Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Church’ Category

perfect

I expected to either love or hate this book. I like good satire, but it is an art. It’s hard to land in that sweet spot between utterly unfunny and abrasively condescending. And when the book is billed as being reminiscent of The Onion, my skepticism kicks in. I’ll be the judge of that, book.

So I was surprised when my general response to The Babylon Bee’s How To Be a Perfect Christian was, “Heh. That was kinda funny.” I expected a more extreme reaction.

Throughout the book, the authors give updates on how you are doing on your journey to become the perfect (tongue-firmly-in-cheek) Christian. It was mildly humorous. I get that continuity is the bedrock of good storytelling, but unless you have somewhere new to go with a joke at every turn, it’s really only funny the first time.

There were a few snarky sucker punches that, in the context of their chapters, were well timed. Of course, I lol-ed at this one:

“The church cafe is like an inferior version of Starbucks, which is already an inferior version of real coffee shops.”

And how many of us who have attended a charismatic missions conference have not at least once thought something like this (if you have been to such a conference and swear this never crossed your mind, I direct you to Revelation 21:8):

“Is the backup singer speaking in tongues or is she just improvising absolute gibberish? That’s between her and Jesus.”

My favorite section was the part on deciphering Christianese:

  • “I’m just waiting on the Lord right now,” is code for “I am still living with my parents.”
  • “I really feel like this is God’s will for my life,” means “I’m sick of people pointing out the glaringly obvious flaws in my life plan, so I’ll just slap the handy ‘God’s will’ label on it to silence the wisdom of my critics.”
  • And my personal favorite – “We just invite your presence into this place now, Father God,” as a subtle message to the congregation: “None of you heathens were clapping during that last song. Get it together, people.”

Overall, this was an enjoyable read for someone whose experience in the Christian church has been mostly not terrible. If you know (and more importantly, have been hurt by) too many people who proselytize the works-based righteousness satirized within, I recommend passing this book by. It’s probably too soon for this to be funny to you now (or maybe ever). I also do not recommend it for those who equate praying with talking to an imaginary friend, because (spoiler alert) the wrap-up at the end might be too Christian-y for you.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from Blogging for Books.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Day 19 – Sabbath

photo (10)

Days when both locks stay locked are the best days.

Yesterday, I posted about small things every day you can do to incorporate some balance into your day; today we are going to go back to full days of rest. Earlier this week, I talked about whole rest days, but I focused on physical rest. I believe that psychological and spiritual rest are equally important.

Enter Sabbath.

The idea of Sabbath rest springs from the creation story where God took the proverbial six days to create the earth and all its critters and then took a day off. But Suzanne, you might be saying. I don’t really look to the Bible as an authority. Fair enough. That’s your choice to make. But there are a lot of texts I don’t consider authoritative from which I can still learn something that is practical and helpful to me, and I propose that this might be one of those situations for you, so hear me out.

I like how the story doesn’t say exactly what God did on the day of rest. Just…God rested. Certainly, it includes resting from work. I’d like to think there was an element of enjoyment as well. After all, boredom is not what comes to mind when I think “restful.” In reading around about this concept before writing this post, I discovered people certainly have detailed opinions on what it means to keep the Sabbath.

I tend to fall in the dissatisfying, vague camp of “whatever God (etc.) tells you it means.” That Sabbath would be different for different people makes sense to me. For example, as a pretty intense introvert, rest happens best when I don’t even walk out my door to get the mail. For an extrovert, however, this could be exhausting and hellish. I try to put aside 16-18 hours a week where I can be at home, taking a break from working and striving and checking things off my beloved to-do list and worrying that they aren’t getting checked off fast enough. There’s no set schedule or demands on any time or attention. I am free to do (or not do) anything that makes me happy.

That might sound like a large amount of time, but really, it’s just the waking hours of one day. If I don’t have a whole Saturday to myself, I find myself looking for hours to steal during weeknights. I definitely notice a difference when I don’t find the time. I become more irritable, less productive, and more stressed out. Not only am I more likely to miss meeting goals, I am more likely to not even try to meet them.

I take a Sabbath because I want to live, and getting stuck in survival mode isn’t living.

How do you recharge?

 

I’m spending 31 days running wild.

Read Full Post »

photo (4)

In the Firefly universe, the crew of the Serenity was always trying to avoid Reavers, the ones that had an adverse reaction to their environment and lost their damn minds, giving in to hate and every vile impulse that comes with it.

It’s hard to avoid them in this world, though. They have jobs and pay taxes. They’re raising children. They hold rallies at our universities and on our town squares.

Oh…is that harsh? My bad. Full disclosure – if you need me to be gentle about this, you are not going to like what I have to say here.

I have tried. I have been reading the news and scrolling through social media and racking my brain to find a gentle way to say this, but I have come up empty.

Gentleness is just not an appropriate response.

I would find it curious if an outspoken white supremacist enjoyed reading my blog. Maybe we have the same taste in food? But if you are reading this and are a person who attends white supremacist rallies or sympathizes with those who do, then this post is for you. You wanted attention, and for the next few paragraphs, you have mine. Congratulations, I guess.

I know in my head that you are as fully human as I am, but I have a difficulty seeing any trace of humanity in how you think and act. You may have an endearing characteristic, but I cannot see it through the stinking fog of your white supremacist beliefs. This is not a difference of opinion. I will not agree to disagree. White supremacy is evil and detrimental to the world.

I believe in a God who can redeem anyone, but I also believe that God waits for people to turn their hearts in repentance before doing so. I harbor immense cynicism that you have the willingness or maybe even the capacity to repent.

I agree with Nelson Mandela that no one is born hating whole chunks of humanity. I also know from personal experience that viewpoints that are revealed to be false and bad behavioral habits can be unlearned. In order to have those experiences, however, I have to be open to them, and I don’t see that openness in you.

But just in case I am wrong (and I hope that I am), I have a little advice on how to begin.

[One of my limitations in this conversation is that I don’t know how to fix this without Jesus. So if atheist friends or friends of other faiths want to give advice on where to start, please feel welcome to do so in the comments.]

Since it seems that most outspoken white supremacists, particularly in the southern regions of my country, profess the Christian faith, let’s start there.

That you are wrong about this is not up for discussion. You are wrong. Period. Get on your face before the God you serve and repent. Ask God to help you change. Beg God to help you change. Do not let go until God answers you. Do this every day until you no longer hate the people you hate today.

Next, I know you are really good at being angry. Anger is not wrong, but it needs to be pointed in the right direction. Get angry at white supremacy. Get angry at how it invaded your mind and heart and warped your soul. At some point, were you forced to choose between outwardly embracing white supremacy and being disowned by your family? Doesn’t that make you furious? Lean into that fury. Turn your hate toward this mindset that poisoned your life and every relationship you have. When change seems hopeless – and there will come a time when it does – that anger may be the only fuel that keeps any hope of redemption alive.

I and many others have a lot of ideas on where to go from there, but frankly, I would be surprised if you ever bother to get to this point.

So that’s what I have to say to you. Change. Start to do so immediately. You want to be a person who deserves to be heard? Become a person who says and does worthwhile things.

Read Full Post »

Creed

photo 3 (13)

I’m eager for Easter this year.

Usually, I’m better at Lent – better at reflection, better at the grieving that ends Holy Week – than I am at celebration. But I’ve had enough of heaviness this year.

Every week, we recite the Apostle’s Creed, and sometimes the words are hard to say. Not so much the part you’re probably thinking about – the creation, the virgin birth, the resurrection. As a born mystic raised Southern Baptist, I clung to these stories. Sometimes the irrational literality of their interpretation of these mysteries was the only thing that kept me tethered to my otherwise small and rigid faith.

So…

I believe in God, the Father almighty,

creator of heaven and earth.

 I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,

who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

born of the virgin Mary,

suffered under Pontius Pilate,

was crucified, died, and was buried;

he descended to the dead.

On the third day he rose again;

he ascended into heaven,

he is seated at the right hand of the Father,

and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I have no problem saying these words. I believe in the triune God who seems to delight in making rules about how the world works just to have the fun of breaking them. That’s a God who understands us.

It’s the second part that often gives me fits. It starts off fine…

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

But then…

the holy catholic church*,

This one is hard. I hardly believe in the church at all. That is difficult for me to write. I desperately want to believe that the church could be the church. Maybe I’m looking in the wrong places, but I don’t see the church feeding the poor or caring for the other in big enough, consistent enough ways to make an impact. I include myself in this. We tend to give out of our excess rather than out of our sacrifice. I wonder how the world would change if we switched that up.

the communion of saints,

 I often feel like an outsider in my faith. I have adapted to Lutheranism, but I still feel new after being in the church for years. But hearing the talk of some friends I used to go to church with feels absolutely foreign to me. I find it harder and harder to remember what it was like to be in that headspace.

But there is grace here, too. The Lutherans handle me. I’m usually offended by things like that. I’m not fragile (she exclaims in a feral manner)! I won’t break (she whimpers)! But honestly? I’m glad for their gentleness. I’m relieved. I’m still skittish – way more than I would have been able to admit eight years ago when everything fell apart. They meet me there.

And there is grace in the moments when I voice my feelings of otherness, and a friend, visibly relieved, exhales, “Oh…me, too. I thought it was just me.”

the forgiveness of sins,

We are much more apt to look for fault and boast of our deal-breakers. I’m certainly guilty of unforgiveness, and there are cases where I haven’t forgiven myself and don’t necessarily think I deserve it. There are instances where I long to be forgiven, but if I were in their shoes, would I want to forgive me? I’m not sure I would. And yet forgiveness is central – essential – to this faith.

This is not to say that one shouldn’t have deal-breakers. It is important to know what you will not abide in relationships with others.

Nor am I saying we should rush into forgiveness under the guise of holiness. It is unhealthy to project a false peace just so I don’t have to deal with my anger and hurt. It is also useless, because Jesus can see my soul and is not fooled by my cowardly emotional shenanigans.  I suspect that a lot of what I interpret as God’s silence is Jesus sitting beside me – calm, patient, somewhat amused – as I plug my ears and hum, trying to pretend I’m not exactly where I am.

the resurrection of the body,

 The week before Palm Sunday is usually my favorite in Lent. We get the stories of Lazarus and Ezekiel and the dry bones, and hearing them is like being thrown into the rapids of a river. Those are the stories that force me to choose between sink or swim. It’s invigorating. And terrifying. And incredibly wild.

and the life everlasting. Amen.

 This part gives me pause. Everyone told me that my 40s would be better than my 30s. In a few ways, they were right. But mostly, I just feel like I’m running out of time. Like…is this it? Is this abundant life? I mean, mine is a nice, little life. I have only a few major complaints. But is nice enough to make the thought of everlasting appealing at all? If not…then what? What exactly are we asking for here?

 

In true Holy Week fashion, I have more questions than answers. What keeps me saying these words week after week is that I’m becoming more okay with that.

 

Marvia Davidson is hosting a series on Holy Week reflections, and I’m linking up. Join us?

 

*little “c” catholic, meaning the universal church

Read Full Post »

Friday Five2

Title reference – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Well, I did it. I turned 42, which really does feel like an answer to something. Getting through this year has felt like an accomplishment. I wonder if this is how every year from now on will be – more aches, less patience with the world and its ridiculous ways, more unlearning and relearning. It’s not so bad, I guess.

Last year at this time, I was freaking out over my blood pressure being high for the first time ever. This year, I am happy to report that it is back to normal (but my heart rate still runs high…because anxiety…working on it) and that my food and activity choices have had a lot to do with that. I have a number of pounds lost, which will make my doctor happy, but I’m happier about other things.

Today’s list is made of stories with which my 42-year-old self identifies.

  1. Addie Zierman’s Of Lent and Emptiness – On fasting/not fasting and Whole30, which I still refuse to try but if I were to try it, posts like this would be what would change my mind. Also, I weirdly miss fasting for Lent.
  2. Shawn Smucker’s On Seeing a Neighbor Hit Their Child, What Maile Did Right, and What I Would Do Differently – I’m mentioned Green Dot training fleetingly, but it is not fleeting in my mind. Scenarios like this go through my head all the time with questions of what would I do, whom would I call, how would I respond.
  3. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls – Our church is starting the second annual collection of books for our Book Bag Project. We give three or four books to graduates of a local preschool to encourage their love of reading. More and more, I am convinced that writers (and artists and musicians and etc.) have incredible power to unlock story and innovation and progress, and I want to be a part of that.
  4. Cat principles. This is basically a to-do list. Also…I remain resolute in my coffee consumption (just…shhh…).
  5. Sometimes, Ray Palmer is my spirit animal. Also, I love Legends of Tomorrow. And Flash. And even Arrow. And especially Supergirl (i.e., Cat Grant)And will always rewatch Smallville and will always, ALWAYS be angry at Season 4. Fandom squee for life.

Hello, 42. Happy to meet you.

Read Full Post »

On Patience and Waiting

photo-15

First prayer of Advent – “Please don’t let this holy candle burn my house down.”

“For the greatest, most profound, tenderest things in the world, we must wait.”

 My immediate reaction to reading Bonhoeffer’s words on the second day’s devotional in God is in the Manger was “Ick,” followed closely by the hashtags #badatadvent and #waitingcanbiteme on Instagram.

 It’s going to be an interesting Advent this year.

 It’s not that I disagree. Almost every moment of my life’s experience corroborates the truth of that statement.

 But that doesn’t mean I always like it.

 I used to think that waiting takes a lot of patience, but that’s not really true. Everything I’ve ever had to wait for, everything I’m still waiting for, seems to take as long as it takes, whether I’m patient about it or not. My level of patience seems to have very little impact on the timeline of things coming to pass.

 The tidy Sunday School answer here is that, as long as waiting is going to take its dear, sweet time, I might as well be pleasant about it. If I can choose happy, after all, shouldn’t I? This is probably good advice for many things. Things like a budget that is less tight, a husband that is less imaginary – things I could live well (dare I even say happily?) without. Being impatient about such things never did me any favors anyway.

 But there are some justices so vital to a world that’s any kind of suitable place to live that they deserve some impatience. There are some prayers that I have to pray a little wild to keep from going a lot crazy. The best things – the true things – can’t be forced. But neither should they be awaited with a sugarcoated demeanor. It is improper to have a good attitude about injustice.

 Sometimes hope is a fire, and there are things worth getting downright feral over.

 I am not okay with praying every week, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” and not seeing it happen. I will not let go, dear God, until it does. You can’t say I’m not persistent.

 Fortunately, the God who listed patience as a fruit of the Spirit is the same God who gave us the “how long, Oh Lord?!” psalms as examples of how to pray. God is not afraid of the wild. In fact, sometimes I think God waits for it. To see if the church wants liberty and justice for all badly enough to get uncomfortable and say harsh things and get riled up about it. To see if we actually give a damn.

 I wonder what would happen if we did – if we called down heaven like we expected it to show up this very day and refused to wait for it. Or if we did the justice for which we cry out.

Would we have to be patient? Or would heaven come?

Read Full Post »

So…thanks

photo-14

My tree is up and slowly being decorated. I haven’t seen this weird little ornament that I made during childhood in years. Thankful, step 1.

Many of my friends are talking about how hard it is to be thankful this year with so much going on that is not good.

Part of me is sympathetic – pain does make thankfulness more challenging. Another part of me is whistling to the tune of “Welcome to my world…” This is how life feels all the time when one keeps up with the news – when one chooses not to shut out the brokenness of the world to protect oneself.

After a while, you get used to holding all of it. You get used to the both/and of opposing realities. It helps to have someone to talk to (a professional, that is). It helps to actually do the things that someone suggests. It helps if you are not as stubborn as I am.

At first, you might have to take thankfulness in steps. They don’t take a lot of time, so you don’t have to ignore the ongoing developments in the DAPL protests or Trump’s bad administration choices. You don’t have to sacrifice the time it takes make calls and meet needs.

You need ten minutes. Ten minutes to list what makes the world worth saving.

Your list will look different from everyone else’s list, and no one gets to tell you what should be on your list. In fact, just throw that word “should” out the window. You won’t be needing it here.

Your list does not have to be for public consumption. Only the highlights of mine are usually public. The apartment. The space. The relative peace and quiet of a neighborhood with an older-than-college-student demographic. Friends. Family. The specifics are personal.

My readers are on my list. I’m thankful for you. So…thanks.

Feel free to share any highlights from your list in the comments.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: