Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Anorexic Spirit of the Church

Women's Experience in the Church on the Emerging Women blog...

It broke my heart because I know some of the truth behind it...and I can feel the hurt that it causes...Let me explain myself.

This article started with a survey that states the majority of women believe they are living to their fullest potential within the church. To which I say, "Really?!?" If that's the case, then why have I not visited that church. What church are they a part of where they are encouraged to take leadership roles and are strongly supported by the leadership within the church. I mean, time and time again, my husband and I visit churches where the "women's ministry" consists of providing childcare, stitch and bitch, and making food for large church gatherings...maybe if we're lucky a few of them visit sick people or shut ins...but by and large, that's it. It's hard because it's not that any of those activities is bad or lesser or unimportant. I actually love children, sewing, cooking, and visiting. It's just that...I think to myself, is that it? Is that all that I'm allowed to do here? Is that the box in which I am to fit my passion? So, we don't have a church home, yet. I blamed myself for a time. I blamed my judgement of others. I accused myself of hating God and hating worship. It makes sense to me because I have always found it hard to find a church community that I can call in which I feel a part of a community. I have always blamed myself for this. I have always thought about how my troubles with anorexia still linger in my soul. How I refuse to connect or cut myself off from God and His help, believing I don't need it.

So, of course, when I read "Then this report made me sad. The kind of sad that aches in my bones. Because when I look at it I see poverty. The church in North America (like the US) may have a lot of money. It may have a lot of stuff. We may also have a lot of people for all I know. But we are starving to death. Emaciated and dying for lack of food, water and oxygen. Worse, we are doing it to ourselves. With a huge smile on our faces. We are a people with anorexia or bulimia. When we look in the mirror we see fat and happy, but the reality is we are starving. Dying."

I think there's a lot of truth in that. I've been thinking about poverty a lot. I am sometimes torn between wanting to serve those who experience financial poverty and don't even know how to dream about living out their passions...and those experiencing spiritual poverty who think they are living a full life but don't even know how to dream about living a connected life. I can relate my experiences during church visits to my experience with anorexia. I remember trying to cover up my anorexia. I would eat ice cream for lunch...happily. Because happy healthy people eat ice cream. No one knew that that would be all I would eat that day. Heck, it even helped me to convince myself that I was fine...super...doing just what I needed to do, unlike those showy cows around me...I ate ice ice cream cone, which told me that I wasn't sick like some girl that only ate carrot sticks and water...I just wasn't gorging myself like the people I was around everyday, which isn't a bad thing...I was living in I told myself.

And that's what I see in the church. It's like an attempt to distract and fool self and others, just as I did with the ice cream. Look at what we have -- book discussions, Bible study, Sunday school, confirmation. We go to church Sunday morning and Wednesday night. That is what I do. That is a reasonable, balanced spiritual life...not like those crazy people worshiping at home, talking about God with random people, giving up what they have to live with next to nothing. We're living with spiritual moderation here, people. It's not like we're sick like those who only show up on Christmas if that.


How sad is that?

My husband and I were discussing this regarding our search for a church... Perhaps that's why we've had such a hard time finding a church home... because we feel a calling for more than a pew to sit in on Sunday morning. We want a community, a family... so we can learn and grow together, discuss what God is doing and how we might be a part of it...encourage and support each other in our callings...on Sundays or whatever days work for worship and discussion. Oh man, just typing that made me yearn for that kind of life-giving and sustaining connection. Gee! We want a church home, somewhere to return recharge and prepare for what's next... A full, fulfilling, live-giving, sustaining, connected relationship with our Lord and others who are similarly passionately involved. That's the we can have the support and encouragement we need to continue to follow God's call and adventure with Him. And so our search will continue...for community and connection...we will not be discouraged by closed doors and seeming lack of life in the churches we visit...we will not let that deaden us or hold us back...we will adventure on. I thank God that He gave me that we have each other through all of that we can connect and grow that we can discuss and grow and encourage and a a family...

God will continue to grow and sustain us. I know He will fulfill His promises as we adventure together. What a blessing! And I know God will use us to show His people how valuable they are and the life He has for them! So, God, call us! Send us! Take us to the next step, the next place... take our life and use it! I think I'm starving for that!

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Dreaming in abstract

I've been dying to blog lately. I think it's because blogging makes me my thoughts are completely processed. It gives me a sense of retention. Tonight,I find my mind whirring...I'm thinking about worship service. I'm thinking about presence, positivity, purpose. I'm thinking about illness, sin, redemption, freedom, and the journey that is health and wellness...I'm thinking about poverty, fasting, loneliness,, abundance, generosity...and above all else...LOVE...the love that gives it all meaning.

all of those thoughts are just whirring and blurring and blending...each thought feeding the other...yet fighting for attention. I want to tell you the beautiful connections and epiphanies I am experiencing. It's lovely...but hindered...All of these thoughts are developing into a dreamy plan. Perhaps exploring the plan will make the underlying conviction more clear and concrete.

But the seems stuck. I can't seem to get the nerve to describe it. Am I embarrassed? Cowardly? Uncertain? Is it because I haven't spoken to my husband about all of this and allowed us to dream together? I mean, I can't dream a full dream or hatch a complete plan with any certainty unless it is rounded out by my husband's beliefs and convictions.

But...even with that...Why am I so hesitant to share with him? It's like I'm afraid that my words will tarnish the dream...not do it the justice it deserves...or maybe it will all fall apart if I try to string my thoughts all together in a formal, organized fashion. Maybe I'm only imagining it all fits together. Maybe the flaws will be exposed in the sharing and it will all fall in on itself before its had a chance to mature. But then again, maybe it's the sharing that will give it a shot at fruition. Perhaps, my thoughts are just a skeleton on which others will hang their hopes and dreams. Perhaps my husband, my friends, my little community will give it the flesh it needs. Maybe it will fill in the gaps and weak spots, making it even more solid...and giving it a greater chance and being realized. And if those dreams are truly of God's will, the whole thing will spring to life. And the thought that that might just be the case -- that the whirling thoughts in my head somehow help to form a God-breathed, creative, creating community or something... That, in and of itself, is worth whatever perceived risk there is in the sharing...right? I say, surely! Surely! :)

Thursday, July 08, 2010

In Hope, Faith, and Love

I knew that my wedding...our wedding...would be the start of an incredible adventure. I guess I just didn't quite know how indescribable and immediate the adventure would be. I mean, from day one...really, from hour one...I feel like I've been learning and growing so much.

I don't know quite what to do with it all. I feel like I'm moving forward and learning tons, but I also feel challenged. I get frustrated because I want so badly to grow so much more than I have and sometimes feel like I should be so much further along than I am. I know it's a bit ridiculous to have such tremendous expectations of myself, but then you know me?

I believe it is also because already, I have gained so much more hope. I know that I am meant to be right where I am as John's wife. He truly completes me in a way that I am not sure I even dared dream. And in experiencing that, I can envision more just what God may do through us and through our marriage. I mean, there is just so much potential...that has made me feel so inadequate, and ironically insecure. I mean, in thinking about all I could be and all I wish to be, the care I want to give, the difference I hope to make, the love I dream to share...oh man, I sure come up short at this point in my life.

I'm just too easily frustrated and deterred, I guess. Like pretty much every game, activity, etc. that I've undertaken, I understand that I have the ability to rock at it and then am frustrated and upset when I can't show that during my first undertaking. So, too, in my marriage I know I am a great fit for John and will be his partner throughout our faith in myself and my ability to grow are easily weakened by all the many miscommunications and adaptations that have accompanied the infancy of my marriage.

So, I find that my God has given me great hope for what is to come. I have so much hope for what we will accomplish in our lives together, and that hope, or at least an awareness of it, is growing in me each day...and I now have a renewed sense of purpose and a new dream for my day to day find ways to grow and to spread that hope to the lives of others...such as those I encounter at work.

And while I feel like my faith is fragile, it's also growing in tremendous ways. I am seeing, more and more, just how faithful God has been all my life and realizing the constancy of His care...I feel my faith is shaky but I think it's more of a growing pains kind of thing...or maybe more closely related to the fragility of new know, like new shoots of grass, until they've reached greater maturity walking on the grass can just break the blades and grind them into the mud from which they came. So, too, I feel like I am growing in faith, but am coming up quite short still...and the growth I have experienced is fragile at best. I feel I am so easily shaken.

I become even more confounded because it seems un-natural for one's hope and one's faith to be out of step with each other, but that is just where I find myself. I am so full of hope for the future and even for the moment...but I think I'm uncertain as to how much faith I actually have that those hopes will actually come to fruition in something magnificent. I'm frustrated that my faith is so fleeting... bah! I want my hopes to reflect beliefs...beliefs backed by faith filled with hope and passion...*sigh* On the upside, in my heart, I hear the words "Help my unbelief." Repeated over and over again, and I bet that such a small prayer in my heart will result in greater and deeper prayers of my heart and soul...heck, maybe they'll manage to break through to my consciousness from time to time. Regardless, it seems encouraging of growth...

Anyway, back to the point, this is all so new and occasionally overwhelming because these are all new developments...I chock up the turmoil and emotions to my feeble attempts at adjusting to being a new wife...a bride... It's such a tremendous life change and so complete...

Who knew that love changed lives so completely? :P For real, though, at our wedding I was so aware of the uniting of lives and loves...between John and well as between our new family and God...Such complete and awesome love... My hope and faith (what faith I can grasp) grow out of my new found assurance (Blessed Assurance) of the love that is in my life. John truly loves me. He has committed himself to being my partner, lover, friend, husband, brother for all his life (it's in our vows, you can check). It's crazy because I still don't know why he would love me, why he would love me so much, why he would love me so much as to make such a commitment...but I know that he does love me unconditionally and wholly...not perfectly, mind you, but that's what makes me so very aware of God's love in my life. God's love is what makes up the difference, as it encompasses and is the source of the love we have for each other. I'm finding more and more that I identify with the term "wellspring"... as in the spring that feeds a well...a spring that brings life, and in this particular case, a spring of love (I know it's a cheesy image, but bare with me). I feel like the source of the well/fountain of our family is God. His love is just pouring in and overflowing...and like water fills in the gaps where we struggle to see eye to eye or communicate as well as we could...God's love binds us together. But it's so overwhelming and beyond us that it pours out and beyond...well, that's my hope anyway.

My hope is that the love that flows in our marriage goes beyond us and causes love and joy and peace (all of which God has blessed us with in our marriage) to flow into the lives and hearts of others... like I want to carry that out. Granted, my life and self are broken and thus imperfect vessels, but I want so badly to be the vessel that carries the love of God to the broken lives of others.

That's how we get back to the previous discussion. I described my hope, but my faith is weak in that I feel truly unworthy and truly ineffective and thus doubt my ability to actually execute that very hope and dream. Hopefully, then, the love in my life will continue to spur me on to grow in faith and realize my hopes and spread the love and joy and peace with which I am so blessed...

(I just want to note that I love that my life is filled with blessings and that those very blessings are what cause my tumultuous feelings...and this meandering post...oh delightful irony...hahas...)