A Disruption

This is what I’ve decided:

I am done believing the lie that all anger is sinful.  I am done being told that I am disagreeing with the Bible when I disagree with a preacher.  I am done sitting still in a pew while a person on a stage tells me to cheer for him, to make him feel great for “just preaching the Word.”

I will no longer encourage the worship of leaders and pastors.  I won’t cower in the back row while someone tells me, under a guise of loving redirection, that God has not called me to do certain things because I am a woman.  I won’t accept the notion of “equal, but different.”  That idea didn’t get us far the last time we tried to make it true.  So yes – I will continue to sit in my seat on the bus.

I will lean into this anger, because I love the Church and I love Jesus more.  And I can’t sit still and quiet when the ones I love are manipulated, deceived, or oppressed.  I will call for context, details, and interpretations from across the aisles.  I will praise God when truth is spoken, and no one else.  I will hold leaders accountable.  I will challenge those who have power, even if I am afraid.  I am so tired of being afraid.

I will unclench my fists, because while quick heat lights fires, only steady oxygen keeps them lit.  I will refuse to give in to bitterness.  I will refuse to let anger become me.  I will refuse to close my eyes and ears.  I will loosen my grip, too.

I will create a disruption.  I will overturn tables in the Temple.  I will read the Word aloud.  I will sit at the feet of Jesus and learn, a passionate rabbi-in-training, then I will go out and preach.  I will give people water, I will see them as people, not projects; I will relinquish my souls-saved tally, I will invite those who have been turned away, I will beg forgiveness for the sins of my people.  The Gospel does not offend because of who it leaves out.  It offends because of who it lets in.

I won’t close the gate.  I will push aside the guards and I will pry open the wrought iron bars, even if no one comes to help me.  Even if everyone does.

This is what I’ve decided.

Advertisements

Sanctuary.

At camp, we sing a song called Sanctuary.  It’s one of my favorite sounds in the world: listening to my camp family throughout the years, singing the words softly and loudly, with tears in their eyes and with smiles on their faces, holding hands, sitting in the dark, staring at the fire.  The tune is simple.  The words are straightforward.  It is a prayer that I never grow tired of praying.

Lord, prepare me
to be a sanctuary
pure and holy
tried and true.
With thanksgiving
I’ll be a living
sanctuary
for You.

When I sing this, I am under the cover of hundred-year-old oaks and maples and pines.  Even when I’m not, that is where my heart and my mind go.  I can close my eyes and I can be there – I can smell the woods and hear the water and the crackling tiki torches.  I feel like I’m home, like I’m where I belong.  It has so much to do with the place but it has so much more to do with the presence I feel.  I feel God holding me when I sing this song, when I go to that place.  I feel His existence beside me, in the air, in the pit of my stomach.

The plea of this song is for God to make me into His dwelling place.  I’m asking for preparation, I’m expecting to be transformed.  This song means I’m letting go – it’s what it’s always meant for me.  You see, a sanctuary is so much more than the room we worship in.  It’s more than the pews and slightly raised stage with the cross and the stained glass windows.  Those are beautiful, and they are special places.  But God doesn’t dwell in church buildings.  The Spirit has not torn His way through our fellowship halls and Sunday School classrooms, painted the walls white, and set it on fire.  Our churches are not holy because they are churches.

God rips into our lives, breaking our hearts and whitewashing the walls; He lights fires that cause us to feel, to hurt, to love.  He doesn’t destroy us – He made us – but He does refine.  And He pulls us together, weaving us into the lives of others.  We are living, breathing, walking-around sanctuaries.  God takes us places and we find holiness, not because we are holy ourselves or because a building (or a forest) has special powers.  When God is in us, you see, He breaks down our barriers of sacred and secular.  We see God in places we hadn’t noticed Him before.

Tonight I was with my friends at an old, old theatre in the center of the village.  The opera house creaks and it doesn’t have comfortable chairs or always-working lights, but it is beautiful in it’s age.  We’re putting on a show there this weekend: a bunch of twenty-somethings with no money, little time, and a whole hell of a lot of passion.  Tomorrow is opening night, so tonight we prayed.  A lot.  I was sitting in the back after rehearsal, watching the actors receive notes, watching and praying for people to come tomorrow, for people to like the show, for understanding and for soft hearts.  The show isn’t easy.  If I’m being honest – and I am – then I admit that there is a lingering fear in me that it won’t happen the way I want it to happen.  People won’t come, things will go wrong, no one will like it.  As though it were about me.  As though I controlled any of it.  As though any of it mattered.

Anyway, we prayed.  A lot.  I’m one of those people who opens their eyes during long prayers.  I’m not being disrespectful and I’m most definitely praying.  The thing is, I like watching others pray.  I like watching others be silent in the presence of their Savior.  I like seeing people smile, hold hands, furrow their brow.  Maybe I’m breaking the unspoken code of praying, or something.  But because people assume everyone’s eyes are closed, people usually stop putting on a show when they pray.  And Lord knows I am so sick of watching a show of churchiness and religiosity.  I love to see people talk with Jesus when they have no one to impress.

So I opened my eyes tonight.  And I looked at my friends, some I’ve known for a while and some I’m just now beginning to know.  My eyes traveled up the walls, to the top of the old proscenium, to the tall windows that let in so much cold air.  And in my head (or my heart – my voice seems to come from both), the song Sanctuary started up.  I could hear my camp brothers and sisters singing it, because it will always be them.  I smiled, because I had found another sanctuary.  Because church is not just a building and a system.  Church is the people of Jesus, holding onto one another in an old opera house, asking for forgiveness and peace and blessing and, please, Jesus, even butts in the seats.  I was struck by how little we all know, how little life we have between the lot of us, but how desperate we are for Jesus to come through us, for people to love one another, for something we’ve done to matter.

I think we forget that Divinity lives within us.  Not in the postmodern sense, not in the humanistic sense, no.  But the actual Divinity, the God of Creation, Yahweh who loves and redeems and comes back for His sheep, that God has cleared out a space for His home in the shadowy depths of our hearts.  He has called the space good, and He has promised to stay with us no matter how messy it gets.  He has promised us that we matter by breaking down the door and lighting a fire in the hearth of our souls.  Lord, prepare me for that.  Tried and true.  Living, alive, with a beating heart and lungs full of air, a sanctuary for You.

Winona.

I grew up at Winona United Methodist Church.  We are a small congregation, as congregations go.  We can pack 300 in the sanctuary but we’re usually closer to 175 on a normal Sunday.  I have sat in the same pew (two up from the middle, house right) my entire life.  Before that, my mom and her family sat there.  My cousins sat in front of and beside me.  For most of my childhood, Walt sat behind me.  Now, Ron and Delores sit there.  When I go home from school, I am excited to go to my church.  The service is simple, and has remained largely unchanged as long as I’ve been around.  First we sing.  Then the kids get to go up to the front and sit on the steps while someone gives a lesson.  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve begun to realize that the lesson sounds like it’s for children, but usually is meant for the rest of us.  Then the kids run through the sanctuary collecting coins in noisy tin cans.  That money goes to those in our community who need it.  After the little ones go downstairs for junior church, we pass around the mic for prayer requests and praises, then we pray.  We take up the offering, then someone from the congregation reads the Bible passages out loud.  The pastor gives the message, and we sing again, usually a hymn.  A benediction, and music starts, and we all stand to talk, laugh, or leave.  There is a lot of lingering.

I didn’t appreciate my church as much as I should’ve growing up.  I complained about it being small, about the music being so-so, about the sitting-still and the boring sermons and the people who seemed to know me too well.  But I loved it all at the same time, and as I’ve grown up, I’ve realized that all the small annoyances have actually made me love my church more.  It is small, so I can invest in lives.  I babysit children and know families and life stories.  The people there watched as I was baptized as an infant and as I graduated from high school.  When I worship with my church, I hear simple melodies and voices that sing because God allows them.  I listen to the words and my thoughts are not drowned in bass or manipulated by emotional musical swells.  I am free to sit in my pew or walk to the back or move to the parlor or tuck my feet up underneath me or take off my shoes or draw on my bulletin.  I am able to listen to sermons and let God speak through them, even when they’re not given by fast-paced speakers spouting tweetable one-liners.  I am surrounded by people who know me too well, and who love me more than I deserve.

This is why I am thankful for my church:

I have never been made to feel like less.  I grew up surrounded by people who valued me – and continue to value me – as a human, as a woman, as a daughter, as a sister, as a fellow heir with Christ.  Some of them are egalitarians, some are complementarians, some don’t know what those words mean, and some wouldn’t care to be labeled.  Some are truck drivers, some are teachers, some are farmers, some are stay-at-home moms, some are engineers, some are office managers, some are elected officials, some are unemployed.  Many grew up in Winona, and some did not.  Men served as trustees and Sunday School teachers.  Women served as trustees and Sunday School teachers.  Never once do I remember a message being preached from the pulpit that women are under the authority of men.  I do remember, though, being taught that men and women are under the authority of God.  I was surrounded by many types of men and women who worked for the Lord within the church and beyond.  I have been pastored by men and women.  I have been taught by men and women.  I have spoken in front of men and women.  I have taught boys and girls of all ages.  I have only ever been supported, loved, and encouraged.  I have been praised and admonished.  I have been asked to lead and I have been asked to follow.  I have been cradled and pushed from the nest by people who believed in me – even the radical parts of me.  Even the scared parts of me.  My too-loud was never enough to be shushed, and my too-quiet was never enough too be called weak.  This is a church that saw many of my flaws, my pride and my ambition on display in ways that it shouldn’t have been  But they’ve also seen my moments of peace, of understanding, of humility.  They’ve seen me broken, ready to shake God away.  They helped me heal.  Even when they don’t realize it, they are helping me heal.

This is a church with many failures and frustrations: we are humans.  We are sometimes nosy and sometimes pretentious.  We are sometimes quick to judge and sometimes afraid of change.  We have fallen short of His glory.  But we are Winonans, so we pick one another up, brush off the dust, make amends, restore promises, forgive, and move on.  That’s what we’re used to.  It’s all we know.  We have fallen short, but we do not stop seeking Him.  We know very little, at the end of the day, but we know the One who loves us, who empowers us to love others.  People die, and we run to them, make them food, hold them.  Storms hit and we open our doors.  We go into schools and tutor.  We watch someone else’s kid play in the band or act on the stage, because family is more than just the blood in our veins.

How grateful I am to have been part of a place where people loved the person sitting next to them.  It is a blessing to be remembered, to be prayed for, to be believed in.  How good it is to have someplace to go back to.

 

 

let the amen sound from His people again.

God knows what God is doing.

This blog has been receiving epic amounts of love from me lately – a poem or post nearly every night this week. It was a crazy week for me, so the writing helped. But now that the week is coming to a close, I didn’t want to end my writing streak! Tonight, though, I want to share the words of others. Something I’ve noticed lately is that I’ve been resisting what the Lord had to say to me through my friends and chapel speakers. I suppose I’ve just been really good (read: poor) at trying to figure everything out on my own. But life isn’t like that; it isn’t some battle we charge into alone. I am so prideful when it comes to doing things on my own. But I need to listen. I need to believe what the people around me tell me. Which brings me to this short post. Every semester, I collect quotes from chapel and church in the back of my Bible. I’ve filled up about 15 blank pages in the past two years. Since this semester is coming quickly to a close (something I’ll write on soon), and since I need to hear truth these days, I wanted to share what I’ve collected in the past few months. I hope you hear the Lord in these words too.

“None of us need on-the-job training to put us on the throne of our own lives.” -Rob Turner, Apex church, 1-27-13

“We can’t love the world’s system because the world’s system is tragically imploding.” -RT, Apex, 1-27-13

“If your life is not built around adoring Christ, then you are doing something demonic.” -RT, Apex, 1-27-13 (A very tough one for me to swallow and to wrap my head around.)

“The strategy of the devil is not to make himself look so scary and ugly – it is to make himself look beautiful.” -RT, Apex, 1-27-13 (It was a good day, what can I say?)

“These embers must turn into flame.” -RT, 1-27-13

“We have a tendency to complain about things that aren’t, but we fail to recognize how blessed we are.” -Dr. Brown, chapel, 1-28-13

“God is not fooled by our words.” -Pastor Rohm, chapel, 2-4-13 (another hard one for me – because sometimes, I am fooled by my words.)

“You always have a voice in heaven. When you think no one will listen, take it over their heads.” -Pastor Craig Miller, chapel, 2-6-13

“Truth is always best when it is accompanied by wisdom.” -Pastor Craig Miller, 2-6-13

“No matter how confused you are about what God is doing, God knows what God is doing.” -Dr. Kneeland Brown, chapel, 2-19-13

“If you read Scripture, you know that God does not always speak in thunderclaps.” -Dr. Kneeland Brown, 2-19-13

“An afterlife is not the same thing as an everlasting life.” -Russell Moore, chapel, 2-21-13

“The hotel maid who trusts in the power of the Gospel will one day be a Queen of the universe and should be treated as such.” -Russell Moore, 2-21-13

“My life right now is an internship for the life I will have in the Kingdom.” -Russell Moore, 2-21-13

“You have no accidental college roommates, or accidental relationships, or accidental part-time jobs. Everything is for a purpose.” -Russell Moore, 2-21-13

“Stop thinking in terms of the next 60 years and start thinking in terms of the next trillion years.” -RM, 2-21-13

“If you belong to the kingdom of God, you have nothing to prove.” -RM, 2-21-13

“Why is it that these people – the prostitutes, the sinners, the tax collectors – clamored to be with Jesus but don’t want to be near us?” -Dr. Brown, chapel, 2-25-13

“Give God a chance to prove how real He is.” -Pastor Bill Church, my home pastor at Winona UMC, 3-10-13

“The Creator of the universe will give you His full attention for as long as you want it.” -Dr. Brown, chapel, 3-11-13

“The person who has nothing plus Jesus actually has everything.” -Dr. Someone From a Baptist Seminary (which is actually what I have written down… forgive me.), chapel, 3-13-13

“We cannot condemn without offering Jesus.” -Eric Metaxas, chapel, 3-14-13

“The more you love and trust the Lord, the stranger the path He will take you on, because He knows you won’t run away.” -Eric Metaxas, 3-14-13

“When something becomes everything to us, we are then worshiping it.” -Jason Wing, Apex church, 3-17-13

“On your greatest day, Christ still had to die for you.” -Rob Turner, Apex, 4-17-13 (Painfully humbling for me.)

“The humble, mysterious power of the Kingdom protects us from depending on the dramatic.” -RT, Apex, 4-21-13

“He’s just as strong in the whisper as He is in the fire.” -RT, 4-21-13

“We’re so prone to worship the gifts of God rather than the God who gives them.” -RT, 4-21-13

“We are slaves to a perfect master.” -Christian Figueredo, chapel, 4-23-13

Father,
I know I am very bad at trusting You. I know I’m very bad at believing Your good will for my life, even though I know there is nothing You want more for me than goodness and faithfulness. Please help me hear what You say, through whomever You say it. Help me accept Your wisdom and Your blessings.
In the only Name that matters – Amen.