Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Rainy Day Rambling - Christianity, Culture, & Conservatives Edition

"So we come to a decision, draw a line in the sand.We stand on different sides and I reach out for your hand." The Habit-LissieAnother line has been drawn in the sand. Another marker of how loving you are versus how “Christian” you are. It reminds me of the time Jesus drew in the sand. I wonder what he would say if he were walking the earth in this generation. I wonder if he would be drawing lines and taking up arms? I doubt it. He was not much for drawing lines for the masses.  He certainly drew lines for the religious elite though, didn’t he?  He was quick to remind us about our greed, our hypocrisy, our lying lips and uncaring actions.  

Does sin, should sin, matter to a Christian? Yes.  It should. It should be the glaring reason that we come, crawling to Jesus, with the weight of all our failings on our backs, begging for Him to forgive, redeem and restore us through the free gift of Salvation. It should also matter, because it never leaves us, and while all we have done or will do has been paid for, by His great Work on the cross, we can not deny that the scars of sin, still linger in our lives. We fail, daily.  So does everyone else. Does knowing my debt is paid create in me a spirit of pride or humility? For many it seems like being redeemed has bestowed such hubris that they rally about everyone else’s shortcomings, with little regard to their own.


I don’t have the answers. I don’t. As we look at the hot button topics of our day, most revolve around GLBT rights and marriage. (I wrote about my stance here, and it is still the same.) I know that because I haven’t made a public cry for the sanctity of marriage (along with being vocal about some unpopular racism discussions) many of my conservative friends have assumed I’ve gone to the liberal side of the gamut. Most of them won’t admit it, but I know they are likely disappointed in me.  However, I can’t say I’ve ever been one to side with either of the political leanings of the church. Frankly, when asked in my church foyer several years ago to sign a petition about a pro-life amendment I almost lost it.  Not because I am a fan of abortion, but because how bold to assume things about me, and not even know my story. Who might they have approached who had come to find healing from the loss of abortion from the only one who can bring it, Jesus, and be met with a political rally?  But, I guess that’s another post for another day.

Church and politics have become so intertwined it is almost impossible to see who loves Jesus more than they love the USA. How did we get here? When did we start believing that the way to change the world for the better is through legislation, lobbying, and getting the right candidate in the right position instead of doing the hard work of following Jesus into real life, messy situations, and staying off our high horses? When did we decide it was better to be offensive to the world, just so no one would mistake us as being human?

In many ways I recognize the generational gap. It seems that many who are so vehement about “defending” their cause in the name of Jesus (By the way where did he ask us to do that?) are older than I.  Those of my peers that feel that same need have been raised conservatively and follow the training of their youth. In no way do I want to minimize the wisdom of those who have MUCH more experience than I do in this life. I will admit, I may indeed be the frog that will boil in the proverbial pot. Time will tell.

 I wonder though, if it is just a culture shift that is difficult to navigate.  The previous generation of Christians, lived through wars, sexual revolutions, civil uprisings, but generally, the moral law of the country remained the same. It remained, relatively, Judeo-Christian. However, in the last few decades there has been a significant veer away from that moral code, to a more humanistic approach to law. I don’t think many will disagree that we are in a Post-Christian era. From my perspective this is the difference – the generations that grew up in the years of Christian influence, are really struggling with how to live in a world that doesn’t agree. For those of us, like myself that are pretty used to that it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. It just is the world we live in. Does that make me naïve? Probably, but I’ve said it before, I’d rather be naïve than fearful, angry, or cynical.  

Living in this world is where God has placed us.  It will likely be a season of refining within the church. Instead of a social club or networking opportunity, it might actually start to cost you something to be a disciple of Jesus. It might mean that instead of sitting on our rumps and expecting the world to come to us for some savin’, that we will actually have to go and BE the church outside of the four walls of the building. That instead of poaching bodies from other churches to sit in our pews, that we will actually have to live lives that give glory to God, that show His redeeming work, that compel us to fight for what is actually important, to stand up for the widow and the orphan, to love justice and do mercy. We might actually have to love God and love our (gay, transgender, homeless, black, white, illegal, confederate flag waving, marijuana smoking, Muslim, or Christian) neighbor. Do we have to agree with our neighbors? No.  Sheesh! How boring would life be if I agreed with everyone about every thing? How would I grow in humility, grace, and compassion? Can I rejoice with them about the good things in their life? Yes. Can I mourn with them? Yes. Can I recognize that we all have our demons?  That we all screw up? That maybe everything I believe isn’t the 100% rightest thing ever? My faith looks different than it did at 19 years old, and I am so glad. If I would have stayed convinced of all I believed back then, I never would have understood the Father love of God, or the way grace washes over a person like new life, or how friendship is God’s presence on earth in my life. 

Do I still hold to the foundations of Christianity, you betcha. Do I read my Bible as a compass for truth? Yep.  Is it the Holy Spirit’s job to convict people of their need for a savior? Yessiree. Am I living my life in the power of the Gospel? I hope so. For now that is enough. For now, I’m just gonna try to be kind and if that disappoints people, I’m hoping they’ll show me a little grace, too.



Thursday, January 22, 2015

Why We Shouldn't Throw the Church Under the Bus

A pastor friend chatted with me recently about how it seems like there is a lot of church bashing going around right now. I agreed, expressing my thankfulness for all our church leaders do. FB and twitter are full of quick links to articles about why people are leaving the church and why women’s ministries are lame. I admit, I read the posts and agree for the most part.  I even share them, because they are thought provoking. 8 out of 10 times talks of building projects make me want to puke (NOT this one)  and guys, there is really never a time when the "worship" time needs to involve a smoke machine. I get it, sometimes church looks a lot more like a show or keeping up with the Jones’ or just another social club. But, when we throw the church under the bus - I think we are missing the proverbial boat in many ways.

We forget that God did not forsake the church. (Hebrews 10:25)

We forget that we are the church. 

When we think of church – we think of our respective denominations and our pastors and leaders. So, when the murmurings begin, the blame is likely put upon and felt most by our pastors and leaders. This is incredibly unfair to them. I have worked in non-profit and lay ministry positions my entire Christian life.  I have met together, planned together, prayed with, and cried with many a man and woman at the helm of a ministry. I have yet to meet one that is in it for the money, glory, or celebrity. These are some of the most humble, compassionate, conflicted people I know. They pray and fast and give so much as they follow the call set before them. They deserve honor. I know they get a bad rap, and YES there are douche-bag church leaders, but I have been fortunate to be in the company of true blue, Jesus following, glory to God giving people. So, let’s cut them a little slack and start being mindful of where we place the blame. More often than not our church looks like WE want it to. We give our money to the things WE want to happen. We give our time to the things WE deem important. Maybe we need to start evaluating ourselves, before we start criticizing our people.

Are you aware that good things STILL happen in the church

My pastor friend, Randy, reminded me of this, just the other day. Perhaps we grow cynical because we stop seeing the good things that God is doing through the church. An esteemed therapist I know recently spoke to our group on depression and specifically mentioned how one of the signs of depression is an outlook filled with “awful-isms”. We see the needs, how we wish church was different and we forget that people are coming to know Jesus. People are taking care of widows and orphans. Food pantries are being filled. People are finding grace and healing and hope because of God’s people – because of God’s work through His people – including organized church. Maybe if we can look beyond our doomsday prophesying and wishing for Jesus to come overthrow the tables of the foyer, we can start looking for the beautiful ways he is already there.

Here’s the kicker – WE ARE THE CHURCH

We are a body. When we start our disappointed diatribe on the state of the church, we should be looking in the mirror. I am becoming more and more convinced that if I see something that needs a fixin’ – I need to go to my leaders and ask to be part of the solution. Sometimes, that just means calling and talking to someone about a need or concern. Sometimes it means saying yes to a leadership role because it is the open door to affect change in your church. Maybe it means putting aside church obligations to focus on being the Church (the one with the capital C).  If you aren’t part of the solution, you should probably be shutting your big fat mouth. Practice what you preach goes both ways. I can bemoan the waste of time that a fu-fu women’s tea can be, but unless I am willing to go and engage in one – I’m just as big of a hypocrite as the next gal. If I am bummed because no-one is connecting with me, maybe I should start connecting with others. Maybe if I want to see more service and less sitting on our butts, I should be leading the charge. If anything, I should at least talk to someone about doing it and being a part of it, instead of stewing like a human crockpot until my heart is all burnt and crusty around the edges.  

That analogy about us being the body - it’s true. We cannot do church well if some of us are sitting on our hands while the rest of us try to fill every spot. You want the church to look differently, be perceived differently, engage the world differently? Before we throw our church under the bus, maybe you better see if YOU look like the Church you want to be a part of.

 I will if you will.
 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Brave Generosity

I’m a hypocrite.
You see, I read books about simple living and generosity and yet I have a LOT of stuff. I basically live like a king.
Then Debbie Savik comes to our last MOPS meeting and reminds me that my messy house and mountains of laundry are merely more indicators of my obvious excess. I have so much stuff that I can’t even handle it.
Throw in some Ann Voskamp quotes from friends, plus entering the season of thankfulness, and here I sit counting my BAZILLION blessings.
But shouldn’t all this thanksgiving result in generosity? ...
Find the rest of my post over at Bigfork MOPS. 
I'll be back in a few days (or weeks, maybe) with a giveaway. So, don't forget about me. 
-Jes

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Brave Friendship

Catch my guest post over at the Bigfork MOPS page...

if you are still here.

It has been almost 6 months since my last post.

Sorry.

Rachel, are you still my only reader? If so, thanks for the sweet card in the mail! :)

Someday I will be back. For reals.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Book Review: When We Were on Fire

I was thrilled when I received When We Were on Fire by Addie Zierman. This book has been on my "to read" list since it released. You see, I love a good memoir. Addie's sweet story is a book that chronicles her coming of age. From zealous teen, to jaded young adult, and back to the heart of faith.

Addie's journey hits it's stride during the years where Christian culture seemed more about what you were listening to, wearing, or avoiding and less about who you actually were in Christ. With it's emphasis on looking right and avoiding the masses (or at least offering a Christian alternative), it was a prime time to set up a young girl for heartbreak, failure, and hope.

My favorite aspect of When We Were on Fire is the idea of relationship and community.

 How we get it right:

"You who had learned to disappear were suddenly seen, and the world was entirely altered...You were an odd shaped piece and in one swift moment of kindness, you felt yourself click into place" (p. 22)

How we get it wrong:

"How could they know that it had taken only two girls to welcome me into the evangelical world all those years ago... That just as easily, two girls could push me away from it." (p.105)

And how ultimately, with maturity, most of us begin to realize that yes, Christians do "suck", but:

"Some of them don't suck. Some of them understand what Jesus is all about. Some of them will love you without a thought." (p. 176)

Addie's story isn't extraordinarily remarkable, but that is what makes it special. She is relatable. She is honest. She is brave to share her story.

***"I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this honest review. If you like my reviews, please boost my rating here. :) 

Monday, December 30, 2013

Book Review: Sisterchicks Do the Hula


You know what makes the long grey days of winter in the Rockies better? A book about two friends jetting off to Hawaii. SisterChicks do the Hula , by Robin Jones Gunn was just the answer to those winter blues.


Sisterchicks Do the Hula!, Sisterchicks Series #2   -     By: Robin Jones GunnSisterChicks do the Hula follows two lifelong friends, now in their 40's as they search for where they fit as life transitions. One is surprised by an unexpected pregnancy and the other struggles with embracing her natural gift of photography. As these two faith filled women spend time on the island, they find a renewed sense of purpose and faith in a good Father who gives good gifts.

The book is filled with laughter, sincerity and left me longing for a trip to Hawaii! It helped me appreciate the dear friendships I have and look forward to a time when I can meet up and celebrate the joy of friendship with my own bestie.

If you are looking for a light, fun, inspiring read, pick up a copy of Sisterchicks Do the Hula, or any of the Sisterchicks books, by Gunn. You won't be disappointed.

In partnership with the Blogging for Books program I was provided a free copy of Sisterchicks in return for my honest review. I promise, I really did like the book. 

P.S. This book is on sale for a whopping $2.99 right now. It's a smoking deal! 

If you like my book reviews, please go rate them here

Sunday, October 06, 2013

The one I wrote about how conflicted I am about church.

So, I confess.  I've been kind of a whiny baby about church lately.

Yep, I am one of those cliche people that sees all the things that American church is doing wrong.

We run it like a business.
We make it a show.
Why are there so many dang programs?
Why does everyone think we need to volunteer for everything, but doesn't even notice we've been gone for 6 weeks?
Is it really a "community" or just a club?

Am I just a spoiled rotten American brat? Pretty much. 

Frankly there are a lot of things church does right.

When we are all together, singing with one voice, a truly meaningful song - we worship Him.
When my kids come out of their class I know they heard the truth of the Word.
When people get to exercise their gifts in the service of the church, God is glorified.
When we are truly together, it is good.

I am free to worship publicly.
I have the privilege to own a Bible.
I have the right to complain and not fear of repercussions.
I have so much more than I deserve.

Yes, maybe I have an vague idea of how my perfect "church" would work, because it is easy to create this mythical place in my brain, you know, without all the people.

I've asked myself the questions:
"Is this where God wants me to be?"
"It this the right fit" (Whatever the heck that means.)
"Do these people even know me?"
"Is this church on the same path that God is leading me toward?"
"Am I using my gifts here? Is there a place for me to serve, without trying to fit this square peg into a round hole?"

And the final question - "Well, where else would we go?"
That question is always answered in one of two ways -
 a) I have no idea - every church has it's issues.
 b) I have no idea - it's not like we even have a real problem here.


Image borrowed from Relevant 
I think I've finally boiled it down - that elusive question - Am I at the right church? - with these two follow up questions: (Disclaimer - there are other questions you should ask. The obvious ones like - Are these people crazy? Do they believe in God and preach the Bible? Are we safe here? I just assumed you already knew those ones.) 

1. When I look around my church, is it filled with people I admire, respect, and trust as people who love God and seek to do His will?  
I'm not asking if you think the pastor is the next Billy Graham, or if your children's ministry is cutting edge, or if you have the best band in the world. Today, I looked around my church and one after one, I turned to Norse and said something like "I sure appreciate him." or I thought to myself, "She is such an amazing woman." My church is filled with people I admire, not because of what they do, but because of who they are. I bet yours is too.

2. Is there someone in this church that I know God has put in my life to walk along side, whatever may come? 
We have seen conflict come and go in our congregation. Some things ended well, with reconciliation, some things did not. Every time we have sought out truth, from the source(s) and prayed for wisdom. Every time God has shown us families that have come into our lives during that time, ones that had just started coming to church, or just moved to town, or people we had just become friends with,  that we felt committed to walk with, through whatever were to come. Every time, it was worth it and obvious that we did the right thing.

When it all boils down to the nitty gritty, church is the people and my commitment is never really to our "church", but to people. It is a commitment to the people that God has put in my heart, to love. Wherever those people are, that is the church that I will attend, regardless of the band, or the building, or the programs, or the pastor.

And I promise I'll try to stop being a whiny baby.


P.S - If anyone from my church's staff reads this, take note - I know you are working your fanny off, you're doing the best you can, and I will not admit to being the best parishioner. My heart has got nothing but love for you, even if sometimes our methods would be different. Thanks for all you do!