How I’m Praying after a Weird Week

In the morning when I rise, Give me Jesus, the song says.
With coffee this morning I pray for more love and more light.

It has been such a weird week with this World Vision thing – it feels like the home I came from is either being dragged through a fun house where the mirrors are all wobbly or it’s on a sea vessel in the middle of a big storm.

I don’t think even I realize how coming out from fundamentalism has transformed me and has given me new liberty papers. It’s so hard to watch the home I came from (evangelicalism) not follow my same journey on my same timeline. I should have more compassion and more understanding. It took me forever, and then only because people were brought into my life who helped me see light differently. My prayer is first that I won’t misuse my liberty papers the same way they are misusing theirs.

I have to trust and choose to believe that the foundations are shaken and the surprise will continue. Not only lgbt equality – that is a big step, but also in how we embrace and share Scripture. That’s a huge leap for a lot of people. We’ll get there.

So today I’ll pray. I won’t “just” pray. I’ll pray. For the Spirit to first love me and to shine more light and more love and help me speak a little better of my enemies. And even that sentence. I’ll pray, because these people are not my enemies. They are siblings in the family of God – and we are at a big disagreement right now and we don’t want to have table fellowship. So we all need a litlte more grace. Please God. And while i pray that, I will also pray, How long O Lord, and Lord have mercy.

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Why i didn’t give money to World Vision when they seemed to come out for Gays and why i encourage other people to find somewhere else to give, even if they did touch “the rainbow flag”

When World Vision seemed to touch the rainbow flag this week, I like many got excited (in a good way). Yay, progressive vision is moving them! Appeals went out to get behind them and send support their way and sponsor some kids. That made me uncomfortable, but I do have to admit on Tuesday night I even went to the WV website and considered making a small 1-time donation. I thought better of it, at that time, only because I really don’t have money to give away right now (not kidding).

Then I happened to be on a break from duties on Wednesday and visited Twitter at the exact moment the reversal came (within 2 minutes). As an aside, i love getting my news from Twitter. You won’t be interested in this, but i also was on Twitter the moment the announcement came out on Monday or Tuesday about them recognizing all marriages. And no, I’m not on Twitter 24-7. But this brought me back!

Anyways, you had the fundies pulling support because of the gays and you had the lgbt affirming folk trying to get support going to World Vision… both sides using icky politics and the “bottom line” to promote their causes. Granted, most of the lgbt affirmers say now to keep your child if you supported one in the brief moment of sunshine, but still. Where were you before?

I don’t support a child through World Vision because they give away way too much of donor dollars to overhead. You have to do some research to nail down specific numbers. Different sources quote anywhere from only 60 cents on the dollar to up to around 85 cents. I realize it’s an international organization, but I completely disagree with the marketing and gimmicks. For example, last summer I got this souped up awesome promo packet from them – it included several gadgets, a solar light panel and a USB drive. Plus posters and stuff. I didn’t even ask for this stuff, they sent it as advanced promo. What??? The solar panel was a demo of what they hand out in 3rd world countries to help kids read at night, because, no duh, they don’t have electricity. But I do. I have so much electricity – let’s not talk about the number of extension cords in my office at church. That stupid LED thing still sits in the bottom drawer of my desk. I remember it and i keep it as a reminder of what we have all stooped to in the name of relief and being Jesus for the world. You cannot and will not convince me that promo packet was the correct use of donor dollars.

If you’re looking for a food relief org, Feed My Starving Children posts that they manage to give about 92% of donor dollars to relief. That’s an incredible percentage.

Beyond dollars – It’s shame to both “sides” that the dollar won on this one. I doubt very many people are fooled with the reversal talking about biblical authority (what the hell is that?! – you completely strain out a gnat and swallow a camel, you self righteous hypocrites). This was about some fat cat fundie standing in the world vision offices demanding a change or they’d take their money and walk.

It’s a shame that anyone at World Vision didn’t count the cost before they made the decision in the first place to support all marriages – and it was even more telling that they reversed it. But I’m giving thanks anyway. It’s exciting when “the home team” appears to get one right. I came from the fundamentalist evangelical kingdom… I get it. It fires me up to see some progress. And progress WAS made here. There are chinks in the armor and these idiots (yes they deserve that title) are showing their hands. This won’t last forever. Hope is coming.

I’m all about Chicken Wire, and Shovel Hacking Now

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Got a puppy in January. A rescue. He was rescued as a stray, and that will probably remain his life narrative. Prone as i am to sermon illustrations, I see glimpses of redemption, grace, wandering, discipleship in my growing relationship with him. One of the 1st pix I took of him was him standing against my fence looking out. Always wanting adventure I guess. 

Then, there I was last month, choking back tears with a shovel in my hand- angrilly whacking down a snow pile that he had climbed over so he could chase something or just escape to find what’s in the alley. I was angry, sad, scared – and was hacking away at the  pile to weaken his chances of using that route to escape again. If you would have seen me out of context, I probably looked crazy. Does God look crazy when God tries to keep us safe?

Yesterday I was in the garage. With a wire cutter. Snipping quickly at the large roll of chicken wire I brought home from my parent’s house in Wisconsin. It’s frozen to the ground in my un-even-floored garage, where a large pool of water trapped it frozen but I snipped a good enough chunk away so I could patch a small gap in the fence where the puppy keeps investigating and proping, possibly looking for another adventure-door. My cold hands jammed that patch of chicken wire in the gap, bending wire over wire so it would hopefully stay in place. Do God’s hands bleed when God tries to keep us safe?

I know there are theologians who would say God’s agenda is not our safety. 

Nearly every day if you are my neighbor, you’ll hear obnoxious pounding on my porch windows or door. Wham wham bang bang bang!! I do this when puppy is trying the fence, or seems fixated on something that might make him display his amazing circus-like jumping abilities over the chain-link. I rise or run to the door (really trying not to let him out of my sight) and get his attention by this banging. And he stops and re-centers himself. Does God bang on the windows of our existence to remind us God cares, is watching, and wants to keep us safe?

My love for puppy sometimes probably seems manic. That’s the fun part of dog obedience. It’s a lot about the trainer. The dog will respond if you are consistent. That’s the theory anyway. It’s working, for the most part. When puppy started a new love of shredding books, paper bags, and newspapers, I had to start kenneling him again. It’s getting easier (he used to bark and scream obsessively for hours if you tried). I wish he could roam free in my tiny house, but I want him to be safe when I’m not here. Does God sometimes shut us in a kennel when we’re about to harm ourselves or our environment?

I don’t know if God does these things. I was brought up in a religious system that says yes, God does contain us for our safety. God would not do this to short-circuit our fun or our freedom. God would do it to preserve us. The love i have for the puppy makes me rise up. I know God rises up for us.

Regarding hardware stores, ice picks, and the breaking of winter

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If you would’ve ever told me when I was a little kid that I’d be excited about going to Menards, buying a shovel and an ice pick, I don’t think I would’ve believed you. Besides that we were a Fleet Farm family and the only thing I knew about Menards was their annoying commercials (which you do have to admit have not changed in decades -wow!)

But there I was this afternoon in my backyard chopping away at ice while the puppy played in the melting snow. I look at the foundation of my house where the walls meet the outside world & the ground, and wonder will water get in my basement this year like so many other people, so far.

Again something I never would’ve thought about as a little kid. I’m sure my dad probably worried about those things for the rest of the family. And even honestly before this year, before becoming a homeowner, I didn’t know about ice picks at all really. I pretty much thought you just let the ice melt in its own.

I know you could… But.

Now I really care. I see neighbors out there with their ice picks and we’re all in this together and I wanted to crash the ice. In fact, before this year, i never remember seeing people use ice picks. I have a list of stuff I want to buy at the hardware store, always on a shopping app on my phone. I get excited about it. When we were kids, you’d save your money for toys and tapes and stuff like that. Now I don’t really have money to save, but I like to spend it on stuff for the house.

A little place to call my own. During Lent, we look at our journey and the stuff of life and the stuff God lets cross our path. We say we suck and we ask for forgiveness and we wait for winter to break. We wait for the Spirit to ice pick her way through our stony hearts and make way for spring. We spend what we have on what matters and we create a little world for us here where God can be made a big deal in our lives. We can be excited about it. We can plan for it and we can carry it out. Spring will get here eventually. The Jesus lawn ornaments that are buried under snow from manger scenes during Christmas will rise again by April 20, Easter. We keep chipping away.

Pentecostals would tell me that i’m facing Spiritual Warfare today. Whatever it is, i do need to pray.

I used to consider myself a Pentecostal, so a day like today would have been described as one met with “spiritual warfare.” On my way preparing for a Spirituality Retreat with 9th graders, no less. 

Icy roads near the camp were closing schools and causing semis to jack knife. I had to go up early to the camp this morning from here in Saint Paul because my car was stuffed full and tonight I have to transport students. (I didn’t tell you about the breakdown of the church van last month on another retreat, so let’s just say i haven’t forgiven the beast and refuse to take it, even tho if it worked it’d make things smoother here). I got stuck in the tunnel on 94 because of some crash in the tunnel. Traffic stopped. I’m fuming.

This day sucks… I hear myself teaching students in my head… i’m saying to them “I choose to believe, and maybe you will too, that life’s unsettling surprises sometimes is the Spirit speaking to us. Getting stuck in traffic can be unnerving. It can also be an opportunity to pray or pray for others.” I realized as i was fuming that there could have been injuries in whatever accident was jamming up the tunnel. I had been too selfish to care. I prayed then.

The rest of the drive was okay. No ice that i noticed. Had to have the puppy along bc it would have been too long for him to be home alone.

On the way home I find out one my other drivers for tonight is sick and was in the ER last night. Ohhhhh no. And he was supposed to take 4 kids. I’m late to drop the puppy off at his babysitter family. My car is almost out of fuel.

I cry.

Another volunteer offered to take a larger family van so she could fit the misplaced kids and i took the puppy to his babysitters.  

I don’t know what will happen on this overnight. 8 kids, 3 adults… We’re gonna lose a lot money, i know that… because we had to pay for like 20 seats that we aren’t filling. In the scheme of eternity, so the heck what. I wish we had 20 folks who cared about this and could have made the time this weekend, for 24 hours to center back on God. But whatever.

Two days ago i had ashes put on my forehead. And this is all dust. I’m dust. It blows away in a second. It’s barely a memory even a month from now. I’m a broken vessel asking the Spirit to breathe thru me. Here we go.

Self-less.

 [This is for my intro to preaching class – an introduction of James 3:17-18]

Humanity – life on earth – existing in neighborhoods, as co-workers, as partners, as siblings, as acquaintances… We are born and raised in a society that says look out for number one. Protect yourself. Stand up for your rights. Insure yourself, because someone might slip on the ice on the sidewalk in front of your house and sue the pants off of ya. 

Living into a self-oriented existence leads to bitter divisions among people. It has us labeling each other and deciding which labels will receive our favor and our welcome. 

A self-oriented existence leads to the promotion of jealousy and isolation when we find out our differences are huge and we don’t know how to build bridges and make peace. 

James wrote a letter that was circulated to communities of believers who put their faith in Jesus Christ. But they were human, just like us, and they wanted the comfort of hiding behind labels of rich or poor; eloquent or simple. There was pain and there were problems in these communities. Their churches looked like ours. 

The antidote? He writes of a godly wisdom, a wisdom that comes from above, just like the Son of God came from above and though not as christocentric as some other epistles, very christocentric from the descriptions of the way believers should be behaving – living the life of Christ among one another and the world. James begins his letter with some advice, perhaps you would call it an imperative – to ask God for wisdom in right living. 

How do we live faithful lives that are perfect, as in whole and complete – pure and peaceful, beneficial for the whole community? We ask God. And we ask in faith, resisting doubt, and when we receive that gift of wisdom, we can live into self-less behaviors that look like Jesus and grow peace all around us. The wisdom is a gift. We couldn’t manufacture it of our own will if we tried. It must come from above. We ask God for wisdom and for the help to turn away from bitterness, discord and jealousy. And God promises this gift. What does it look like? 

 

James 3:17 & 18. (NLT)

 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. 

It is also peace loving, 

gentle at all times, 

and willing to yield to others. 

It is full of mercy and good deeds. 

It shows no favoritism 

and is always sincere. 

18 And those who are peacemakers 

will plant seeds of peace 

and reap a harvest of righteousness.

 

Live the gift of God’s wisdom which brings pure peace.

 

James 3:17-18. Amen.

What if mainliners decided to amp up the awesomeness that is stuff like Ash Wednesday?

Twas the night before Ash Wednesday… I’m scrambling to get my Instagram Photo-A-Day plan set up. I put together a resource packet for families at my church because to my surprise, two families actually asked me this week for conversation pieces so they could teach their kids about Lent. Nice.

I’m seeing more and more “recovering fundamentalists” like myself (i made that up) trying to make heads and tails out of Lutheranism or just any Christian-ism that is mainline and I’m discovering that those who have been at the mainline game for decades are bland to the awesomeness of it. Forgetting what a gift it is to the larger Church, would-be apologists for the “mainline faith” are busy trying to serve and many times forgetting the “because” part of our theology – the God promise/reason why we do justice and love mercy. And so we’ve also set aside explaining black ashen crosses on people’s foreheads, Easter Vigils, footwashings, fasting as a discipline, etc. I’m sad about it, because i’m new to the whole mainline thing and it’s all awesome to me and I go to give people a theological high-five and i get the furrowed brow look or just basically hit the air.

Mainline denominations, we gotta get this right. We can’t miss this opportunity. There are too many people checking us out for the first time, primarily because of LGBTQ equality and wanting to make sense of the Scriptures and their world. We have to continue to be a prophetic voice. I’ve seen fundy friends of mine posting stuff on Facebook about how maybe people should pay attention to the church year and seasons and Ash Wednesday. When I lived and breathed non-denominalationalism, I never heard a peep about Lent or Ash Wednesday or Advent. If it was said, it was said disgustingly, like a stench left over from “vile” Catholocism or something. No one was there telling me how awesome it is or practicing it in a meaningful way that would affect my life. Social media is a great platform to bring the cool factor back to the ancient practices.

I’ll try my best.