to fake it anymore, because I am okay with reality.  Here’s the thing...when I am fully present with my own reality, I am really good with my chosen life, especially because of the messiness.  When I am not excessively anxious about what everyone else seems to be pretending to do, then I am deeply connected with the peace that my life is exactly where it needs to be.  I can’t condense this truth into cocktail banter with people I don’t know anymore except by their profile picture and airbrushed Facebook presence.  And so, I did not make myself climb into my 17 year old self suit and pretend it still fits my life.  

Hey, I’m mature enough to acknowledge that attending my high school reunion is a choice that I exercised by staying home, but not yet mature enough to show up to said reunion as my true self...thus the Words With Friends Marathon and subsequent blog post in which I’m publicly processing/ defending my decision on the internet.  You know...because that makes sense.  

I guess there is always another decade to develop such skills, but if there is any luck, something newfangled will pop up and kill Facebook for us...and I’ll be saved again.

One Can Only Hope.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Transcedance Movement Two- false vindication

despair- a human response to depravity

false vindication
inadequacy displayed once covered in shame
leads a heart down a road of disgrace
constantly feeling the need to look back
in order to escape the shadow of the past
must judge others must see the bad in all
objective observer to soothe the pain
step into another merely to rip them to shreds
a temptation wrapped in seduction
to use another to vindicate your pain

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A season for ...

I am fuzzy brained this week...lots of things to say and not a lot of good ways to say them.  Can someone please come over and de-frag my brain?

So instead of some poetic wording, today I bring you a snapshot of poetic living...

Monday, July 15, 2013

Transcendance Movement Two- line is busy

despair- a human response to depravity

line is busy

conversations one sided
love blocked with fear
line busy can’t reach you
occupied- tending to those who hurt me
in your name I figure.

godliness unattainable
I’m fine with that now
don’t want to reach you anymore
those who came in your name
terrified my wounded soul

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Random Saturday Snark

This one really peeves me....

I hate how hard it really is to resist the temptation to pull out my phone at a stoplight and send a quick text or surf Facebook "real quick".  Ten years ago I didn't have this need...why is it so hard to observe this common sense boundary now?!?

Something that I hate even more (though not really-ish)...

I have a 6 year old mothership phone monitor sitting behind me almost 90% of the time and he is on the job.  If I even move towards my phone while driving he is calling me out.  Who taught him how to talk and the virtue of right and wrong?!?  Oh right me...awesome...

I hate how hard it is to remember that human life matters so much more than that really important text message.  I am so quick to judge the driver right next to me for doing the *stupid* thing, sometimes without being aware that I have been that driver before.

Maybe the world just needs more 6 year old phone monitors to remind us about the simple stuff...

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Time Marches On

I am getting old.  It's true.  It has been sneaking up on me for years now, but this year feels very striking.  I have been a part of leadership for Vacation Bible School for over 20 years and in the early days I had almost as much energy as the kids.  I've done everything from crafts and bible study for teens to story time and director.  I have had the pleasure of doing this awesome program with four church communities, two in which I was on staff with.  My entire adult life has had VBS woven through it and there were only about 2-3 years in the middle where I did not participate because I had wee little ones to care for.  I have had the joy of watching kids grow up in the programs and that is awesome.  Now I have been able to pass the love for sharing God's love with my 3 kiddos... and they look forward to VBS every year.

This is year that I knew would come eventually...my bones ache after each morning and by Thursday I am exhausted.

So enough of the I, I, I statements.  God's plan through Vacation Bible School has me in a small casting part, but it just isn't about me.  It's about God and the freedom that is offered to us all to walk with a living God.  I used to be able to run on my own energy, but the seasons in my life are yet again changing and now maturity is attempting to take hold of my heart so I can focus even more on what matters most in life.  Love.  Freedom.  Mercy.  Surrender.

What we experience about God in our early years comes from how we are cared for in our families and in our church.  Programs like VBS make a huge imprint on a person's spiritual experience.  Some might be afraid that VBS is an indoctrination process and sadly, that is sometimes the case...but more often the case is that a bunch of adults who love God gather together to share the narrative of how deep the love of Christ is with the next generation.  Every staff I've been a part of has been that sort of community. That is something that I am grateful for, humbled by, and filled with joy every single year.

So as I deal with aching bones, my heart is filled when I see a 5 year old recite a verse from memory; because I know a day will come when that same sweet girl will face trials and with grace I know God will remind her of this verse.  I pause for a nap every afternoon and cope, because I know that the boys who danced through the rockin' worship each morning will someday remember that God is fun and being free and wild at the same time is okay in God's book.  I will prop myself up with caffeine and sugar in equal measure because at least one life is transformed every year by the gospel that Jesus came for us all, so that we can live...truly live.  One year not too many years back my oldest was one of the ones changed through this program...I've seen it with my own eyes, and when it was within my own family blessing were overflowing.

So my post today is rambling...in dear diary style because I needed to process a bit.  Life can be hard and we need to celebrate the places that aren't hard at all.  God is good.  God is faithful.  We are broken, but God has us covered...literally.  If you have little ones, find a fun program to plug them in.  If you are part of a faith community that does this sort of program, volunteer...to pray, to support financially, and especially give your time to this program.  It really does matter.  If you are a part of a faith community that doesn't have this sort of program...partner with another church or start something new...it will not disappoint.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Transcendance Movement Two- reign

despair- a human response to depravity


I don’t think I want to love you anymore
not the way that lets you into my soul
your actions long ago spared me from spiritual death
but some days I still question such divine intervention

the pain has never really ceased
just traveled itself down to my depths
I feel I cannot access it when I need it most
but then it bubbles up at the most vulnerable of times

I do not feel desire to worship you
not the way that makes me vulnerable to your spirit
I stop myself from feeling the innate part of me
that cannot deny the power of your love

the rage I feel seems in direct contradiction
to the faithful existences of the saints gone before
but the numbness I cause to mask the burning in my heart
feels even less to be the countenance of a true disciple

why do you trap me in the place where I must concede
admit my human eyes cannot see the way to wholeness
submit to the reality that you alone see the clear path
accept that you guide me only in each step along the way

but the rebellion in me wants to rage against your providence
for surely my dreams must be the brass ring
yet you take not into account the desires of my heart
or so it feels in the desert of your reign

Thursday, July 4, 2013


Happy Independence Day To You!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Trust But Verify

I had the wonderful pleasure of visiting the Reagan Library this past weekend, and no...the building did not fall down upon my entrance as a friend was afraid might happen.  Reagan is the president of my child heart and he can do no wrong in my book.  (Which is a good thing, since according to the Library proclamation...he was actually perfect in every way.)

I have been in both political parties throughout my voting years even as my political convictions have changed very little over the course of time.  I am that swing vote that pollsters love to target.  If I lived in Ohio... I would be a very popular selection for focus groups.  My viewpoints have changed little, but the political landscape has moved to the edges, so I no longer fit in the party I was affiliated with.  (I'll let you decide which one that was.)  I am socially progressive and I also like to keep as much of my earnings as possible, which makes me a misfit for either party these days.  I would register as independent, but I have a soft spot for the two party system.

I had a wonderful time at the library and learned so much.  I love this country more and more each and every day.  If you live in the SoCal area or are planning a visit some time, I highly recommend this experience.  If you can make it this summer even better, because there is a Lincoln exhibit right now and that was awesome too.  I might share some pictures from that exhibit next week.  Here is the museum from my eye:

A journal Ronald Reagan kept

I have a 6 year old boy who was very excited to see Spider Man on an egg.  You may ask why this is on display... 

After being criticized for her wardrobe habits and more specifically the cost of her wardrobe, the First Lady had this response:  She dressed up in this outfit and did a little act to a song called "Secondhand Clothes".  Love that!  
Once a star, always a star!

 This is one of my favorite White House nooks...though I've only ever seen it on screen.  I had no idea that it was Nancy Reagan who commissioned it.

Flying in Style

I remember this speech and I remember the day the wall came down. 
 Powerful words. 

The actual suit Ronald Reagan was wearing the day of the assassination attempt.  
I was clueless about just how serious his injuries were that day. 

 In light of recent events, this appointment has proven to be one for the history books.

I think I idolized Margaret Thatcher even more that Ronald Reagan..I think its a gender thing.

And one for dh...people have occasionally referred to him as Kilroy... 
I might be one of them.... 
The Berlin Wall Exhibit

Monday, July 1, 2013

Transcendance Movement Two- myth of "happiness"

despair- a human response to depravity

myth of "happiness"

figment of success and joy
hollow record of time
eyes look on- envy and long
rare beauty crystallized

unattainable perfection distorts
realism disgusts- retorts
health defined now crime
trapping ecstasy behind shame

beauty chased by dreams of perfection
leaves one drunk with desire
empty of depth
of joy of pain-

devoid of humanness
a damned shame