So You Want Your Church to Be Multi-Ethnic?

Three months ago, Matt Chandler’s Village Church (Tx) put out a video about racial reconciliation. Perhaps because I don’t follow Chandler, I didn’t see the video until today. And after watching, I felt a bit sick.

On the forefront, I want to say that I honestly believe that the Village is waking up to the horrendous sin in their own hearts. They really do want racial reconciliation. And for that, I’m grateful. But this video clearly displays their implicit ignorance and racism, rather than revealing a change of heart and change of vision, and for that, my heart breaks.

Rather than hash through all their mistakes, though, I want to lead you in a different direction. I want to ask you a question. Do you want your church to be multi-ethnic? If the answer is yes, then I beg you to keep reading and sincerely listen to just a few things that God has broken me about in a lifetime of trying to be a part of what He’s doing in reconciling us together in a church setting.

1) Racial reconciliation is not about banning a “white sound” or a “black sound.” And it’s FOR SURE not about blending the two together to have something “we all can enjoy.” Racial reconciliation happens before a note is played or a key is struck. It happens before we can actually speak to each other. It starts in our own homes, in our own bedrooms, in our own hearts. It starts with asking ourselves the dangerous questions. Questions like: Is there any racism in me at all? And don’t wimp out by blaming your environment for some lingering illusions. Be honest about what you agree with and what you disagree with, and why. And then ask yourself what it would take for you to admit you’re wrong. Because you are wrong.

2) Racial reconciliation isn’t about a quota. It’s not about magically hitting that number of more than 20% “other” in our church sanctuary so that we can declare on some Web site somewhere that we are “multi-ethnic.” It’s about understanding that brothers have been locked in war with other brothers for decades, and you’re not going to change it in a 5 step-plan. You’re not even going to change it with 5 intentional relationships. You’re going to change it when you realize that despite all our progress, you’re probably still just a trail blazer. So if you’re willing to strap on your boots and be disillusioned at just how big this fight is, join the rest of us.

3) You cannot, I repeat, CANNOT, advocate for racial reconciliation while still maintaining how awesome your ministry is and how well you have reached out to other ethnic groups. What you can do is admit that you want to love, and you don’t know how to do it exactly. But that you’re going to try. Any successes you get are not to feel like victories. They are to be somber reminders that there is so much more reconciling that can be done. There’s not time for celebration. There’s time to keep living it out. That’s it.

4) Don’t you DARE try to use doctrine to convince others that they should want racial reconciliation. You can make the mind believe it, but the heart never will. When you’re talking about reconciliation, you’re talking about surrender. You’re talking about both sides (or multiple sides) leaving their claims behind to meet at another destination. To try to use doctrine to be the ultimate summation of the goal of racial reconciliation is to be woefully ignorant of how that language created the problem to begin with. Racial segregation always begins with intellectual idolatry: We think about this better than you. And to use doctrine, especially if your a mostly white congregation, is to come into the meeting with your weapon still loaded.

Instead, ask the character questions of your own tribe. Ask your congregations if they can say the Holy Spirit is totally unhindered in love, joy, and self control when they encounter different tribes and nations of people. And when they bow their heads, knowing that the answer is no, invite apologies to be given. Not excuses. Apologies.

5) And the last and hardest piece of advice I have to give is this: Don’t try to make everybody look good or holy or like they’re trying to “make the peace.” There is nothing good or holy in the way that we ignored, shut down, condemned, criticized, and separated from one another. The way back is a path of walking through the muck. We’re all going to look messy as we go through it. So don’t publicize it. Don’t be proud of it. Don’t hold it up as a template for others to follow. Be grateful that God is allowing you to be a part of a miracle and that He’s offering grace upon grace to you. Let Him do the work. Let Him change you. Let Him grow something in your church without you needed to put your own “touch” on it. And stand in awe and reverence. You’re on Holy Ground.

 

 

Pam

A Call To Benediction: A Call To Accept Benediction

There’s only 40 days in Lent. Forty days to deeply meditate about who exactly Jesus was declaring Himself to be and what He really came to do in this world. And just forty days to grapple with the reality of humanity and how barbarian we can be. This last idea is the one that seizes my heart continuously. Maybe that’s why the concept of benediction has been weighing on me so heavily lately.  Let me explain.

By definition, a benediction is a short prayer asking for divine blessing, grace, or intervention at the end of a church service. But I’m not talking about that kind of benediction. I’m thinking about the concept of Benediction. The idea that after we have wrestled with the pain and suffering; after we have submitted to  the accusations about how wretched we really are; after we have accepted death and tasted its bitter end; that there would be a new life to resurrect to. Because benediction doesn’t dismiss our sin, but blesses us in spite of it, offering us something completely new. Let me give you a visual of this, borrowing from the Roman Catholics.

All throughout the year, and especially during lent, Catholics have a special time of submitting to Jesus. During what’s known as “adoration,” Catholics expose the Eucharist  — the wafer that has been consecrated to God to be the physical representation of the Body of Christ — so that their congregation can come into a sacred space. In this space, the congregants sit in, what they believe to be, the presence of Jesus (picture below). For those who have participated in this sacrament, you know it’s power. The silence and space to sit and repent — quite literally to lament over one’s sins — is soul melting. Despite the value of this rite, Catholics regard the Eucharist so highly that they don’t leave the Host out like this all the time, though. After a time, during what is known as Benediction, the priest must remove the host and place it into a tabernacle until the mass can be said with an entire congregation, and they can partake of the bread together.

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During adoration and benediction, Catholics participate in communal prayers, songs, litanies, and other forms of worship. But during the later half (just the Benediction) these prayers aren’t said with gusto or excitement anymore. They are said with the sorrow you would have in saying goodbye to a dear family member on their death-bed. They are said with a bending of the knee and a pleading to stay. The words are said like that because even though the song is one of God’s triumph, faithful Catholics know that the Eucharist is about to be taken from them.

     THAT concept of Benediction — the idea that God needs to impart some sort of blessing even when it feels like He’s walking AWAY from us and not towards us — feels real. That feels ~lenten~. That feels like now.  We need God to bless us — to impart peace and grace to us –when it feels like we’re being separated. When it feels like our enemy has slayed our God and is about to slay us as well. We need God to bless us when it feels like our sin is insurmountable.

    We need God to bless our church as we fail so miserably at being the bride we are supposed to be. When we are so far from who and what we are supposed to stand for.

     We need Benediction as a People. We need to get on our knees and wrestle with our sin. And then wrestle as we worship, knowing that God may distance Himself from us, if only to give us a longing to be ruled and loved by Him again.  Because when death and sorrow and sin have conquered us and yet lay await to slay us again, benediction offers the hope of sovereignty. Of beauty. Of life again. In short, Benediction is part of the path to resurrection

May we pray for God to bless us as we fall so short. May we pray that when we get up, that we are different people. And may we pray that there is a day and a time that we are no longer wretched, but redeemed and resurrected.

 

 

 

 

On Being Gluten Free, God, and Community

It’s all the rage now — gluten free, grain free, dairy free, SUGAR free living. But it hasn’t always been the rage. In fact, eight years ago, a simple blood test revealed that our son was allergic to peanuts, and that was about the most castrophic news that anyone near us had ever heard. Just trying to keep the peanuts out of his diet was a stressful task for family, friends, and teachers.

At first, I was embarrassed by my son’s allergy. I would make separate treats and carry them discreetly in my purse. Bu then, a funny thing happened in our church. There was an explosion of food allergies! And while it may not have been convenient — or cool — to have allergies, we parents started bonding over our kids’ peanut-, dairy-, soy-, and wheat-free lifestyles.

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At first, we got excited and shared recipes and great brands. But then things got a little more serious. We started deeply caring about one another’s kids. We started looking out for each other’s families.

“No, Ben can’t have a cupcake, but he can have the twizzler stick….”

 

We over stepped the boundaries. You know, those nice clear lines that say “Do Not Cross (because I have it covered).” We realized that as much as we watched our kids like hawks, kids will be kids, and we needed more eyes watching them. We knew we weren’t going to catch everything. And we also needed friends that would be willing to speak up and protect our kids, sometimes from themselves. We had to let people in because it was serious and it mattered.

It felt really good to have someone else care, especially about the most precious lil’ things in the world to us. But then, unexpectedly, things went even deeper. Because we cared sometimes, we now cared all the time. In fact, as I write this, six years later(!), I still feel the worry weight of a friend who lives nearly eight hundred miles away. I still worry with her about her son’s allergies. There’s some that would say that’s enmeshed behavior. I call it loving my friend and being willing to bear her burdens with her. But, for sure, that’s a whole ‘nother level of caring right there. That’s like … what … family does. 

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Getting to this final step seems to be really hard for us in western societies. We follow the same pattern over and over. We hide. We share superficially. We bond almost as an accident. And then we have this hesitation built around these questions: Should I really care? Will you let me care? Will you let me love you? Will you care back? We have to consciously tune down our fear filters to experience this explosion of blessing.

But what if community is more than being able to be strong next to someone else who’s strong? What if the only good community really already starts with the assumption that we’ve been hit. If we haven’t been hit by the big ones — disease, financial burdens, divorce, or addiction — then we’ve certainly been hit with disappointment, loneliness, boredom, frustration, anger, and cynicism.

What if, in the middle of admitting that you are in the center of that ‘hit,” you HAD to let someone love you? What if you had to let someone provide your gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free dinner because you would be sent into shock from eating just anything on the plate. Could you do it? Could you let someone love you by caring for your body? Could you do it, trusting that they WOULD care for your body? Could you do it without feeling guilty or fearful or controlling about it?

And could you do it with God? Could you do it with the things He provides you?

Sometimes the restrictions in our lives open doors to friendship and support and love like we’ve never received before. Sometimes, gluten-free can just mean wall-free. I can’t keep my wall up around you anymore.

 

Lonliness, Community, and Religious Celebrations

Being born and raised in Chicago, I’m used to cold winters. Really cold winters. I’m used to freeze-your-face-off winds and you-better-wear five-layers days. What I don’t think I’ll ever get used to is the loneliness that I see happens in my life and others’ lives during the brutal winter months. That bitter cold forces us to withdraw into our homes with occasional one-on-one conversations in drafty coffeehouses. It causes a lapse in community, and ultimately a feeling of being unloved and uncared for.

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While generations before us would hope that their friends would still be alive after those long, hard winters, I often find myself wondering if my friends will emotionally make it through the harsh weather and what toll it will take on them.  What bad choices will they make in an attempt to be loved? What lies will they succumb to because no one is by their side to check that lie with the truth? How often will they think that they are alone?

This is the reason I get really excited for early spring celebrations like St. Patrick’s Day and Lenten celebrations. It’s the reason I rejoice in days like Purim and Cinco de Mayo. I may not celebrate all of these holidays. And I may not even celebrate these holidays the way others do (typically, with large quantities of alcohol). But I see this deep desire in people just to connect again — particularly as a community. Because, let’s admit it, parade floats really aren’t that interesting. But laughing and hugging each other without feeling socially awkward is pretty amazing. And feeling like we’re not isolated from society — that we have a place of belonging in the larger scheme of things — is pretty hopeful.

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But what about church? Isn’t that what church is supposed to be?

It is. But I’ve found that despite most churches’ best efforts, we are failing as a body at this. Rachel Held Evans had a incredibly insightful tweet about two weeks ago. She said:

          For all the people who come home from church feeling lonelier than when they left, please know you are not alone today. (March 9, 2014 – 3:33pm)

There are some bodies where this is not true — Where people leave church feeling like everybody goes WITH them as they go out to be salt and light in the world. But, for the large part, I think many people leave Sunday morning service feeling the way Rachel described. They longed to be a part of something, and they’re not quite sure they are. They may know they have friends. They may even know they are loved. But they may not feel invited into something greater. And it causes a deep hurt in the deepest realm of the soul. Over time, it erodes them until they just give up on the body. They leave church every week feeling more drained than they came in until they can’t even convince themselves to come anymore.

Which brings me back to lenten celebrations. Where I grew up, lent was a holy thing. And by that, I don’t just mean quiet. It was a community movement trying to grapple with beauty and love in the midst of suffering and lament. But we did so in the form of gatherings and celebrations. Sometimes they were silly and sometimes they were fun, but they were always profound. It was joy. Joy in the midst of sorrow. Because we were together. We were going to get over the cold and the financial hardship and the hardness that is this life and ultimately, even death, together. And we were going to do it believing God was with us. But we never SAID that. We just did it.

I long for a tribe like this again. I’m very blessed to have some friends and family who have this same longing. But I really LONG for church like this again. And I wonder how we got away from it. What could have been so valuable, or so distracting, that we would have exchanged this glimpse of heaven for the hell of loneliness?

I wish I could end this blog post with an idea to fix it. But I don’t think I can. Because I think the only way this gets fixed is that a couple of people long for it enough that they get together and DO it. And then invite others into it. Not as an evangelistic tool. But just in the context of their own friendships. If you miss it like me, pray that I find it. I’ll be praying for you to find it, too.

The 3 Types of Women You’ll Meet in Women’s Ministry

Joe Pesci has a great line in the 1990′s cult classic With Honors. He said, “If a woman is willing to give you her love, .. it’s the greatest gift in the world.” Now, he may have been advising a collegiate young man towards a romantic relationship, but I love that quote in a broader context. Women have so much life and love to give, and it really is a gift to work with, and for women, because of their sharing of themselves is the greatest gift in the world.

The most difficult thing about working with women though, is that they often have trouble working WITH other women. Especially if those other women are not “like” them. I’ve seen some of the greatest potential for fruit fall flat because women started fighting, criticising, and undermining each other. This is been such a frustration to me that I’ve spent a lot of hours just asking God, “why?” And “how do we end this?”

And as always, the answer has been to start by understanding each other.

Although there has been a lot of clarity over the years, one of the most instructive lessons I received came while I was watching “Sleeping Beauty” with my daughters. My favorite scene from childhood appeared. The scene where the three good fairies are preparing a birthday dinner for Aurora. And as I watched the three ladies interact, eureka struck. And so I will share the brilliant metaphor Jesus laid on my heart: the three types of women — blue fairies, pink fairies, and green fairies. (And yes, I swear, this is biblical. I’ll try to prove it. And yes, I realize literature and film often explores these three prototypes. Can anyone say “Downtown Abbey?”)

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The Pink Fairies

The CONS: Flora, the pink fairy, has it all together. She has a voice, a brain, and resources, and she’s going to use them for the good of people. She sees things in black and white and considers her views superior to others because technically, she is. She is the leader. She really believes that she could save the world if everybody just listened to her and did exactly what she tells them to do. But she’s completely oblivious to the fact that she’s alienating people with her behavior. To work with a Pink Fairy is frustrating. If they are a leader, you won’t feel like your voice is heard. If they work under you, you might feel like they are trying to take control from you. In friendship, you never know where you stand with a pink fairy because they won’t be honest about their struggles. They won’t let you know they need you. She often has wealth, beauty, and leverage, and has often not had deep pain in her life. Biblical examples of pink fairies are Rachel, Merriam, Peninnah (Hannah’s sister wife), Mary (of Mary and Martha), Michal (1st wife of King David),and of course, the Proverbs 31 woman.

The PROS: Pink fairies are stable and they tend to create stable families. They know how to have fun and create beautiful homes and communities. When you do listen to their advice, things really do turn out well. They also don’t give up their femininity easily, and won’t let you either. To have a Pink Fairy on the team means that your organization will succeed. Pink fairies also know how to stay calm under pressure. Every time. (Think Mary Poppins and Queen Elizabeth)

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The Green Fairies

CONS: Fauna, the green fairy, represents some of my favorite people in the world, and I’m sure you, too, because everybody loves a green fairy. They are the peacemakers. They are the quiet women who go with the flow. They are sweet. But that’s just the problem, green fairies are usually oblivious, absentminded, and incredibly hard to motivate. They don’t want to say or do anything that would make anybody upset, and usually tremble in fear in the face of a foe. Biblical examples of green fairies are Queen Esther, Dinah, Ruth, and Leah.

PROS: Green fairies call out the best in you. They’re the easiest people to talk to, and often, to love. And when you do get green fairies motivated, they are supremely powerful. All of their introversion means that they have a really great perspective on how people feel about things. They are extraordinarily compassionate, and green fairies often facilitate some of the deepest inner healing.

 

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The Blue Fairies

CONS: Merryweather, the blue fairy, is feisty and strong. Maybe a bit too strong. And that’s often how blue fairies are perceived. Because they have seen great evil, they often are obsessed with being the strongest in the room. Blue Fairies see the writing on the wall, but then they either make war or give up. They lack wisdom. Their impulsiveness can create division. It can also get a lot of people hurt. And because some of their risky moves are life saving events, they often don’t learn easily. Biblical examples of blue fairies are Sarah, Rahab, Bathsheba, Deborah, Hannah, and Naomi.

PROS: A blue fairy is fiercely loyal and protective. They won’t let anyone hurt you — including you. They make excellent accountability partners because they won’t judge you for your actions (they probably already know anyway), and they won’t let you make the same mistake again either. They’re bright. They’re quick. Their insightful and have ingenuity. And they don’t lie. And if you meet a mature blue fairy, one who has learned how to have self-control, you have a mighty woman on your hands. This is the woman you want standing behind you as you face a storm. This is the woman you want praying for you. She will simply NOT backdown. She makes a great coach, mentor, and sister.

 

SO WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH THE CHURCH?

I don’t know anything that can divide a church as quickly as women who don’t like each other. Because we are the relational glue of our communities, we have the power to make or break a church. If one of us isn’t being served, or worse, is being threatened, we all are threatened. If you are a pink fairy who has been assigned to lead the women in your church, think about how the blue fairies feel when you shut them down. You are not just pulling a power card. You are creating division. If you are a green fairy, realize that you might want to take your whole family to that nice, quiet, introvert church on fifth street because you don’t like confrontation. But you may be robbing the church you’re supposed to be at of your voice. And they might just need it to be compassionate. And my dear, fellow blue fairies. The next time who are distrustful of your leadership team, realize it may just be because you really are rebellious. You do have a voice, and it should be heard. But you need to seek wisdom about how and when and why. As much as it kills you, you’ll probably learn it from the pink fairies.

We can’t live without each other. As need the perkiness and perfection of a pink fairy to remind us of the beauty that feeds our souls. And we need the green fairies to teach us how to hear each other. And we need the prophetic voice of the blue fairies who remind us that we are in the midst of war, and we need to guard our hearts. The more we understand each other, the more we can appreciate the differences between us. It might not be our way, but we need to learn from each other. We need to love each other.

 

Why We Need Christmas

I saw the coolest Christmas surprise today. It was shared on unlooker. In the video (below), Westjet airlines sets up a live web cam between passengers waiting for a flight and Santa Claus.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIEIvi2MuEk

Santa asks each one’ of them what they want for Christmas. And while those passengers are in the air, the Westjet team scrambles to buy, wrap, and send the presents to their arrival destination. It really is a fun, lovable, heart warming snippet of generosity. And it made me ask the question: What is it about Christmas that we love so much?

I think we love the idea of getting past our ideas on what is “reasonable.” As liberated as you would like to think you are, the western world is really a pretty harsh place to live. There are rules of behavior, and some of those rules are to live wisely. I have nothing against wisdom, but I do wonder what the toll of always trying to control and discern is to our souls.

Wisdom tells us not to trust. Wisdom tells us to set aside for our own futures and don’t be too generous. Wisdom tells us not to share. And wisdom tells us that it’s not reasonable to get too into faith, fun, relationships, or opening our arms wide to receive others.

But Christmas puts us in this place where we have permission to think past what’s wise or reasonable. In order to participate in Christmas, you have to be wiling to embrace the absurd. Flying reindeer, a jolly old man, and elves are only part of it.Christmas allows us the opportunity, if only for a moment, to say that we don’t know it all, and we’re willing to table the discussion of whether it’s all reasonable or not to just be together. To share. To laugh. To dream. To say what we really need and not be embarrassed. It allows us to be fully human — broken and longing, and yet willing to bring what we have to the table.

To me, that’s the magic of Christmas. And I love that my God is associated with THAT. With the magic and wonder of this human, frail life that reasonably amounts to little more than carbon atoms, and yet has a power and transcendence that’s not it’s own. God with us. God with us, indeed.

 

The New Form of Christian Counseling and Small Groups

You may not know it yet, but there’s a new form of Christian counseling and way of doing small groups. It’s advocated for by a bunch of really important people in the church, and it goes a little something like this….

1) We should all be dedicated, open, honest, and authentic with each other. We should have each others’ trust. (true)

2) Since we have each other’s trust, it’s my job to call you out when you are in sin, because I care enough about you to make sure that you don’t hurt yourself or others. (also true)

3) I am allowed to call you out on your behavior whenever I want and however I want. (false)

When we do this….when we call each other out, we end up sounding like a bunch of pomp-ass, crass, insensitive morons. Just because someone confesses that they are having trouble believing Jesus loves them, doesn’t give us the right to declare: “Well, that’s unbelief. Really, it’s what it is!”

If someone confesses to having an issue of lust, we don’t have the right to diagnose their sin. “That’s foolish behavior. You need to put a boundary on that thing.”

WE DON’T HAVE THE RIGHT!

We have a right to correct each other. We don’t have a right to think that we got this “sin” thing down and know exactly how it works. And we certainly don’t have the right to pretend like we know how to get people “on track.”

See the problem is that if we read something really helpful at diagnosing the sin attitudes behind behaviors, we often don’t go after the sin. We go after the person. We label them. If they’re in a liberal church, they might just look at you funny. But if they are in a hard core, bible believing church, they’re going to take that shame, heap it on themselves, say some words about the gospel, and unknowingly take one BIG step away from real relationship with Jesus.

So what do we have the right to do? Well, Galatians 6 tells us.

“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”

If you think you’ve got it together, if you think that you can diagnose someone else…just stop.  You have the right to encourage you brother or sister to get up, and remember that they are still a child of God. You have the right to restore the person to equal standing in the church. You have the right to watch over your own heart and ask God that you don’t make the same mistake.

If you’re willing to do that, then you’re willing to do some real kingdom work. If not, sit down, shut up, and quit hurting your brothers and sisters. (this is an example, of course, of what NOT being gentle looks like. See how I did that? ;)

When a Church Lets You Down

I think we’ve all heard it before. We ask our friends to come to church with us, or we simply talk about church, and the criticism follows…

“Why would I go to church? It’s just a bureaucracy. They just want your money. etc. etc. etc.”

Because we’ve all had to stand up for church at some point, it makes it even harder when our church — or our pastor — messes up BIG TIME. We have a hard enough time when some pastor somewhere makes a mistake, and we have to answer for it. But it almost knocks the wind out of us when someone who we trusted or esteemed shames your church and the role of a spiritual leader.

I’ve been a part of good churches. And I’ve been a part of bad churches. I’ve been a part of good churches that go bad. Needless to say, I’ve been through the disappointment enough times now to know how to walk through it without it breaking me or my faith. And so, if you’re a part of a situation like this, then I’d like to encourage you. Not with a list of “should-do’s,” but a list of “give yourself some permission to….”  It doesn’t take away the pain/hurt/disappointment, but it’s the best encouragement I can offer if you’re in this situation.

Step One: Grieve

That’s right. Grieve. Go ahead and cry. Or grab your heart. Or be angry. Just allow yourself the space and time to feel the weight of what has happened. Don’t give in to the temptation to make a massive change RIGHT NOW. Don’t give in to the temptation to diminish pain. Your relationship with that person or that church is never going to be the same. It’s okay to grieve the loss. Give yourself some time and space to grieve. And know that you absolutely DON’T HAVE TO HAVE AN ANSWER FOR ANYONE RIGHT NOW.

Just give yourself the space to just be honest with your God about how you feel. He will bless your honesty. He can take your words he can take your emotions. He knows where you’re at. you don’t need to “say it right” as you’re grieving with Him. You don’t even need to pray it right. you can just grieve.

Step Two: Get Healing

Before you take action — before you try to fix things — before you try to defend or rebuild — GET HEALING. You got hurt. If you don’t deal with that hurt, it’s going to turn into bitterness. And when we get hurt by church, we often feel a little betrayal by God, too. So if you don’t get some healing, you’re going to find yourself not being able to pray, as well.

It’s so important to seek out a Jesus loving friend, another pastor, or a counselor that can help you start to process through all that hurt and disappointment and who will pray for you to be healed. Part of healing may also mean that you go to another church for a time. Don’t feel ashamed or disloyal if you have to do that. Better to be getting healing than to be sitting in a pew bitter as hell and totally checking out.

Healing may also mean that you stay in the church, but you’re a bit withdrawn as you sort things out. Don’t feel guilty if you want to stay. It’s enough to lose confidence in person you loved. It’s really hard to lose your closest community, too.

And yes, healing on rare (RARE, my friends, RARE) occasions may even mean that you don’t go to church for a SHORT time. 9I say short because if you don’t get back in church, a lot of times you never heal. You just get stuck by that disappointment.)

It may take one conversation. It may take a year. But don’t make yourself just get over it. Actually be healed. And in case you’re wondering, you’ll know when you’re healed because you won’t want revenge or an explanation from the one that hurt you. That, my friends, THAT. takes. time.

Step Three: Move Forward

If you have grieved, and if you have been healed, then give yourself permission to move forward. So many times, we keep ourselves locked in this place or replaying and repeating the past when it doesn’t even really bother us anymore. We feel the need to keep bringing it up because we feel guilty somehow that we didn’t do something to change the situation. At some point, we have to be willing to admit what role that we played, repent, admit what role others played, release them to God’s judgement — AND THEN MOVE ON! You don’t have to fix that person. You don’t have to fix that church. You don’t have to explain for the past.

If you want to, you can go somewhere else. If you want to stay, you can move forward rebuilding the church. And when others ask you why you stayed, you can say BECAUSE I WANTED TO DO.  That’s it.

The beauty of being a Christian is that our mistakes and our past don’t define us or our paths. The mistakes of others don’t define us or our churches or our beliefs, either. I am responsible for me and me only. You are responsible for you and you only. If you did the best you could to live a God honoring way, then be at peace. And if you didn’t do your best, repent, make amends, and be at peace knowing that God knows you and loves you, and really wants you and His people to move forward.

I pray that you will. That you’ll keep walking with Him. And that you’ll find other brothers and sisters to keep walking with as well.

Peace to you,

Pam

About Not Getting Weird

I have a family friend who sells a weight loss/sports performance product. She is incredible and inspiring. But I fear for her that she will become like so many who are “into” that product, and that the dogma of the company will overtake her. I already see her pursuing “health and wealth.” I know it’s a dead end street.

I have another friend who worked for a great nonprofit. They helped children, especially young women, to learn about science and pursue careers in science fields. But her two bosses, as dedicated paleontologists, were staunch atheists. I prayed the entire time she worked there, knowing that there was an atheistic mindset among the employees/ I hoped she wouldn’t be pulled into it. But I watched as she became engulfed in the world of Oprah-ism. You know — “We’re good people. We make a difference.” I don’t know if she’s ever fully recovered.

And then there’s my own faith. Ah, Christianity! If we don’t have some whack jobs and some who are following cultist ideas and behaviors, then I don’t know what group does. At this moment, I’m worried sick about some family members who worship their church more than the God they proclaim to believe in.

The truth is we can get really weird following “Jesus.” And then we can turn around and say some stupid statement like: well, the world is not supposed to love us….

The truth also is that when you’re weird, you can’t be relational.

The weirdness factor comes into play every day of every moment when we interact with other people. Sure, we can find people who buy into our ideas, but we usually end up only being able to be around others who think like us. That’s not being a relational person.

For this reason, for a little over five years now, I’ve been asking God to do something in my heart, mind, and body that may seem incredibly simple. But it’s been one of the most difficult things to implement.

I’ve been asking Him to make sure that I stay natural. 

When I look at Jesus, I see the most natural human being who ever lived. But that wasn’t always the case. I used to think that he was pretty volatile. And pretty stubborn. And sometimes a little weird. And because He was, that gave me a right to be the same way.

But then I read this statement one day. It laid out the argument that …

If God is all good and all loving all the time THEN it is impossible for Him to do or say anything that is unloving or unkind. SO, when we read His words and actions and we think, “that’s pretty harsh, etc,” we have to ask ourselves…. “How could this be said in a loving way?”

This practice, more than any other, has radically shaped my ideas about who God is, and who I’m supposed to be. And pretty amazingly, it’s kept me from swerving into the weird Christian lane more than any doctrinal guideline ever could.

I think it’s what God (through Paul) was talking about when he said, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”

This is what according to Christ means: To be loving. To be kind. To be selfless. And to be natural. While still loving God enough to obey His commands.

That’ll keep me growing till the day I die.

When It Should Be … Different

Disappointment is a difficult thing. The old proverb says it best, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Prv 13:12). But what if you’re whole life is just one adaptation? “I had hoped for this, but I’ll have to make do with that.”

What happens when you’re the person who knows people who always get exactly what they want … but that’s not your story. Your story is one of pain and struggle and constant discouragement. You are the person who “For whatever a man sows, that he will also reap,” (Gal 6:7) just does not apply.

What happens to your faith when feel that God doesn’t care and that there’s actually a curse that’s been put on you? What happens when you’ve been patient and forbearing, and now, you’re just angry and bitter? Four letter words fall from your mouth like raindrops on a stormy night. You just want a break. You just want a break. You just want a freaking break!

Is there a hope? If there is, you can’t feel it. And yet others tell you of it. A place and time when all will be made right. A judge who sees your toil and has prepared a reward. A story — almost a myth — that silently swirls in the depth of your spirit, reminding you that there is a love…there is security…there is a place of rest. To believe it gives you reason to keep going, keep pushing. But to reject it gives you the right to give up. And you so want to just. give. up.

Because the truth is that hard to surrender or be grateful when you don’t even feel that you have the choice.

It’s in that tension — that space where time and space stand still that I often meet other people. And it’s in that space that I have found myself. And while there is no direction that can be given and there is no counsel that should be offered; I’ve often found that there is need for grace. Because, it seems, sometimes the problem is bad, but the fact that there is no grace available is an ever bigger problem.

Grace is the place that offers silence and a hug. The friend who’s willing just to sit in the mud with you. Grace is the place that transports you to a supernatural time out. It’s breathing space for a person who’s been suffocated for far too long. It’s kindness. It’s an unknown peace.

We all have a need for grace. For a place where the truth is not obliterated, but it doesn’t require immediate attention. A place where we can sit and acknowledge that life is hard and painful and no body has all the answers. And no one can make it right. But at least we can walk through it together.