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Archive for March, 2009

Forever in blue jeans

A few days ago I had a conversation with a friend.  One of the things we jeanstalked about was what we wear to church.  She really wants her husband to go to church but he didn’t grow up in a church and really doesn’t have any interest in going.  Finally, he agreed to go.  As they were getting ready he asked if he could wear jeans.  She screamed, “No!  You can’t wear jeans to church!”  I’m sure you can imagine the next question–“why not?”  She didn’t have an answer for him and he ended up not going to church with her.

She wanted to know why we always had/have to dress up for church.  I told her I thought it had to do with giving our very best to God, putting on a good face so to speak. 

This morning during children’s time I asked the kids if they liked to dress up.  Most answers were no but there were a few who thought it was fun to dress up.  I told them about how women used to wear big gorgeous hats every Sunday and I always had to wear a dress–this was also how most of the other adults probably had the same experience growing up.

I then shared the conversation about my friend and her husband.  I asked them if they ever wore jeans to church, then I asked them how many of the adults were wearing jeans at church–there were a few embarrassed snickers.

Then I lifted up my robe and said, “You know, I wear jeans to church every week.”  Do you think it’s more important to dress up or to actually get to church?  We all agreed it was best to actually get to church.  After a little more discussion, I said “I’m probably going to get in big trouble for this but…if your mom or dad are giving you a hard time about wearing jeans to church tell them that Pastor Crystal wears jeans to church.”  As we gathered to pray I suggested that the kids pray for me because I was going to need it.

The children’s sermon got quite a few laughs and giggles from both the kids and adults but it’s a serious issue.  Yes, sometimes the whole what you wear to church thing is simply an excuse not to go.  However, I think it points to something deeper to something more sinister and problematic.

How often have you known people to stay out of church when they are in the midst of great pain or hardship that basically comes from something they did wrong?  I used to joke that I didn’t enter churches because I might explode being in a holy place.  I said that I was joking but there was more truth there then I cared to admit.

Too often we put on our best front, our best faces so that when we get to church we look fine, we look as though we deserve to be there.  This is not what we teach in Sunday School, nor in sermons but it is the theology that we live in church. 

I’ve yet to go to a church in which I would feel safe sharing some of my pain, some of my darker secrets.  But that is exactly what we need to be able to do when we are at church.  Jesus didn’t come to those who looked right and acted right–he came to the lost, the downtrodden, the outcasts.  When I look around our churches sometimes I notice those who seem a little lost, a little rough around the edges but for the most part everyone “fits.” 

Once we were looking for another male singer for the choir and someone said, we could bring X but he’d have to be drunk to sing.  This is a guy who has a real problem with alcohol.  Shouldn’t he be at church?  Sober or not?  Shouldn’t those of us in the church welcome him in with open arms and offer him the grace of Christ that we have so freely received?

Rarely is that our reality.  I think that’s too bad.  I think it’s tied to whether or not it’s acceptable to wear jeans to church.   They grown from the same bad seed, the un-gospel that says we have to be good-enough to receive hope and life in Jesus Christ.  That’s not what we say but that’s the theology that our lives live out.

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I know I said that I was taking a break but I’m so excited I had to share!  Like many others, I too dream of “my own church.”  I have plenty of notes about what kind of church we’d be and the practices we’d have.  It’s my dream church.  I can’t imagine that I’d ever be picked by the UMC to start a new church because I envision mine in a broken community, most likely dealing with issues of poverty and it would take place in an old bar.  We would not have a “bar church” like the one supposedly in St. Louis where they serve beer and alcohol.  No ours would be an old bar transformed into a church–much like how God transforms broken and addicted people into hopefilled and whole people.  It would be a place where people used to come “looking for love in all the wrong places” but now come finding true love–the love of God.  (yes, i am a HUGE cheeseball!  and proud of it!)

Anyhow, that’s not what I wanted to write about.  So I will move on.  One of the things we (myself and a few friends who’ve joined in the conversation of the dream church) talked about was using the web.  Now this is not anything new, but I am very excited because at our church in Mound City I am now writing a “daily verse” email to all those who wish to recieve it and I am also posting it on our blog and facebook page.

Part of the reason this excites me is very selfish.  As I wrote it this morning, it was difficult and it felt like a new daily discipline to bring me closer to God.  Hopefully it will also bring me closer to the people in the church.  It’s also one of those things which I envisioned doing in the dream church.  It doesn’t feel so far away, it feels like a possiblity even if remote.

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fyi

this seems silly to say since i haven’t been posting much anyway. it’s time for a blogging break so that i can better focus on life in the world i can touch with my hands.

peace

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I couldn’t resist posting my middle daughter’s essay about our friend, Trouble.  I love them both and it’s like bragging for two folks at the same time!  Can’t beat that! 

Home Town Hero

Valerie

 

            Do you know someone whose job is to nurse others?  I do.  Her name is Angela.  She is a paramedic at a fire station in Overland Park .  She has gone to Iraq twice as a medic.

            She is my role model.  She taught me courage, humor, and about reality.  I used to just live in an imaginary world but then she dragged me into reality.  I used to think that everyone’s life was happy but when Angela would tell us stories about her job, going to Iraq , and her life I realized that everybody’s life has bad stuff in it.  Angela has gone through a lot in her life.  She helps others as much as she can.

            One of my favorite stories she tells is when Angela went to Army boot camp where they only had about 40 seconds to eat. When she graduated all she wanted was pop-tarts.  And the happiest time ever in boot camp was when she ate a red potato she had taken off her plate (that was against the rules) but the girl ahead of her had said the wrong answer to the general people and they swarmed all over her and Angela got past them.

            Angela is the most reliable, truthful, and kindest person I know.  I miss her so much.  She is of the very few people I can rely on.  She is also one of the few people who understand me.  This is the reason she is my hero.

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It’s difficult for me to put words to what’s going on inside of myself but I’m going to try.  I think I’m growing.  I hope that’s what’s going on anyway.

There is another aspect of myself emerging, or perhaps it’s just an aspect of myself that I never noticed.  Last night I was trying to talk with Joel about it and he jokingly accused me of “playing the game.”  He knows that drives me crazy–to me, those words mean that one is being fake just to get along, wearing masks, avoiding who you are just to get ahead of the game.  It makes me want to vomit.  I think I did and live d enough of that as a child, it’s toxic to me now.

Anyhow, I’m a girl used to fighting the good fight.  I love a good argument.  But there is this new girl in town–one who loves deeper than I imagined.  One who is accepting and yes, avoids certain conversations with certain folks because she/I know there is nothing good to come from the fight–that there is no good in that particular fight. 

Instead, I’m thinking of the love within the other’s heart, the kindness I’ve seen and know is there.  I think of how the other is a product of their environment, their age, and find myself just accepting them and loving them no matter that if the truth be told we’d totally disagree on some huge issues.  Issues that I avoid because I don’t want to lose the relationship, the relationship is more important.  I don’t agree, I never say I agree with them, I switch to a new subject, I add I think differently and then move on.

Now, there are others, who are younger, who I take more risks with–who I have fought the good fight with love and mutual respect.  I still push, but a little more softly,perhaps I no longer push–sometimes I simply pop up with a differing thought to whisper in their ear–to let it soak in a bit.

Pushing, shoving, fighting are bad analagies, I don’t like them anymore.  I don’t feel like I’m betraying myself, I don’t think I’m betraying my beliefs, at all.  Okay, maybe the avoiding feels strange sometimes but it does feel like the right thing to do.

My heart is still on my sleeve but I guess I sometimes wear longer shirts.  But what else do you do when it’s cold outside?

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