The Connecting River

As she drives from Atlanta, away from a city church in the city lights, the darkness frames a distant memory: stars.  Not just the dippers, but “stars between stars, a virtual curtain of stardust upon which the larger constellations were hung.” She’s following these stars to a one-room white clapboard church where she will become its first female rector.  She’s also driving away from a certain striving – which it turns out, will follow her anywhere.

LeavingChurchThis beautiful book by Barbara Brown Taylor (BBT) offers a rare transparency from a person inside the clerical robes.  The countryside speaks to her faith. Its pages are full of spiritual honesty and earthy appreciation, as if Henri Nouwen were lost on a nature walk with Mary Oliver. Continue reading “The Connecting River”

Unbundling My Bias

“Let me first say that I am biased now and always will be,” Rob said, after I finally found the guts to call him.  It seemed safe to confide in him since he lived so far away.

I called hoping Rob would know how I felt – since he had also spent time in a close-knit Christian community that didn’t – on paper – approve of his daughter’s sexual orientation.  I was still in the early stages then, not yet talking locally about it but needing to know I wasn’t alone.

He did know how I felt, and talked me through it.  Continue reading “Unbundling My Bias”

Angry Tides

Anger is a great motivator, driving us to rant, agitate, and wake up in the morning – and too often in the night.

But writing is also pushed along by anger’s focus. Wanting your voice to be heard makes adults and toddlers alike do audacious things, screaming from the backseat of the car, hoping the driver will hear of your injustice and recalculate the car’s GPS.

When I’m upset about something – but don’t want to hurt those around me – my brainwaves spin up a nuclear power plant to analyze the thing, working down the levels of what bothers me, who is to blame (me?), and the likelihood of change.

My pastor recently told me that when hard things come along, people are invariably angry, and usually turn that on their spouse.  Fortunately for my marriage, that wasn’t the case – because the anger was focused elsewhere:  the church. Not necessarily MY church, but THE church. But certainly we’re all a part of the whole.

How could the church be so sure about everything?

How could the church be so sure about everything – her teachings so consequential in people’s lives, at times denying, insisting, shaming towards the narrow way? And now look what’s come from it: this one hurt, that one hiding, the other has left it all behind. Anger.

It’s ok:  the church can take it.

People have been mad at the church since it first began and everywhere in between.

And the church is used to it, even expects it, because its visionary founder said there would be trouble in this world.

Quick word though:  trouble comes in many forms and needs to be heard – is this constructive criticism or just criticsm?  When fresh wind blows in, the hatches may need battening down, but sometimes the windows need opening up.

To push the analogy: with the windows only half-open to start with and the issues of the day blowing about, too often the church’s first reaction is to slam the window shut, then crack the window slightly, cautiously, wait about a decade too long to follow the world’s lead and inch the window up (“ok, maybe, but you can’t be in leadership”), and in the end discover its core message of grace survived the whole episode. Each generation has had its issue, so there’s a track record here to learn from.

Why wouldn’t our gut reaction be to throw the windows open and share that grace?

If we’re in touch with the grace we are living in, why wouldn’t our gut reaction be to throw the windows open and share that grace?  To first of all pull closer and declare, “I’m with you” (Moving Inward) and then go find out what that means.

Recently though, the anger fog has been rolling back a bit.  It seems the anger and the pain finally drew their guns and said to each other, “there aint enough room in here for the both of us.” The anger lost, though it’s still wriggling in a severed lizards’ tail sort of way.  Maybe re-organizing itself for a grow-back, who knows.

GlassBeachTideRecedingAnger may dominate for awhile, but then it finally pulls back from the shore and reveals other emotional tidepools to be explored.

When this point came, well, we headed into church – where else did we have?  When we feel hurt by or angry at God or the church, the friends who have carried us through it have largely been from the church. (not ironic: by design)

Though church history, doctrines, and institutions may challenge us, in the end it is full of regular people, who are sometimes willing to be honest about life’s complexities.  For us, those people have been our community, including many long-term, for-better-or-for-worse friends. The depth of conversation, the willingness for and relief of confession, the readiness to wrestle with God’s big story.

Maybe the left hand knows best how to heal the damage caused by the right hand, I don’t know, but the body analogy sure works. I didn’t come up with that one.  Each part playing its role to keep the whole thing moving toward wholeness?  It’s been said before:  “If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.”¹

♦ weekendswell ♦

For another sequence asking if the church is late to the party, see Ulysses Pact

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¹ Eugene Peterson’s phrasing of Paul’s words from 1 Corinthians 12:26