My tongue is in my hand…

Archive for the ‘Experiences’ Category

Growing up in a Christian church, there was always a lot of talk about putting God first, making God a priority, and about denying ourselves our “selfish desires”. I think these two things contradict themselves for someone who has accepted the love of God into their lives. If now, God lives in me as love, and God created me, then wouldn’t one of the best ways to get in touch with God be to get in touch with myself? To explore my desires, to indulge the things that pull at my heart and spirit? If God lives in us, then wouldn’t listening to our selves be listening to God? To do this, wouldn’t it take tuning out everything else at times, or most of the time? Shouldn’t we, with God in us, be the priority in our lives, with all other things coming after? If I can not hear myself, can not mend myself, can not refresh myself, can not address my needs, can not engage in the things that press on my God- designed, God-entwined heart, can not touch base with God within myself then how can anything else I do be in tune with God, how can I touch base with God anywhere outside of myself? But the church taught me for so long to deny myself, that it’s taken me years to understand that this was incomplete information, it was the beginning of a lesson that no one bothered to follow up on. I’m realizing that the things I do that perhaps no one else in the whole entire world (or my whole entire world) seems to agree with, but rests well on my heart, always serves me better than following anyone else’s guidelines for “the right thing”. Because my relationship with God is about me. Not anyone else (not even the church). Everyone else has to settle what they have to settle between God and themselves. I have to trust that God is handling everything else, whatever I forsake to indulge in the movement. Moving against the standards  set up by those around me is moving in faith. Even if it’s moving against the standards of the (imperfect, human run, though- most- likely- well intentioned) church. I have to trust that whatever time I spend with God, forsaking all else, will make me a better person for all else. And I have to spend time evaluating everything, sans the world- what’s working, what’s not, what have I learned, what do I need, etc. More time, just God and I. While, in the church, quiet time or devotions are encouraged, I’ve found that they are encouraged within the realm of the world – that you don’t dare disrupt any of the worlds in which you reside.  Christianity seems to expect you to tread so lightly in every realm of your life that you are constantly tangled up in the world and it’s expectations. Yes, by acting in and with love, we can honor God in anything we do…but when we’re suffocated by the standards and expectations of everyone around us, we are ineffective. Why isn’t this a constant conversation in the church?

Sometimes, I feel like the Christian church perpetually teaches the remedial version of faith, never moving forward, always waiting for everyone in their midst to grasp the basics of the religion, before they really get into the abstract parts. While anyone can gain from reviewing the basics, what do you do when it’s time to start applying the basics? Where’s the person talking about how sometimes, to put God first, you literally have to forsake all others: you have to stop working, ignore your boss, your job, your church, your parents, your spouse, your children, your debts, your home, your pets, your friends, your government, your responsibilities, everything: every standard, every rule, every expectation , all of it being worldly, and subject to seperating you from God, even with the best intentions.  And you have trust that God will take care of everything while you sit alone with God, with yourself, for however long is necessary, while you move where ever you are moved.

Who’s going to talk about how this may not necessarily be one big event or moment in your life, but that it may be a daily thing, a weekly thing, a seasonal thing? Why am I wondering if I’m the only person in the world who is in this place, who’s been here? Sure, someone’s read me a verse that says, you must forsake all others and follow Christ. Sure, someone will say that if the world hates you, it’s okay, because Christ has overcome the world. Great. Two sentences. Why aren’t we talking about what this looks like, how this feels, in real life?   Where’s the incessant discussion regarding this (instead of, perhaps, homosexuality- or something equally less important to our spiritual growth)? Why aren’t we evolving as spiritual beings? Why do we only expect people to be able to spout out Sunday School answers?   Where’s the discussion on the individuality of faith, of spiritual growth? Why do we all expect it to look the same on everyone? Why is the church afraid of getting messy with faith? Why does the church rely on black and white so much, why is it so fearful of all the gray that is the individual application of faith? Why do the standards of Christians get more specific than love God, love one another? Are Christians that dense that we need someone to give us rules beyond love to live by? The church is so wrapped up in setting and applying it’s own standards for faith in the world, that it has become part of the world that one must ignore to really hear God. Are the structures of the church impeding the growth of the church in regards to allowing and encouraging members to evolve spiritually?

Oh, people are good at saying they know faith is individual, but the actions of the Christian church do not support this. It supports conformity far more than it supports growth outside of conformity. It seems to have so low an expectation for it’s community of believers that it simplifies everything to boxes and lists and categories to keep from confusing anyone. It is a social and political organization, as well as a religious one, and it’s rare to find a church were you can escape these undertones and overtones.  Not to say I dismiss the potential and positive impact of being part of a church community, because I do believe people can benefit from being part of a group of people who care about you and care about others as well. I think church is, overall, a good thing to be part of. I just wonder, is there too much teaching in churches and too little discussion and application when it comes to the intangibles? It’s great that someone has studied the Bible and public speaking and can “teach me” about the Bible, and I gather good info and insight through sermons most of the time, and if nothing else, it gives me a chance to sit in one place, quiet, for an hour with others who are doing the same…it serves me well, no doubt. But when do we come together to discuss it? Bible study and Sunday School are another hour of the basics being taught with little opportunity for discussion beyond more basic answers….it’s like we’ve got everyone on the short bus of faith, perpetually. Shouldn’t we expect more from ourselves, from each other? Shouldn’t we be going deeper on a regular basis? Shouldn’t we be experimenting with love and faith and hope and joy and forgiveness  and then evaluating the results as some kind of community? Shouldn’t we be sharing more? Shouldn’t we be getting messier with our faith amongst one another (and in the world as a whole)?

I want to talk  in church, with my church families. I want discussions. Group discussions. Where we push ourselves and each other, where we get uncomfortable, where we question, where we discuss personal applications of faith, where we get confused and frustrated and show one another grace and mercy, where we seek answers, where we share insight, where we agree to disagree, where we intersect among our spiritual journeys, share stories, gather resources and reserves, where we let go of the standards of the world, of our worlds, where we evolve and move…where we practice among each other what we hope to practice outside of the church…unconditional love…

I’m so tired of feeling like I’m trapped in remedial classes every time I’m in church. As much as I love the people in the church, sometimes it’s like I’m suffocating;  we can’t keep breathing the same air over and over without it eventually becoming toxic. We’ve got to open up the doors, the windows, the emergecy exit- something. Come on guys. We’re capable of more, we should expect more, we should grow more.

We’ve got to do something, it’s getting crowded on the short bus and everybody’s laughing at us.

Disclaimer: I have not and do not laugh at those who ride short buses, nor do I condone such behavior. I just found it to be a fitting methaphor.

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This (like most things here lately) is for my personal reference later or never, or whatever. I feel like the more I record right now ( and I feel like recording random things), the freer my mind is, so:

Compliment: dinner was good

Good call yesterday- Disney store instead of dollar store for b-day gift

Unfortunate comment that wasn’t a joke yesterday- you should eat only half a cookie, I’ve lost weight, you haven’t, we’re going to the beach soon

Thankful that- stayed up with Nat last night and watched a movie (she couldn’t sleep) while I slept

First (and basically only) conversation this morning- where are the clothes I want (that I told you nothing about but need right now) and put them in the dryer for me, isn’t the picture she drew in her cousin’s b-day card cute, the dog chewed up my shoe – I need new ones, the house is a mess, look at it, it’s a mess, you need to do something about it. love you, bye.

I feel like maybe I’m not, or haven’t been paying attention to parts of my day or life that ultimately matter, that I’m overlooking something crucial on a day to day basis for whatever reason (peacekeeping, too busy, too tired, too oblivious,too confused, too thrown off guard, too anxious, too whatever)… and then I’m looking back and realizing that maybe the things I was overlooking were important, changed my life, changed me…by not paying attention to certain things, I’m apathetically allowing things I don’t want in my life, or allowing my life, my day, my self to be steered into places I don’t want to be…I don’t know, it’s just a little theory….I obviously am in need of a variation in approach to my daily life and various things within my daily life. Just some trial and error here. I’ll see if writing seemingly useless, random, petty, odd, personal info about my days and interactions will matter… Maybe because I don’t have as much time to decompress and evaluate as I used to…I don’t know…just gonna try it. Beware: more trivial, possibly dull, and nonsensical things to come…

Well the picture quality is crappier than usual, because my camera is broken, so I’m using my cell phone’s camera.

Anyways, April 2009’s days were recorded as such:

1. Burnt the porkchops. Ate Showmars (soooo good!)

2.  NO MORE CMS (job search begins)

3. Beautiful sky. Ed- Funeral home, Jason-Natalie Go Karts

4. Egg Hunt @ DG, Ed’s funeral, Jason-paint Laura’s, Lowe’s w/ Nat to buy flowers, Anzi pizza

5. Hope Church, Nat @ Maggie’s, planted flowers

6. Found out about Erica/baby, Nat@ Stephs – baby chicks, Patti, Kenny, Amanda come over

7. Did 5 poems for Poem a Day challenge, covered flowers, TONS of spaghetti

9. Gave to Cystic Fibrosis, Dyed Easter Eggs

10. Moonsand, No work, Talked to Julie W.

11. Egg Hunt w/Hope church, B-day party for Ryan

12. Service @ Dulin’s Grove, Ate at mom’s (broke egg), went to Patti’s

13. Tailgators w/Jason and Amanda

14. Jason-Tennessee, Made pasta for the week!

15. Watched P.S. I love you, Nat eye dr. (patch)

16. Book club @ Curt’s Three Cups of Tea

17. Got Angel Food

18. Lunch @ South 21 w/ Megan and Kim, Alicia’s party (Kelly, Alisha, Kirby) Grape vodka

19. Duck Race@ Whitewater Center (team Baby Buddah)

21. Burn After Reading and meteor shower

22. Steak, sweet potato, and salad, walk the neighborhood

23. Natalie played in sprinkler w/Jason

24. Walked neighborhood w/Nat (baby stroller and bike)

25. Northlake w/ Amanda and nat (loved it), Jason deep sea fishing, spaghetti dinner @ Miranda’s. 🙂

26. Sarah’s B-day party/Lazy 5

28. Smith Lake

I’m still really thankful I did this last year, and trying to keep it up this year. I know last year was hard, I mean this is the month that Jason lost is job (for the 2nd time), but look at all the good stuff here!

Just so so grateful for the blessings and the fact that I recorded these pieces of the month this way.

Link to The Calender Project for March 2009, which has one for February and so on: March 2009


I’ve had a hard time lately. Harder than some others maybe, not as hard as many, I’m sure. But still, hard. I’ve always had a had difficulty with having perspective on my own struggles, with allowing myself just the right amount of wallowing and encouragement. I have a hard time ever talking to anyone, or even writing it out anymore.

But I heard the voice again- in the shower. I didn’t write it down that day. I don’t even remember what day it was anymore.

“I’m training you”

For what?

“You’ll know when you need to know”

What if I can’t? What if I can’t? What if I don’t want to?

“It’s what you were born to do, it’s how you are made, it’s what you’re looking for.”

Sobbing, sobbing, sobbing

I can’t do this.

“Can’t do what?”

Anything. I can’t do anything.

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength – You’re having a hard time with the wording ‘Christ’, aren’t you?”

I don’t know. I don’t know. Yes. No. I don’t know.

“It’s okay. You know. I’m training you. Great men and crosses, you remember?”

Yes, I do, I just can’t. I can’t. I can’t.

“You remember the bright light? You remember?”

Yes.

“It’s exactly what you thought it was.You were born for this. You were born a believer. I’m training you. There is such an amazing future. Don’t you see things you’ve believed, hoped into your life?”

I do, I do see those things. I’m so thankful for those things. I’m just tired and scared and tired.

“It’s okay. No pain, no gain, right? You’re training, you should be sore, you should be tired.You don’t have to do this, but you’ll never be satisfied if you don’t. You won’t even really be alive. If you settle for what’s right before you, you will vanish, it will be like you never existed at all”

I know. I breathe to believe. That light. I didn’t know how much that light can hurt.

It hurts because you’re human, it’s taking you beyond that. It doesn’t always hurt, it won’t always hurt. You are not alone, but feeling lonely is part of it sometimes. You will find people to trust, you will have communion, intimacy, fulfillment- you will have what you seek. And you’d never breathe again without the light. You’d be a shell. Don’t underestimate the light in you. You have nothing to be afraid of. There is absolutely nothing, no one you should fear. Do not fear. And remember, this is training.You will find rest. Just not quite yet.”

okay

I have a different kind of blog tonight. Tonight, I am glad I have a place to blog because I have a string of thoughts going through my head that I’d much rather just editorialize than get into a conversation about at this point. Besides the fact that there is not one to have this conversation with, at least right now.

A friend of mine joined a group on facebook. It is this group:

Hey Facebook, breastfeeding is not obscene! (Official petition to Facebook)

I was curious, so I went to the group. I scrolled through hundreds of pictures, read comments, browsed discussions. And I can’t shake this feeling. It’s an uneasy feeling.

I did not nurse, at all. I did not want to nurse, at all. I do not regret this at all. Because I knew that I so strongly opposed leaching my child to my breast that it would not be beneficial. Even so, I researched before making this decision, just to be sure, and felt that ultimately, I would not be doing my daughter a major disservice by not breastfeeding. When I gave her a bottle, I would hold her to my chest, let her cheek rest on my skin. I never propped her bottle and walked away. She also stopped taking a bottle around 10 months. I felt like this skin contact in the early months was the most important part of the feeding process (besides actually eating, you know?).

I almost always consider emotional health first in any situation, but particularly with parenting. So I felt comfortable with this. I didn’t feel that I was depriving her physical or mental health benefits in the long run either, truthfully. I feel like I nurtured these things by not baby talking her, challenging her, and not keeping her in a sterile environment, and feeding her a variety of solids. Natalie went with me everywhere, I didn’t make people slather up with antibacterial gel before they touched her, I paid attention, I let her cry it out, I did things I felt were best to acclimate her to the world, to life, to self soothing, to me.

For what I can remember, all of my friends that have had kids so far are breastfeeding. I’m super fine with this. I was breastfed. I don’t care if they nurse in front of me. I’m all for it. It’s free. It’s natural. It’s you feeding your kid. Have at it. Your life, your kid, you choices.

It is so extremely unappealing to me though. And I KNOW that breastfeeding is the natural course of things. But no matter how many pictures I look at, I can’t shake this really disturbed feeling. First of all, it does seem related to sexuality. That is honestly one reason I did not want to breastfeed. I can’t really be okay with my breasts have multiple purposes. I KNOW. Also, it’s just too much for me, too needy, too intimate, to demanding. I hate the idea of this little person literally sucking something from my body whenever they need to eat. That makes me cringe. I do not want to be needed like that. I do not want things sucked from my body by little people. Even if they are my little people. Even if it’s food. I KNOW. I mean, if I had to do it, I would do it. But I didn’t have to. So I didn’t. Gladly.

So then, I began wondering if women who nurse are actually more sexually open or more intimate with their lovers than those who don’t. Is there any kind of connection between the two?

I’ve always considered myself open sexually and a person desiring and capable of intimacy…but am I?

It almost seems to me that I am sexually willing, open to sexuality and I am willing and open to intimacy, but I have a gap between connecting the two. I know my experiences, my train of thought, my defense mechanisms have me in that place. And perhaps, I’ve known I’ve been in that place for a while…I just wonder, how does it relate to my mothering? (Obviously subtracting the sexuality from it). Am I as intimately connected to my daughter as I “should” be? Is there really a level to which this can be measured and compared? Do I have a distance within me that I will not even allow my daughter to cross? Will this hurt her in the long run?

I’m not domestic. I can’t really find it within me to give a shit about “homey” things on a regular basis. Yea, yea, I want my house to be clean, comfortable, safe. I want it to be full of things that reflect my life and make me feel “at home”. I want to eat decently ( most of the time) and don’t mind cooking when I feel like it and can take my time and enjoy it. But life is so big, so much other stuff comes first, stays forefront in my mind. I find it much more important to hang out with friends or family or talk or write or think or experience something than to play house.

And I’m finding, now that many of my friends are having kids and our lives are carving themselves out a little more, I’m afraid I’m being reminded again at how different I am. I don’t diminish how hard it is to be at home with your kids, to run your home while being with those kids, and never getting to have an excuse of being too busy with work, or getting a break from being mom while at work  (like I do). And on some days I think, damn, “If I could just stay home, maybe I could finally get my shit together around here!” But I know I would feel like I was wasting myself on motherhood alone. Is that horrible? Isn’t raising a child like the most important job, ever? But if that were *all* I was doing, I would be so disappointed and dissatisfied with myself. This is in no way to say that’s how other moms should feel, seriously. My mom stayed home. I would never say she should be disappointed with this, she was a major player in what was a kick ass childhood for me. But I would say she needed more. She needed to be more than “mom” for 20 years.I believe she would be happier now, if she had pursued something for herself beyond motherhood then. And honestly, I think that would have only done great things for us as well. The better you feel personally, the more you can offer. And maybe that’s where I am when I make whatever decisions I make that don’t seem very “mom”. I know I have to do what’s best for me if I’m going to be worth a fuck as a mom.

Maybe part of it is that feminist in me. I don’t want to depend on someone else to bring in money. I can do that. I will do that. I also don’t need anyone else to run my home. I can do that. I will do that. As I see fit. Maybe it’s just my pretty fierce sense of independence. Maybe it’s the overachiever in me. Maybe it’s ADHD. I know it’s not just that I want to be making a change in the community because if I were an at home mom I could be volunteering like crazy and involved in so many things around me…so… maybe I’m just me.

I love my daughter. I loved her before I met her, before she was formed in my womb. I want to teach her to be loving, kind, compassionate, full of belief, and joy and peace. I want her to be strong, to be able to pick herself up when she falls down, to be able to reach out to someone else who has fallen down. I want her to be able to ask for help, to be connected to a large community. I want her to seek out her dreams, to be active in creating the life she wants. I want her to make her own decisions, with intelligence and passion. I want her to seek guidance and wisdom. I want her to know I love her, deeply and fiercely and to the very best of my ability , all the time, every second of her life, screw ups and successes all the same. I want her to have fun, to breathe and live and enjoy life, no matter what comes her way. I want her to be able to make the best out of situations, to know obstacles are opportunities. I want her to have intimate relationships. I want her to never settle for other’s standards, but to seek her own.  I want her to accept love, to claim hope, to possess peace, to ride joy. I want her to look at my life and admire it more than she criticizes it.

This is why I needed to write tonight. To get here.  Who cares if I formula fed and am made uneasy by breastfeeding. Who really gives a damn? This previous paragraph is where my heart is, where my intention as a mother is. And I am almost positive the 10 months of bottle delivered Enfamil won’t make a goddamn difference.

Alright, so here’s the February page of last years calender:

February 1: Superbowl @ Patti’s Made Margarita Pie and Iced Brownies. Went to Hope Church

February 4: SNOW DAY! and Caribou

February 5: Crazy busy at work. First time to TimberRidge

February 6: Hawthornes w/ Natalie (Manicotti and Tiramisu) 🙂

February 8: Went to Dulins Grove. Movie with Rach and Steak N Shake

February 11: Dinner at Mom and Dad’s. Wine, Rain, and breakfast

February 13: Anzi’s. Saw Sonny, Angela, Lily. Last salaried day 😦

February 14: V-Day cake, presents for Nat. Visit Mom and Dad. Library and downtown Concord with Natalie

February 15: Grocery Store. Pizza and ice cream w/ Carol.

February 16: Did Jason’s Myspace. Watched My Name is Earl with Jason.

February 19: Book Club @ Sharon’s. The Godmother and pizza dip

February 20: Chinese and ice cream night

February 21: Dad’s store, Target $/Clearance, Maw Maw’s and Hawthornes

February 22: Watched The Wedding Date while Nat napped and Jason played Xbox. Started Self Challenge

February23: Made Jason a white cake with green sugar

February 25: Got laptop to work @ Crossroads!

February 27: Anzi Pizza and CVS candy

Februray 28: Concord library (Hannah Montana!). Part of Appaloosa

There was a lot of eating happening last February it seems…and…the whole Self Challenge ended pretty much when it began…

For a link to January’s and a little more about this little “project” of mine, go here

https://barefootbex.wordpress.com/2010/01/10/the-calender-project/

I’d like to start this by stating that I don’t think I’ve ever actually used the phrase “Oh Snap”, but it popped into my head when I was thinking of a title, so, there it is.

This week, after participating in a forum held at a church regarding the “resignation” of a popular preschool director, I gathered the final fuel for the fire that burns the words onto these pages (okay, they’re screens). See, this fire has been smoldering for several years, but at first, there was too much anger. And then too much apathy. And now, I’m somewhere between the two.

Money, religion, and politics are always hot button issues each in their own right, and this is about the twisted presentation of the three as one. A trinity of sorts. The fact that the starting point of this essay (for lack of anything better to call it) focuses on the happenings of a preschool  may not grab you at first, but I promise, it all connects to a bigger picture, so give me a chance to draw it all together as best as I can.

See, the previously mentioned forum was to address concerns parents had regarding a forced resignation of a preschool director who ran a church preschool as a ministry. How do I know it was forced? Because I bore witness to 4 months of passive aggressive harassment and mistreatment. On top of that, I know this church has a dismal track record of doing this same thing over and over. In 10 years, they have managed to go through something like 11 pastors, countless interim pastors, multiple music directors and secretaries, and now a preschool director.

At some point, a church should start asking themselves what they’re doing wrong. You can’t play victim forever. And all of this doesn’t even include members who have left or been forced out. The fact that people officially “resign” does not, in fact, make this any more acceptable of a situation. It just means they took the highest road they could when pushed too far and treated too poorly. It doesn’t take a genius to see that something is wrong here. Passionate, dedicated professionals who just “resign” and don’t even have the opportunity to tell those they’ve ministered to good-bye because following the acceptance of their “resignation” they were told to remove themselves and their belongings that day? That fails to make sense to me. Unless, the resignation were forced and those responsible were waiting for the day to come. Unless, they are trying to sweep whatever ugliness that precipitated the “resignation” under the rug as quickly as possible. Unless, they want to spin a story to sell to the congregation…

It’s disheartening that people do this kind of thing to one another in the corporate world, in the secular world. But in a self-proclaimed Christian atmosphere? It’s disgusting and unacceptable. And this was, I strongly believe, about money and politics, at least at it’s inception. I do believe that it then continued to be motivated by several other selfish, greedy things. Which just takes it up another level or two on the unacceptability scale. Here’s the thing, instead of keeping records and making profits, this preschool was letting parents slide on tuition when they lost their jobs and giving money to those who needed it.  They paid their teachers and bought supplies and hosted programs and whatever was left was used to help someone. Because they ran it like a ministry. And it ran well. It was well appreciated.

While the church itself fell apart over and over, the preschool carried on strong and steady, under strong and steady leadership, dedicated to ministry. All of the sudden, 10 years into this, the church decided to jump in and try to begin to run it like a business, while concurrently undermining the current leadership (was the church leadership jealous or intimidated by the preschool success?)  in any way possible without being completely overt (but it wasn’t that hard to see, if you’ve seen this kind of thing before). Well, I don’ t know how familiar they are with this verse in Matthew 21:12 “And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves”, but it sounds to me like Jesus was pretty mad about the church being utilized for financial gain. So, you give that a shot and we’ll see how well that works out for you in the long run, particularly since you’ve been so extremely successful in the past.

Now, I know a church is an institution ran by imperfect people. I get that. I know even a church has bills to pay and has to organize itself (it is organized religion). But a church is also intended to serve a higher purpose. A church should be held to a higher standard and the members of a church should hold themselves and one another to a higher standard of acting and living in faith and love. This means your faith should always outweigh your funds. This means your  love should always outweigh your differences. This means you hold one another accountable.

This means you basically don’t do sneaky, hateful, hurtful, greedy, selfish things over and over to one another without ever accepting responsibility, without ever being called out and incited to accept some responsibility for words and actions, without ever being urged to change, to become better.  I think sometimes people think if they just sit by and watch it happen, they aren’t  actually part of it, they aren’t culpable. But you are. If you know something is happening that is wrong and you do nothing, you are complicit. You are allowing it. You are agreeing with it. You are part of it. Your silence, your averted gaze, your acceptance of the unacceptable is pathetic, weak-minded, and weak-faithed. Didn’t anybody tell you that you have to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything? (the country singer Aaron Tippin told me when I was about eight).You’re being foolish if you think it doesn’t matter what you don’ t do. It matters just as much, if not more, than what you do.

This lack of faith-action is the thing that convicted me to leave the church. To extract myself from my employment, my teaching position, my board of education membership, ministry training team participation, choir membership, and, in a way, my family legacy within the church. I just had to walk away. Because no one wanted to hold elders, board members, deacons,  and deaconesses (do you think they were good tithers?) accountable for words and actions that were hurtful. No one wanted to hold each other accountable for anything. No one wanted to step out of their comfort zone and do anything, question anything, grow in faith. They just wanted to keep on keeping on, sweeping things under rugs and calling that “letting it go”. No one wanted to even consider rocking the boat, just a little, in the name of maybe, possibly, become better people, more honest, more intent on true service and the true purpose of the church. People were too comfortable (or wrapped up) to question it all.

That’s all I wanted, some kind of action. I was told “people aren’t perfect”. I didn’t need, desire, or expect them to be. I just wanted us to practice what we preach. I wanted to see movement. I didn’t need to be chided like a child and told to let it go. No, no, no. I would not let it go without some acknowledgment. While I loved and still love those people, I was not okay with the way the church was operating within. On politics. That was not okay and I would not be complicit. Does that mean I am unforgiving? No. I harbored no hate or ill will. I just wanted people to step up. But for some insane reason, people in churches are scared to stand up to each other, even in love, even in sincere, honest love of one another. People in churches are scared. Or lazy. Operating so much on pretense that purpose is lost. It’s the stupidest thing. It’s because of money and politics.

People with money in church (the “good tithers”),  people who are part of the politics, are wrapped up, under control of the little power they exercise among one another, never truly free, but believing they have a position that allows them some sort of inherent “rights”. Then you have those that aren’t involved in either, who are lazy, complacent, or wearing blinders- allowing those with the “power” to just do what they do while you just show up for the ride and take it all at face value. Either way, it does nothing for the church. And it makes me want to overthrow some tables.

That situation has settled itself  for me through the years, and I am again darkening the doors of churches, but not without a good bit of cynicism and criticism for the way churches (and the people in them) operate. And I think that’s healthy and perfectly acceptable. I do not need church to have God. But I do feel that church can be a good avenue, a good tool, a good community in relation to God. Churches have the possibility to do and be so much. That’s why it bothers me when people abuse and misuse the church from within, while pretending to have the best interest of the church at heart. They are undermining all the church could be.  It could be so much more than what it is, but quite honestly, it’s been so defeated by and in itself that it’s hard to even take it seriously or see it’s potential anymore.

At the forum, we were supposed to ask questions. One of mine was: What are you doing, as a church, to prevent this from happening again? Have you identified a problem, a connection to all the upheaval that occurs here? What are you going to do different? The pastor never answered my question. He didn’t answer anyone’s questions. He repeated himself over and over, and tried to sidetrack us. I found him to be an insipid, shallow, condescending, jerk who only knew enough to know he had nothing of substance to present, so he just filled up time with an empty run-around of words. If anyone takes him seriously as a leader, then they fall into the same category I just placed him in. If that sounds ugly, I’m not sorry. Sometimes the truth hurts.

Just like with anything else, people need to utilize some critical thinking when engaging in church. You can not just let yourself be fed things by “leaders” of anything, even (and especially) a church or any religious institution. Whatever you are told, you have to evaluate within yourself and run it through your own conversation and journey of faith.  Otherwise, what does it really mean? What are you really going to do with it? Why does it matter? If you can’t even take the time and energy to process it and own it within you, then how are you going to be able to do anything worthwhile with it? And most importantly, how are you going to be sure you’re not being lead astray??

Just because someone managed to become a minister, or a church leader of any kind, does not mean they are automatically a valid and positive leader. A pastor is not above their congregation (or anyone else). They are not holier or more righteous or any closer to God  than anyone else. They are someone who feels called to serve in a particular way, in a particular setting. They are not in charge of you or the church. And quite honestly, in a church, it’s really a family, a team, a community, so “leadership” should be spread out and checks and balances should always be in place. Because there will always be politics in church, just like there will be money. So there should at least be an effort made to utilize the organization, the institution that is a church more effectively towards it’s higher purpose. Otherwise, what are you doing? And why?

The thing about money, religion, and politics is that as powerful as they are, love trumps them all. In love, there is faith, there is joy, there is hope, there is mercy, there is grace, there is encouragement, there is purpose, there is drive, there is passion, there is determination, there is promise, there is commitment, there is patience, there is generosity, there is freedom, there is acceptance, there is humility.

If  a church is not something that can really radiate and spread the love and faith associated with God, if it’s not a place where it is made known the reality and possibility of a body of believers who put faith and love above money, religion and politics, then maybe someone should change the name of it  and stop messing up and watering down the concept of “church”.

Shouldn’t a church be a place where people, though imperfect, try to be better all the time? A place where people encourage this in each other, even if that means apologizing or calling someone out sometimes? Shouldn’t it be a place where people aren’t scared of thinking for themselves or taking a stand?  And above all, shouldn’t it be a place where people try to put love first? Didn’t Christ do these things? Aren’t Christians modeling their life after Christ? He was poor, he was homeless, he was never in line with the politics of the day, he was always doing and saying things officials and religious leaders didn’t like.

Through Christ, don’t Christians believe they have a direct line to God? If so, everyone’s on the same page here, everyone has equal access to God regardless of power or position, regardless of class or status, regardless of sin. Wasn’t Christ  pushing people out of their comfort zones? Wasn’t he dining with prostitutes and touching lepers? Wasn’t he turning over the moneychanger’s tables? Wasn’t he was consistently out of any place any one would consider a comfort zone? Considering the politics and religions of his time and place, wasn’t he part of an anti-political, anti-religious  movement? Wasn’t  he was teaching people the one true comfort zone is in God, in God’s love, in love, in the belief of love, the faith of love. Not money, not religion, not politics or the supposed power or these things- God. Love. The power of God’s love in us, around us, through us.

Love first. Love. First. All else would follow. All the programs and budgets and committees and initiatives and sermons and ministries would follow. God is love. God loves all of us. Those who love God, love others. Love first.

How novel.