Thursday, November 29, 2007
Here's a taste from page 97 to challenge you:
"Conversion isn't, after all, a moment: It's a process, and it keeps happening, with cycles of acceptace and resistance, epiphany and doubt. As I struggled with bread and wine and belief over the following year at St Gregory's, it stayed hard. I began to understand why so many people chose to be 'born again' and follow strict rules that would tell them what to do, once and for all. It was tempting to rely on a formula--'accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior,' for example--that became itself a form of idolatry and kept you from experiencing God in your flesh, in the complicated flesh of others. It was tempting to proclain yourself 'saved' and go back to sleep.
The faith I was finding was jagged and more difficult. It wasn't about abstract theological debates: Does God exist? Are sin and salvation predestined? Or even about political/ideological ones: Is capital punishment a sin? Is there a scriptural foundation for accepting homosexuality?
It was about action. Taste and see, the Bible said, and I did. I was tasting a connection between communion and food--between my burgeoning religion and my real life. My first, questioning year at church ended with a question whose urgency would propel me into work I'd never imagined: Now that you've taken the bread, what are you going to do?"
These beautiful and honest thoughts speak to the heart of how I'm beginning to envision Chrisitanity. We are not just a group of people who gather in a building once a week, listening, singing, and talking to one another. We cannot just walk out of that building thinking that time is the end of our spiritual work. That and striving to meet rule requirements is an adventure in mission the point.
My desire is to know Scripture more, teach it well, but never forget the passion of the often stumbling adventure as I journey alongside of Christ. There is wonderment here and a whole lot of uncertainty. Maybe all the time I've spent maligning my swings in faith from complete trust to barely hanging on was pointless because it's all a learning experience. Maybe remembering it's not about perfection is the biggest lesson so that I can truly be humble.
Woah God. You're blowing my mind.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Last week's trip back the hometown was rough on a lot of levels. I really don't have family there anymore, so I stayed with my best friend from high school. She's going through a huge life transition, as she just discovered her pregnancy (about 6 months in), is dealing with this alongside a boyfriend who is pretty supportive, but having to navigate sharing their house with her boyfriend's brother. Let's just say he's more than a little tough to get along with. My vacation wasn't much of a break after all--I think my working/ministry/school/friend juggling is more peaceful than staying in that unsettled household for a week. I loved on and prayed for them all the while, but it was still a struggle. BUT, it made me so, so thankful for all that exists for me here in Boston: work that pays way more than I need, a true fellowship of believers in community, a living situation that is pleasant to come home to, etc, etc. Flying in last Friday night was so very sweet. Everytime I see the skyline again my heart gets so full. Sometimes being here is difficult, but I have a passionate love for this city. Boston to me is like New York to Carrie Bradshaw, but for reasons much broader and deeper than hers.
One of my gracious readers made note that I never directly blogged about what happened at Cafe Rossini a few weeks back, so here's the scoop:
Stacey stayed over Saturday night and we decided to head over to Rossini for some good coffee and muffins before we had community cleanup Sunday afternoon. I'd been in the place a couple times before since it's just on the other side of the yoga place, about a block from my apartment. Stacey brought her bible & journal while I had most of the Sunday Globe with me.
The owner at Rossini is a soup nazi-type who barks orders at her help. She's been in there every time I've stopped in. We've chatted briefly before, but nothing more than pleasantries and to complement her baked goods. She seems to enjoy talking to all her customers and sometimes butting in on interesting conversations.
That's exactly what happened when Stacey and I were there. We both didn't pay much attention to our reading, but talked about the chapter in Acts I was going to teach that night, along with other issues of life as a believer, including how to deal with the sexual sin of those around us. We were starting to wind up our time and began reading an article about the misspending scandal at Oral Roberts University. I mentioned it to Stacey and the cafe owner jumped right in. She talked about the tragedy of all these preachers getting caught doing so many wrong things, her own experience with ministers that live a double life, her admiration for Billy Graham (her mom took her to some Crusades when she was a kid that she said deeply impacted her), how her brother who claims to be a believer hasn't spoken to her in 20 years, how she used to study the Bible, how her longtime friend ended their friendship due to her acceptance of her friend's gay son. It went on and on. A fountain of years of hurt and frustration with the church, both Catholic and Protestant, spouted from this woman in the span of 10 minutes. I was pretty dumbfounded, as was Stacey. We just let her keep talking. The vulnerability of such a hard-headed stranger was bizarre to me. Unfortuately, we had to go, but were able to end the conversation on a good note.
I vowed to become more of a regular, but I haven't. I can blame schedule chaos and vacation, but something else is in play. Knowing her would be hard. She's not on her knees begging for Christ. She's angry. She's hurt. I represent the church that has betrayed her. I doubt myself--how can I possibly be the light that shows her the truth of the Gospel beyond all the muddying created by human hands? That's a huge responsibility. But I know that's what He's calling me to do.
Just writing this out has reminded me about those moments and granted me clarity about Christ's mission for my week in Buffalo--He was teaching me about loving those with His love that I find are hard to love. Wow. Talk about a shift in perspective.
Susan, thanks for reminding me to write about this. You are the accountability I didn't even know I needed.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
There was so much more I wanted to say to her, to ask her and to pray over her. My heart burned with compassion. But for some reason, it was left unsaid. In retrospect, I think God purposely caused me to leave things unsaid. Outreach, in its truest form, should leave many things undone in our hearts. It should leave us burning to give more, to say more, to pray more readily and more fervently. It should leave us desiring to be there every weekend or every day, not just once a month. It should leave us wanting to venture beyond the fences we have constructed and realizing that the only place for us is in the center of God's will.
I serve a God who breaks the rules every day, who invades our universe and pulls us close to Him, dancing on the wrong side of the fence. He's beckoning us to join in a wonderfully undignified, epic story, to add our culture and our stories to one another, and to join in the beautiful diversity of humanity.
All this simultaneously scares me and stirs me. I love it.
Monday, November 12, 2007
For lauding myself as an observer and chronicler of life, I've been doing a pretty poor job of it lately. I was in a meeting today talking about sharing our God-stories. It reminded me that that is what I created this blog to be--a place where I can come and narrate the beautiful tapestry that God is weaving of my life. But I forget. A lot. I get too busy. I don't see His hand moving.
These last 2 weeks have been ridiculously tremendous. I've seen God pour blessing upon blessing over me through multiple opportunities to serve and minister. I've known what it really feels like to work inside your gifting. I've had a little taste of this before in Poland, volunteering at Passion, and sometimes with work. But this has been like pure adrenaline injected in my veins. In the midst of feeling unsure of how to proceed in a situation, I literally feel the presence of the Spirit within me, filling me with power, wisdom, and peace. This is an experience without words to truly match it. Taste and see...
Highlights of the week:
-Getting SO much work done in so little time
-Helping families recognize progress in their children and finding joy in that
-Praying with my church family
-Giving a presentation to parents
-Having my plans spoiled a bit; missing an opportunity, but being able to recognize it was missed
-Rocking out and worshiping with The Myriad, Phil Wickham, and Crowder with LOTS of others
-Meeting Stacey's friend from Starbucks who was also, in fact, my cyber-friend
-Picking out new glasses!
-Progressive dinner: meeting new friends and having 30 people at our apartment--crazy!
-Seeing in living color a local business-owner's desperate need for the healing love of Christ and my part in sharing that love
-Cleaning up trash on a blustery day with some awesome friends
-Getting to meet a guy with special needs who asked me a billion questions but wouldn't tell me his name
-Teaching the truth of the Word to a family room full of people
-Making Jon laugh
-giving Rob a hug after everything
I could seriously go on and on. This was just last Monday to Sunday. I need to keep doing this.
God is just so immeasurably good. Praise His Name!