Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Transcendance Movement Three- The Real Question

question-the bridge from despair to hope

The Real Question

Is barrenness on the other side of being full;
or the natural outflow of life lived authentically in You?

Can the searching for certainty reveal Your truth;
or prove just how little I know for sure?

Will my faith produce happiness:
or a deeper understanding of  Your grace?

Is a life bearing You meant to be lived on the mountaintop;

or more fully intertwined with the valley too?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Imbalance- a follow up post


So after my post dealing with the conversation around church decline, I received a text message from a dear mentor friend of mine.  I trust this woman to be on my side as she has come alongside me with grace and wisdom for years now.  She was really curious about more specifics in regard to the sort of unkindness I was referencing.  I replied by saying I’m often afraid to give specifics, but she is right in the idea that I need to be more specific and my soul knew it immediately.  She encouraged me to go deeper and because of our relationship and the way she lives life being real as she goes along, I know to trust her encouragement.

Here’s the thing though.  I have a sad back story.  I don’t often share the specifics of my back story publicly.  I’ve been blessed to be able to work much of my trauma out in relationship and so because of that, I have reconciled relationships with people who created difficulty for me in my childhood. It is for this reason that I try to be sensitive and share mindfully.  I do have skin in the game though, so I’m all in when it comes to being a church that reaches out to those in pain.  As much as some of my pain came through negative experiences with people within the church, so has redemption.  For the times I have been hurt within the context of a community of faith, there have been five times more experiences of Jesus followers coming alongside me to point me towards the goodness of God.  The text conversation with my mentor friend that I just shared is one example of such truth.  I do believe I have some more specific things to say about the issue of church decline though, so here we go...

In my last post I referenced this idea that the church is way off balance in this age.  Let me be clear about a few of the reasons I believe we are off balance:

1.  The church and the American Christian culture are not the same thing.  If the church was able to make it through the dark ages, it will make it through this era too...of that we can hold faith in.  I am struck with annoyance in response to the histrionics around the state of the church because I believe we are confusing this fundamental detail.  That is the belly of what I was responding to in my last post.  The sky is not falling...change is happening, so I want to cut through all of the histrionics...it isn’t helpful.

It is the Christian culture that feels too much like the rest of our culture and not in the sort of fire and brimstone way where...

...we drink, we chew, we go with folk who do...so we need to repent and separate ourselves from culture...

No, the Christian culture feels too much like the rest of our culture because we, as a body of believers, lack maturity.  We lack maturity in my estimation because we gloss over and push to the edges, the suffering of the human condition.  That, or we glorify it and have a group think victim stance that paralyzes us into inaction.  The bible is really clear that maturity comes through perseverance in the midst of the suffering we face.  So when we let fear write our sermons, or lead our finance meetings, or influence our responses to death, addiction, mental illness, domestic injustice, sexual exploitation, or anything else painful or messy, we lack the sort of maturity necessary to be the hands and feet of the Prince of Peace.  We are ill equipped because we are resistant to letting God’s messy plan really play out.  We want the journey of life to be neat and to be nice.  God’s plan brings chaos into order; neatness is not usually the priority.  Which leads me to my second issue...

2.  I think we confuse niceness and kindness and that is the vehicle in which injustice plays out unchecked in community.  Good intentions go tragically wrong in the name of being nice.  When we silence victims we are compliant in the act.  When we shuffle struggling leadership to a “safer” venue to avoid messy without providing healing opportunities and accountability, we are compliant.  Or when we do the flip and we publicly shame and stone someone whose brokenness is exposed...without extending a hand of grace and healing opportunity, then that’s right, we become a part of the problem and not part of the reconciliation.  Health is rarely found at the edge of either extreme.  That’s were depravity resides and we all have way more depravity than we’d like to admit.  

There has been much talk in our secular culture about it being a rape culture, where the system enables sexual violence to be common place and I believe that reality is mirrored in the church right now only with the veil of needing to be nice and concerned with Christian unity.  So when tragedy strikes and a victim responds, we get silenced and discredited.  Too many female voices in the blogosphere have written about this.  I have lived it....

Unwanted sexual advances while trying to do ministry- check
Unwanted matchmaking by a leader- check
Verbal assault- check
Employment exploitation- check
Shame inducing pastoral *counseling*- check, check, check

I don’t share this list to point fingers...I share it to offer that these sort of experiences are real, and not just virtual folklore.  (and it's not just happening to women...)  I also share because I believe that through sharing we can do better as a community to correct the imbalances in our church.

We have a church that functioning inversely to the way Jesus designed it.  We are in an era where the first, come first, where impulse is unrestrained, and where denial is held up as ideal...because of the culture.  I believe the conversation of church decline is gaining momentum with church leaders because of the lack of acknowledgement about this issue and I so get that.  There is a mental health crisis among our clergy and regular folk alike in this time, so no one is really very healthy.  Good leaders are being exploited and expected to turn water into wine with their own time, money, and resources.  The people are asking this without really knowing it too, and so there is a huge imbalance in our midst and that is creating a vicious cycle.  We are missing the vital truth while we are so far off balance:

God calls a few to be leaders of the people, God calls the rest of us to accept their leadership, and then God maintains the responsibility of saving and sustaining us all.   The people don’t need the leaders to save them...even when they demand it.  The leaders don’t need people to follow blindly...even if they resort to bully tactics.  And God doesn’t need any of us to save the church or one another...he’s got that covered; instead he commands us to love each other well.  That is where the church is failing.

There won’t be strong and healthy leadership if the people don’t support those who are called to vocational ministry and there won’t be anyone to lead if leaders don’t control their frustration and stop defaulting to indirect communication while standing with a death grip on the bully pulpit.  We need to correct the imbalance and since the conversation sparked by my last post, I actually have a few more issues to explore.  I won’t launch into them here because this post is already twice as long as I’d like it to be, but at the end of this post I will list some future issues I’m exploring for upcoming blog posts.

Right now, fear and pain are at the center of dialogue with regard to church decline, but really we all need love and kindness to be at the center of our conversation so there can be some positive change and transformation.  Kindness does not require us to be untrue or sugar coat to maintain niceties.  Niceness will do us no good at this intersection...so it’s truly good news to know that we are not actually called to be nice.  We are called to love each other...may we find a way to come together to do love well.  If we are able to do that, it will reestablish trust in this age because we will be what we are called to be...salt and light.

What I plan to touch on soon-ish...

* If you ask a future pastor to have a seminary education, they're gonna have a ton of school debt.  If they have a ton of school debt, there will be a ton of stress.  If the salary out of seminary doesn’t offer a way out of the debt, then stress will become the church’s mess.-  AKA “A lay person with no idea about true statistics with regard to this issue, asks some simple questions about the ordination process.”

* Non clergy church employee compensation packages...or really the lack there of.  If we claim to be concerned with social justice, why do we exploit our own workers?

* Who is doing discipleship well...let’s celebrate the positive areas of growth in this age.

Past Posts of mine you might find fit in this conversation:

Monday, November 18, 2013

Transcendance Movement Three- lament of a saturday night

question-the bridge from despair to hope

lament of a saturday night

lying awake in my bed long past the sleeping dawn
dreading the wake, the plunge into Sabbath day
this isn’t how a faith full heart is to beat
in my depths I want to serve You with joy
but I hold myself back from pouring my will into yours

fear of losing something a part of me knows isn’t mine anyway

a sinful spirit plagues my innermost places
can You redeem my weary servants heart
oh how I long to taste Your sweetest grace
to embrace Your dream for my life
I have no idea what that is in my mind’s eye


yet a growing discontent beckons me to move deeper into You

Friday, November 15, 2013

Studio Work

Not the sort of creating I envisioned when I put our garage studio into motion,
but Minecraft has taken these kids' artistic expression to a whole new level!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Kind of sick of the sky is falling rhetoric surrounding church decline...

“Life is pain, Highness. 
Anyone who says differently is selling something.
The Princess Bride

I have been marinated in this sort of cynicism most of my life, it’s all around me in culture, in peer pressure, in the human condition.  So when I live out my faith on a daily basis, this is the mentality I’m up against inside my own head as I contemplate my attendance at church each week, or how I’m going to give, or in which ways I will serve.

You see there is truth in this quote.  A part of life is pain, but it is not the only part of the human experience.  For me to live a balanced life I need to be open to experiencing pain, joy, anger, hope, grief, jealousy, faith, despair, and love.  Yes, I need community, but I need that as much as, I need solitude.  Yes, I need communal worship, but I need that as much as, I need private meditation.  Yes, I need to be growing alongside other believers, but I need that as much as, I need my own identity that is separate from the group.

So let me say a few things that will probably counter the current thinking about church decline:

When I don’t show up on Sunday morning, I’m not struggling with consumerism spirituality.  I need a balanced community of faith.  I don’t expect the church to meet all of my needs on a transactional basis.  I want to be present and to give without abandon, but I do need kindness and sadly that is what the church is lacking during this transition into the digital age.  There is a lack of kindness all around us by way of social media and in real life so if the church feels too much like the rest of my life, I don’t always feel compelled to get out of bed on a Sunday morning.  It’s really that simple.


In this season of my living, I feel like I’m finding the balance that will work for me in regard to my worship attendance, my financial giving, and my offering of time and talent and it doesn’t follow the rules of *good christian*.  If I’m not showing up to church on a Sunday morning it’s partially my stuff and it’s partially the way church is living out the faith.  

When I don’t show up on a Sunday morning it’s not because I feel like church isn’t relevant anymore.  I need to be able to have trust for the institution in this age.  Some powerful injustices have been carried out by church leaders around the world for centuries and in this age, clergy members were allowed to victimize the youngest and most vulnerable amongst us.  And I don’t care to hear the defense that we are not the Catholic Church, because here is a truth I know in the depths of all I am...every denomination has these sorts of skeletons in the closet.   Until the church gets really serious about reconciliation in this age, decline will continue to be a reality.  The church has lost the trust of culture and for good reason.  I don’t know how to reconcile the level of inconsistency that goes on for me between what the church is telling me it’s about and what I am experiencing the church actually being about.  The church created the rupture of trust, it is on the church to bridge the gap.

Until we, as the body of believers understand that we are responsible to come alongside those in pain and offer more than some gimmick, we will be in decline.  Honestly, if we spent half of the energy being spent on articulating, bemoaning, theorizing, diagnosing, and criticizing about church decline and redirected it towards helping victims rebuild their lives, things would begin to turn around.  

I’m sick of the rhetoric and I’m inside the body of believers.   I can’t even imagine what someone on the outside looking in is thinking and feeling.  So let’s get more serious about turning things around, not just talk about why things need turning around.  The church cannot just gloss over the pain of the people, especially because in some cases, church leadership created the pain.

Instead we need to put all of our energy towards...


love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Galatians 5:22,23
... and that sort of living will take all of our energy.  It’s that simple.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Happy Veteran's Day

I got into this conversation a while back when the first news broke around the NSA and Edward Snowden.  The person I was talking with suggested that this contract worker that chose to leak national security documents was a national hero.  I disagree with this wholeheartedly.  I don't know Edward Snowden, but he lit a match and then fled the country.  I don't know what he is, but I will not believe he is a national hero, at least not at this juncture.

When our elected leaders voted the Patriot Act into law, we as the people had to know that we wouldn't want to know what measures were being employed to *protect us*.  The manner in which the whole issue of privacy came back into the national conversation seems to be all drama to me...and he provoked it, but not to be a part of a solution.  His motives still seem unclear to me all these months later.

A true national hero is someone who is willing to lay down his or her life to preserve freedom,  justice, and liberty for all.  This is what a national hero looks like:



or...



On this day I want to remember these men and all of the men and women of our armed services.  Thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart!


Transcendance Movement Three- unaVoidable

question-the bridge from despair to hope

unaVoidable

I felt that empty vacuous feeling again today
in between the daily tasks created to fill your void,
it stayed but for a moment 
just long enough to remind me- depravity.

My heart pushes against your hiding place.

How can I trust a sovereign god man 
who leaves me to cope with this life?
but for that damn void 

that brings me back to my knees each time.


Friday, November 8, 2013

Humor Abuse



I had the joy of seeing this play on the last day in LA last weekend and it was amazing.  Even more amazing was getting to meet dh's cousin Lorenzo and his father Larry for the first time.  I am so looking forward to this documentary.  Lorenzo's stage production was insightful, kind while exploring the truth of his life, and of course also hilarious!  He is a very talented human being and I am grateful to have met him, even if for just a few minutes.  Next time he is in LA or I'm in New York, I want to go to coffee with him.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Reflections

Boo wrote this essay for a contest at his school last week and I just want to share.  This child has the gift of writing.  Enjoy!



Ideas
 By Boo 10 years old

Many things happen in my bed every night.  The first is reading, whether it’s required or just for fun.  Books or magazines, for inspiration or for relaxation, I will always read.  The last thing, of course, is sleeping.  But, you may ask, what else happens?  The answer lies in my own brain. 

The first step is to think.  Thinking about what you know brings inspiration, which brings the idea into existence.  This is the part where you should start telling people about your idea.  If they like your idea, great!  If they don’t, well, you can’t please everyone.  Besides, in many cases, the joke’s on them!

The second step is to brainstorm.  These dreams build on the idea, until the idea is truly amazing.  If you want, you can even go on past amazing.  You can make it blow away any other ideas!

The third step is to have faith.  Believing in the idea is what truly makes it possible.  Try not to think about the technicalities, downsides, or issues with the idea.  Just believe it can happen.

Of course, this process can take place any time of day.  Also, it can happen for anyone, not just me.  What would a human be without ideas?  I can’t imagine!  So, use those ideas!  Make them work in whatever you do!  Believe that your dreams will come true, and live on to inspire all who know of them.  This is my message, and I truly mean it.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Transcendance Movement Three- Blindness

question-the bridge from despair to hope

blindness

losing faith, can’t see the good.
poured myself into the cause,
only to find more despair
is it me, is You...
or those who claim to know You

I feel like I’m missing something real.
eyes gone blind,
heart gone hard
was it me was it You...

or those who claimed to know You

Friday, November 1, 2013

Order Restored

balance of priorities includes me once more...