In the Church, but not of it

Lady Justice

My favorite presentation while I was at Wild Goose was hosted by Jared Byas with Levi Weaver. They spoke on spiritual creativity, and as someone who fancies herself a bit of a creative, I was interested to hear their thoughts on that issue. Jared’s talk and Levi’s performance were amazing, but one of the things that really struck me about them was that they both said that we had to get beyond cynicism if we wanted to create. They did not suggest that we could not experience seasons as a critic, but cautioned against setting up camp there because it is nearly impossible to create from that space because it can be just as limiting as the things that we’re cynical about. If we constantly put ourselves in the position of critic, the ability to see beauty diminishes and with it, the ability … [Read more...]

7 Billion Paths to God

paths

The first time I really experienced God in a way that was all mine, I was at a Christian music festival. I was listening to a speaker talk about his relationship with his dad and for the first time, everything that I had been talking about and thinking about for my whole life just clicked. The questions that had been floating around in my head suddenly made sense. I didn’t doubt my salvation before, but on that day, it became real. I'm sure I could look at that event and figure out what it was about it that worked for me. Why, after years of church attendance, the gospel story finally resonated in a way that it never had before. Maybe it was because instead of simple expository preaching, the speaker used more story-telling. Maybe it was because of being inside a man-made edifice, we … [Read more...]

When God Became Mother

mother

The first time I heard God called “Mother,” I didn’t know how to react. I was in junior high and was attending a Good Friday youth breakfast. We were in the upstairs at a local UMC church fellowship hall, about fifty youth from various churches meeting together once a year to remember the sacrifice of the cross and eat scrambled eggs and bacon. One of the men who was going to be  doing the presentation was leading us in the prayer for our food, and when he opened his prayer, he prayed to “Father-Mother God.” I don’t remember a single thing that he said after that because the shock of hearing God referred to as a woman so offended my Lutheran (LCMS) sensibilities that I couldn’t even begin to process the rest of the prayer. God had been revealed in the flesh as Jesus, a man. God was … [Read more...]

The Clash and Blend of Unity by Rich Chaffins

music

A few months ago, Rich posted, "Harmony is a gorgeous, needed thing, whether you're speaking of music, or people, or life." I thought that was fantastic and asked him if he'd like to expand on that with a few more words here on my blog. I'm thankful for the harmony that Rich adds to my life and I'm so honored to share his words with you here today. Also, be sure to click and listen to the sound files in the piece - they will help illustrate Rich's points more clearly. ++++++ Root. Perfect fifth. And….repeat. When I first got interested in playing guitar, I was 13. I had seen the hair metal bands on TV before, and loved it. But one day, something just clicked, and I knew I had to pick up a guitar. And this was what I played, because it’s what I could play: root/fifth. Commonly … [Read more...]

Why I Want You To Cry For Me

mourning

When I die, I hope people cry for me. I know you're not supposed to say that. I don't know if I've ever gone to a funeral or memorial service where someone didn't say, "So and so doesn't want you to cry for them." Or "We should be rejoicing today instead of mourning." And it's kind of silly, because I also don't know if I've ever attended a funeral or memorial service where no one cried. We are not good at grief. And I think Christians are kind of the worst at it. Because most Christians believe in some kind of after-life, there is a strong tendency to simply look at this life - this wild, gorgeous, messy, intricate life - as a kind of gas station stop. Compared to eternity, what is 80 years? A drip, a molecule, an atom. So no grief necessary, we have eternity. I understand … [Read more...]

When You Don’t Fit In At Church

square peg round hole

On Sunday mornings, I wake up early, kiss my still sleeping husband good-bye, and drive nearly an hour to my church in one of the more rural parts of West Virginia. I park my van, covered in HRC and Obama and Strong Bad bumper stickers in a sea of conservative pickup trucks. I wear an Arrested Development t-shirt among a throng of Christian t-shirts. I should not fit in. According to a number of demographics, I am nothing like a lot of these people. It would be all too easy for me to focus on our differences. There are plenty, and if I'm being perfectly honest, some of them matter to me. I care about things like LGBT equality and access to birth control. I'm pretty iffy about hell. I'm far more likely to reach for John 3:17 as a life verse instead of John 3:16. And yet this is my … [Read more...]

When God Showed Up

Cross

I'm sitting on a hill on a farm in Pennsylvania in late June with hundreds of other sweaty bodies. The speaker in the front is talking about reconnecting with his estranged father and for the first time, I realize that my faith has never really been my own. He gives a call for salvation at the end of this talk, and while I'm pretty sure that I've been saved my whole life, I stand up, because today I feel like salvation isn't just about getting to heaven, but maybe about something deeper in the right now. +++++ I'm in a church service, singing God of Wonders for the hundredth time. It feels rote and tired, so I close my eyes because I know that I can appear spiritual, even if I’m just trying to rest. I’m a mom with three young children and a fourth on the way and while my eyes are … [Read more...]

Why Your Prayers Don’t Work

Pray

After our responses to the Ask A Mixed Faith Couple were posted, someone commented on Facebook that they prayed for Jason and me to become a one-faith couple again. They said that God answers prayers and would answer this one as well. This isn't the only time I've seen that expressed. I get emails along these lines pretty regularly. People who tell me with their words that they are praying for my husband to come back to God. I appreciate your concern, but I want to be honest with you. At three and half years in, I don't see your prayers doing any good.  I know it's not great to admit that. I'm supposed to exercise faith. I'm supposed to remember that "the prayer of a righteous man avails much." I'm supposed to believe that whatever we ask in God's name will be given to … [Read more...]

God in the sun and the rain

Storm Front

This week, God has been brought into the discussion about the weather rather a lot. There was a questionable tweet. There was an awkward interview. I understand it. When tragedy strikes, we want to better understand why. So we look for someone to blame for the horror or someone to thank when that horror is escaped. And while God seems like the perfect scapegoat or hero, I can't help but wonder if that's not the most helpful way to deal with these situations. If God sent the storm as punishment, then that seems both arbitrary and non-helpful. What is the lesson? That God hates school? That God isn't a fan of family homes? Most parents will agree that if you need to discipline a child, that lesson needs to apply to what the child has done wrong. The most effective lessons tend to be … [Read more...]

Atheist Lessons in Faith

The Book of Mormon

This past weekend, Jason and I finally got away for a trip with just the two of us. We went to Chicago, where we gorged ourselves on fantastic food, listened to some great live music, spent an hour in the cold waiting to go into an aquarium, and just enjoyed being a couple for a few days. One of the reasons we chose Chicago for our destination is because Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s acclaimed musical The Book of Mormon is playing there. We are both huge fans of their work and have been looking forward to seeing this show for a long time. I love Parker and Stone because absolutely nothing is sacred to them, which means they are brutally honest in everything they write. On the other hand, nothing is sacred to them, which means when I say they are brutal, I mean, they are brutal. I was … [Read more...]