Can I Get Back to You?

If you’ve known me for more than a few years, you may have noticed (you imaginary readers, you) that I didn’t write anything on my daughter’s birth/deathday this year.

Here’s what I was doing instead of writing: hanging out with friends, going to church.

For several months now, I have been in this angry-at-religion mode. Not angry at my Christian friends, not angry with God, but angry at all of the trappings, all of the methods and all the ways people use to talk about those methods. It had become reactionary to the extreme. If I thought through the things that set me off, I could identify that they were either really not a big deal, or I could see how I disagreed with them (also not such a big deal). In some cases, identifying something that set me off would cause me to realize I actually agree with that thing. Nevertheless, I was struggling furiously with all of it…

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The Outsider Inside

I may be in the minority here, but I see confusion as a useful tool.

Every group has its own slang. They have stories they retell, behavior they agree is The Thing. I was with some friends recently who are part of what I would call The Party Scene. I haven’t been a part of that scene for over 20 years, so there were several things they all did that were new to me. I found myself curious about the history behind things like everyone tapping their shot glass on the table/bar simultaneously before drinking those shots in unison.

Why do they do that?

It’s not that I need to fit in, but also I don’t want to offend people out of my ignorance. I’m both curious about the “why” behind all of the things people “just do,” and interested in who people are behind their behavior.

These “norms” can be found all over the world. When I’ve had extended visits to Germany, for example, I discovered that instead of drinking 7-UP when someone is sick (as people did when I was growing up in the USA), they drink Coca Cola. Also when sick, Germans don scarves. Now that I understand the reasons behind these rituals, they make sense to me and although I’ve never been one to drink soda, I do find myself sporting a scarf now when I feel under the weather.

If you’re a Christian you hopefully recognize these cultural idiosyncrasies also apply to you and your family or church….

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False Witnesses

I‘ve been writing a lot in my paper journal or on my computer in documents that I’ve begun labeling whatever emotion I feel when I open the blank page. Anger, doubt, anxiety, fear, hope, questions. One exultant document is titled Jesus Is Greater.

These are my Psalms.

One thing I love about the Bible is that it often expresses the emotions that I don’t think people like to see linked up with Christianity. Nevertheless, they are emotions we all feel. God is not afraid of them. I also don’t believe he’s waiting for us to quickly get over them. I think he welcomes our negative emotions as freely as our positive ones because what he wants most is relationship with us- however we feel…

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Theology Soup

I started going to church when I was a baby. Which sounds funny because clearly I didn’t think to myself at a few months old, “huh, I wanna check out these Jesus followers.” My mom became a Christian just before I was born and started going to a Southern Baptist church. Before you get a picture in your head of holy rollers, this church was planted in Northwest Washington where even self-titled Charismatics are probably not going to get too demonstrative. (This is a stereotype which several of my friends from home break, I’ll grant you.)

We didn’t holy roll. When it was time to worship, we just followed orders. Hymns, praise choruses, stand, stand, sit. No one said, “Amen,” no one raised their hands.

When I became a Christian for real at age 16, I wanted to be at church every moment. Still Southern Baptist. I devoured my Bible and tattooed it with question marks which I would frequently harass my pastor with through email. I did all the 12 week Bible studies you can think of, Experiencing God, The Mind of Christ, A Heart Like His.

Then, because I felt this call to be a missionary, I found myself at Moody Bible Institute. I was like a toddler on the loose, making friends, staying up late, listening to guys debate theology and kind of in awe of their adult sounding opinions…

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Rise

I had dinner this evening with friends to talk about the work they are doing to mobilize people toward missions.

Two definitions of the word mobilize are:
1. (of a country or its government) prepare and organize (troops) for active service, and
2.
make (something) movable or capable of movement.
Those two definitions together could well describe their hearts for the body of Christ.

While we talked I was reminded of what “mobilized” me, so many years ago to get involved with missions. It started with a message from a guest speaker one Sunday in church. He talked about The Cost Of Discipleship. He related our current lives to the lives of the disciples who walked with Jesus- what they gave up, what they gave their lives for and to… I was hit square in the chest with the desire to give my whole life, my whole self to God.

A week or so later I went to a concert held in Seattle and put on by an organization called Operation Mobilization. When the wiry and passionate George Verwer got up to speak about missions, it was like he was opening the door to the thing I had already begun to long after:

A radical life lived with and for a radical God….

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For What It’s Worth

Where does our value come from? I have seen a couple of posts on facebook today that posit that we have value if we value others.

For myself, I have often felt as though my only worth came from what I did for other people or how much I could “produce.” This has been made more pronounced by the fact that I grew up in a pretty works-oriented church and have always had close friends who were REALLY organized and productive. My mom is the first born of 7 and loves to clean and raise her hand when responsibilities are needing filled at church. Most of my best friends over the years have been efficient, get-er-done kind of women. Since I do not operate that way (I’m very relational but not very productive) I have always felt something lacking within myself….

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Rattling the Rafters

This last week in class the speaker (Dan Shannon) spent a few hours teaching us (a bit of) what he knows about “simple church planting.” He worked for a few years with a man named Floyd McClung in South Africa with an organization called All Nations. Considering that I have only heard the most basic teaching about this stuff, I feel intimidated to retell it on the world wide web, but I want to at least process a bit of these running thoughts in my head….

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In the Garden Alone

Last Sunday I heard a message about Jesus and his ability to identify with my brokenness.
Since I have been experiencing a lot of stress the last few weeks- with challenging assignments due, life decisions to make and a lot of important but forgettable details to hang on to, I was really struck by one particular way that he can identify….

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Woman! WHOA man.

Finishing off time with family right now- we’re flying down I90 in the RV. Sarah and Jill sit up front listening to music a few years newer than what we heard on the way to Idaho. Right now it’s the soundtrack to So I Married An Axe Murderer. Where do bands get names like “Toad the Wet Sprocket”?

Everyone is pretty “done”.

I feel done but I’m trying to mentally prepare myself for the 10 days I have left in Washington. I already feel like I’ve set out in a boat by myself and am heading out to sea… excited for the adventure, longing to share it, missing home.

Here is what I will attempt to accomplish in the next 10 days:

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Consider the Lily

Yesterday I spoke at church. It was just a few minutes in each service, but I was still pretty nervous before hand. I did okay in the first service, really good in the second service and then by the third service I seemed to lose my focus and just kind of stumbled through the information. Sorry, third service people. Thanks, Pastor Pat for laughing at the joke I flubbed.
Today I feel good to be on the other side of something that I was nervous about. You know?

So not only is today Monday, but it is also the first day of August. My Last Month Before Leaving Washington. Also my last month before arriving in Colorado Springs. I can see it from both sides….

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