Thursday, October 7, 2010

#Cat10 Atlanta

I enjoyed by proxy the tweets from attendees at Catalyst's latest conference in Atlanta,  #Cat10 on twitter, in case you want to check it out.
I felt like Ruth must have felt, gleaning in the fields behind Boaz. Lucky, and getting fed off someone else's dime. A generous friend provided my first Catalyst experience, and I just happened to hop on this morning and timely it was!

Andy Stanley, using Genesis 25's account of Esau selling his birthright for a bowl of soup,  opened the sessions with the thought that we need to reframe and retrain our appetites, that the thirst and hunger for more in many areas of our lives NEVER goes away. He challenged us to finish the following sentence, "In ten years..." and examine how today's demands often take over in place of long term goals that have more lasting value. So true.

Then some saint posted a snippet of worship music (13,000 strong I believe) and that was a blessing as well.

Tonight I got on and did some more gleaning and found this nugget from Seth Godin:
Do people miss me when I leave the room?
So simple.
Let's be the kind of people that others are sorry to see go.
Feast for thought...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Playing Church-Part III What I Want To Be When I Grow Up

The rapid change of my frame of reference changed a pattern of judgment and criticism I'd had for the first half of my life. It was time to begin to grow up. The new challenge was to not transfer this critical spirit to people I found to be less tolerant and open-minded than my new-found freedom. They abound everywhere. Even in California.

Perhaps this happens to everyone who has teenagers, but I began to see the world through their eyes, and love it!

We started a new little 'church' where I bug the poor pastor constantly about not just seeing the back of people's heads in church. It's probably my over-zealous phase. I went down south (SoCal churches are SO HIP) to the Catalyst West Conference and joined a room full of twenty-somethings in beating on plastic pails for worship.
In addition to enjoying VERY LOUD worship music, and wearing shorts to 'church', I regularly go to our town's night club to hear new bands, and am no longer afraid of loud music or tattoos. I must confess, piercings still make me a little nervous.

My faith has not taken a nosedive. In fact, I've begun to see what a wonderful wide world of love and beauty God allows us to experience. I've seen Him at work in places I never knew He would go.  My box, once quite cramped, is getting bigger all the time. Don't get me wrong, my life continues to experience the ups and downs like everyone else. My bills and checks come in the mail and not always in the right sequence, my critical spirit is still growling around when I least expect it, and any day now, I'll have to make room for in-laws and grandchildren. (this is no announcement, just a lovely inevitability!) My skin wrinkles at an astounding rate now that I've passed the half century mark. As my father used to quote some old Swede, "Ve get too late schmart, and too soon olt!".

But I've decided that I want to be the kind of person whose vision only expands with age.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Playing Church-part II My Run-In With the Mormons, Myself and Others

Our move to California came at the peak of our involvement in a mega-church in the Midwest. We were among kindred spirits. Everyone looked, talked  like us. We provided 'special music' and participated in potlucks, Bible studies (where most everyone thought alike). Somehow, we thought we were changing the world. To our defense, we were heavily, and happily involved in raising our children, which is plenty of 'changing the world' for most folks. But, we were Christians. There should be more. We, after all, are entrusted with the message of the eternal redemption of mankind. It is not a responsibility to be taken flippantly.

California could not have been more of a brick wall. Although I had spent much of my childhood in Central California, it was in the rather narrow world of my parents church life. The Midwest had been a conservative extension of that. For one thing, the music, and clothing in these west coast  churches was strangely 'contemporary'. Some of the people had tattoos, piercings, even the young ones! Echoing our parents angst, (yes, parents have angst) about the demise of culture, we stood at an emotional distance from these who claimed the same faith, but clearly demonstrated it so differently. It was scary! Our girls would most likely choose a mate from this pool, and the pickings's were not up to snuff in our view. How could we even begin to change the world when the church people needed so much 'reforming'?

We did have a few Mormon friends (they really prefer to be called Later Day Saints) who exhibited the high moral appearance we longed to see. To this day, I have a fine appreciation for the squeaky-clean image and excellent work-ethic my LDS friends have, but to my chagrin upon closer inspection, we found they were normal sinners like the rest of us, although the basis for their trust in God was something quite different.

I thought deeply about the essence of my faith, what it was at the core, without the 'trappings' I had become accustomed to. A missionary friend gently reminded me that when they went to a foreign field they spent months and even years researching the culture so they could adequately communicate the love of God to them. A small screw slipped loose from the rather rigid box I had assumed was the 'proper stance'.  My faith, my soul's trust was not in a culture, however wholesome, or healthy it was. My soul's trust was in God, and I could maintain that anywhere I was. In fact, I realized almost certainly I was now in a foreign culture, at least to my hothouse existence up till now, and a certain amount of shock was normal.  
One day, in conversation with a younger person, I made some disparaging comment about "the culture" and immediately was rebuffed by his comment, "You are a part of this culture, too!"

Often a paradigm shift occurs in a moment. Mine did.

I was invited to my own life as both a participant and a responsible party.  The gap lessened, and my box grew larger. As we continued to attend services (I really think we've overused that word) I opened my mind a little wider, and saw that so many of the ways I'd 'done' church were culturally based, but just about 30 years behind the current culture. Who was I fooling? Only myself.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Playing Church- part I I Cut My Teeth in the Church Nursery

This is a three part post that will hopefully generate some discussion, or at least raise some ire, somewhere. If we all agree, then there is no sense in talking about it, right?
First of all, let me tell you a little about what the concept of church was in my home, when I was a kid.
My father was a pastor, and so was my mother, in a manner of speaking, although we wouldn't have been allowed to voice that back then, much less put it down on paper.

Let me explain.

While my father was by profession and he may have even said 'calling' a preacher, it was my mother who had the shepherd's heart. Dad, ever the scholar, with an amazing memory quoted scripture, and points of doctrine constantly, both at church (in the building) and at home. It was Mom, though, who would spend her spare time with people, talking, encouraging, asking questions that often brought healing tears. From them both I received a lot of scripture memory and an interest in helping people. They were a team in many ways. I believe I was only a week old when I was brought to church the first time. I missed very few weeks ever since.

Our concept of 'church' was formed around a very specific model. Those of you who grew up in a similar circumstance understand completely. Those who didn't probably think people like me are from Mars. When I tell them I was born in the fifties and never listened to a Beatles album, that usually cinches it. I'm the closest thing to a Jim Jones fanatic they've ever seen. Sorry if you're too young to know who Jim Jones is. Ask a baby boomer.
Nonetheless, I am not the only one like me.
Church, as we knew it, was a place you went, a building that looked quite different than any other buildings around, to listen to a carefully crafted 'talk', 'sermon', a lecture, really, that was all about God and what we needed to know about him. We sat in rows, our heads looking at the back of everyone else's heads, and soaked in whatever the minister said, because whatever God had to say to us would most likely come from God through him to us. Even though we eschewed the Catholic extreme of papal hierarchy, we kind of crafted our own. We were protestants!

Dressing up was not optional. God deserved our respect. He was God after all, and on Sundays He wanted to see you in your best. (Well, really your parents did, but everyone bought into it, so we did it.) Easter was the high point, so you usually wore new clothes. This corresponded well with the current culture, as most people dressed up for the opera, school and other special events. It worked.

About the time the wild sixties gave way to the hedonistic, yet very hip seventies, the big controversy, and the main cause of contention in the church was the length of men's hair. This nearly derailed the older generation, and I remember it being preached against as 'a form of rebellion'. Anything you refuse to do that your parents have asked you to do fits into this category, but hair length was a hot one. The length of girls' dresses was a sister clause to the hair length, and received the same treatment.The coming Apocalypse was a favorite topic. It corresponded with buckets of social fear about how drastically the world had changed since the atomic bomb became a real threat.

I thought a lot about God, and feared the Apocalypse that was touted in nearly every religious venue. I wasn't afraid of not going to heaven. All that took was a little trust. It just all sounded so horrible, and I couldn't figure out why people were so obsessed with talking about it all the time. I also wanted to grow up and have a family, and it seemed to loom as a shadow on my plans.

I attended a Bible College, rubbing shoulders with really admirable colleagues and probably the most humble college president alive. It was a narrow, and yet widening experience. I traveled to the Middle East and wondered at the ordinariness of the place we call the "holy land'.

I made it to having a family, after joining a Christian ministry, which was a little like church traveling in buses, but more intense. I married a man who grew up in an almost identical paradigm. We took our kids to church, and everything was fine until I moved from the Midwest to California.