religion


(I have this thing about using my own photos on my blog, and I couldn’t find anything on topic, so here’s a picture of our little farm.)

I’ve loved the word kingdom, but I’m a realist. It will leave us, I know. It will go the way of words like emergent or evangelical. It will fall out of favour and will be replaced – recycled, upcycled, repurposed? – with something new and bright and catchy. I will miss it when it goes.

I’ve loved being part of the kingdom. I’ve loved talking about kingdom work and kingdom life and kingdom whatever. It’s been a good ride.

What will the new word be, I wonder. What word will some cool pastor with carefully-coiffed bedhead and untucked shirt and the newest old-looking jeans … what word will he launch from the pulpit and write a book about that will bring fresh new meaning to this idea of, you know, living with God?

I’m thinking the ending of the kingdom will coincide with the departure of other words, like missional and community. They’ve been good words, too. But the kingdom – that’s the one I will miss the most.

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There are words all over the place, all over the web, about church. Why I go to church. Why I don’t go to church. How church is failing. What is wrong with church. How church hurt me when I was a kid. Why I love Jesus but hate church. And it goes on. And on.

I go to church. (Yes, I know. The church is the people. So technically, you don’t go to church. But I know that you know what I mean.) Every Sunday I get up and do the church thing with my family. Sometimes the service touches me. Sometimes it doesn’t. But going to church isn’t the sum total of my christianity. It’s just a small piece of it.

A church takes maintenance. There are jobs. People have to clean the building and organize the services and teach the classes and wash the dishes after pot luck. Usually, the jobs are the not-so-fun part of doing church. Because if it was fun, someone would already be doing it without it needing to be labelled a “job” and requiring a sign-up list and all that.

I’ve gone to church all of my life, and I’ve usually had several church jobs on my plate. Over the last few years, though, I’ve given much of that up. I don’t feel the need to do church the same as I have in the past. I don’t feel obligated to volunteer for everything that comes along, or to be on every committee, or to say yes to every request.

Still busy, mind you. Still loving Jesus and doing Jesus and sharing my life and serving others. Just… different, you know?

One of the jobs I’ve had at the church I currently attend is Sunday School Organizer. For going on nine years, various other women and I have managed the Sunday School program. Deciding which kids will be in which classes, ordering material, and finding the teachers. Can I just say that this is not a fun job? This is not a job for which people are standing in line, waiting to volunteer. No one is shouting, pick me, pick me!

Over the past year, I have made some noise about wanting to pass this job on. I’d like it if someone else took over the job, but nobody has volunteered. And when I said to the powers that be that I’d really like to be done with this and that I’d help plan the program for the fall and then, you know, quit, I was asked to please keep doing it a while longer.

What’s a girl to do?

Here’s the conclusion I’ve come to. These jobs, these things that have been deemed necessary in order to keep the church running, have to be done. And so I will continue with this job for a while longer. I will think of this job the way I think of housework. Not my favourite thing, but it’s not going to kill me.

Sunday school is my church laundry. I’ll keep doing it for a while, joyfully even. Like the washing and folding of my loved ones’ clothing, I’ll order material and ask for teachers and pray over the children and thank those that serve in this ministry. But, just like I refuse to turn dirty inside-out socks back the right way before washing, or to go into the kids’ rooms and pick the dirty stuff up off the floor, I will have some church-laundry-limits. Well, one limitation, actually.

I’ll take my turn teaching a class, but I won’t fill in for all the times I can’t find a teacher.

This is my plan, anyway.

My eleven-year-old is holding a grudge. I know this because he told me so. Yesterday, while we were in the vehicle, he blurted it out.

“I have to confess something, Mom,” he said. “I’m holding a grudge.”

Then he told me who the grudge-recipient was, and I sighed. Because the truth of it is, the person he named is someone I struggle with, too. And in my son’s case, I know the why of it and I believe he was wronged. His heart was hurt in a way that is hard for an eleven-year-old to take. No water off a duck’s back, or shaking it off, or just letting it go this time.

We talked a bit about bitterness and how staying angry is really only hurting him. We talked about how he is always going to face these kinds of things in life and that this experience is good practice. And we talked about Jesus and forgiveness and how doing things Jesus’ way is always the best way.

“But it’s hard.”

Yep. It’s two rough boards nailed together in the shape of a cross hard. It’s blood and sweat and betrayal hard. It’s denying self and following hard.

I know about hard.

The truth is, my boy is still struggling with his hurt. He still feels a little grudge-y. But that’s okay.

Grace allows us the time to work these things through.

Sometimes the internet makes me sad, and I’m not talking about the sensational reporting of murder and mayhem, or the obsession with celebrity, or the mining of human depravity for juicy headlines, although these things make me plenty sad. What I’m finding especially disturbing, rather, is the name-calling, fault-finding, insult-hurling that goes on, particularly by those who call themselves christians. It’s enough to make me want to change my name.

I read a book the other day. It was a beautiful, gritty, heart-wrenching, end-of-life book written by Brennan Manning. You might know him as the ragamuffin. This book, which I think will be his last, is called All is Grace and it is written like a faithful catholic christian making his final confession. A confession of a life of struggle and pain in the midst of a man’s journey to and with God. A confession before God and but even more, a vulnerable public expression of a notorious sinner saved by grace.

I loved this book for its honesty and vulnerability. When I was finished reading it, I wanted to know more about the man who wrote it. So I googled him.

Sometimes the internet makes me sad.

I found Brennan Manning online. I watched a few YouTube videos of him speaking, and I loved him again for his passion and his stumbling, fallen/faithful walk. But then I found the critics. The ones who would disparage, discredit, discount.

What makes us want to be like this? To point out what we feel is a fault in someone else? What does one gain from the calling out and putting down of another? Why do we label and ostracize? Where is the grace in that?

I might not agree with all of Brennan Manning’s theology. The fact is, I probably don’t agree, not one hundred percent, with the theology of the person sitting next to me in the pew on Sunday morning. But theology, friend, does not make a faithful life.

Grace and peace to you today, wherever you are in your walk.

Why a prostitute’s home? I mean, out of all of the Jericho homes, why Rahab’s? And, if the spies sent by Joshua were supposed to be, you know, spies, then why did the whole city of Jericho, including the king, seem to know they were there?

I read the story to the boys this morning, around the breakfast table. And it is interesting to me that my children don’t ask these questions? Are they just so used to hearing the words, day after day, that they don’t question anymore the wonder and weirdness and mystery of them?

I read the story, and I pause at the end, and I point out the admonition by God – to be strong and courageous. And I point out how the others are characterized, as melting in fear at the prospect of being attacked by God’s people.

I point all of this out to the boys and they nod, and then they go to brush their teeth.

And I think, when did this stop being awesome? How do I make this real for my children? How do I make it real for myself?

Because it’s not just dusty words in an old book. Not to me. These are living words, powerful stories.

When did it just become curriculum?

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I know it is Tuesday and it is Dad’s turn to write for the My Dad and Me series on the blog. Dad is busy being a good guy! He’s helping my aunt fix her basement so she can get her house ready to sell. Hopefully he will be back next week with some awesome Dad wisdom.

There is a popular video zooming around the internet. When I grabbed it to show here, it was on its way to receiving almost twenty million views and had been “liked” almost 320,000 times. Something this guy is saying is getting our attention.

So, I was surprised when I googled Jeff Bethke, the author, to find he was a member of the huge Mars Hill megachurch, pastored by the controversial and conservative and often offensive, Mark Driscoll. And I was surprised, and a little ashamed, by my reaction to this finding. My impression of this young man changed. I judged his message differently.

I’m not sure what I expected. Did I think he would be anti-church? Or maybe part of a small house church that emphasized justice and green living? At the very least, I guess, I suppose I thought he would be one of the people who disliked the message of people like Mark Driscoll. But he seems to be a fan, promoting Mr. Driscoll’s newest book as the imspiration for another video he has made about love and sex.

Curious, isn’t it, that my initial impression of this young man and his message could be so easily tainted. Shame on me. Especially since I don’t know him or Mark, outside of the representations made of them by the media.

 Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original. Live creatively, friends.

Galations 5:24-6:1

What is it about the older generation that makes us a tad bit uncertain?

This weekend, I will be speaking at a Once Upon a Time seminar in Estevan. The ministry that I am a part of has been asked to come and share this women and story message with the Trinity Lutheran Church women, and some of their friends. I’m looking forward to it. I used to live in Estevan; my two oldest boys were born there. I have an aunt who is part of this fellowship, but other than her, I will know very few of the participants. I’m cool with that.

The thing that has me a little curious today, though, is the warning I’ve been hearing about the weekend. The it will likely be an older crowd caution. Yes, caution is a better word.

What is it about the older crowd that makes us cautious? Why are we suddenly questioning out wardrobe choices? Too casual? After all, it will be an older crowd. And our music choices? Too modern? Because it sounds like it will be an older crowd. And our group exercises? Will that older crowd be comfortable sharing their thoughts?

Personally, I love the older crowd. Some of my best friends are part of that crowd, and they are incredibly interesting people. Carol Barnard, I’m talking about you! And Joyce, and Audrey, and Ruby, and Vivian, and …

I’m looking forward to spending this time in Estevan with this fellowship of  women, older or younger or whatever. I’m thankful and humbled that they have asked us to come, and my friends and I will offer them the best seminar we can. We’ll try to be sensitive to the age thing. We’ll sing some of the precious older hymns, and we’ll be as honest and as caring and as loving as Jesus will help us to be. And we will present our message with respect, in an encouraging, fun, and challenging way. At least, that’s what I’m hoping and praying for.

Actually, I think it’s wonderful that women of a certain age are willing to sign up for and attend a seminar like this! Because there is no age limit on growth. And I’m almost positive that they will bless me much more than I will them.

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