If you are interested in the whole emergent, missional mindset that many are speaking of and reading about and practicing in some segments of the church today, please link here to Emerging Grace's blog to see a pictorial of the verbage being used.
She captured it brilliantly if you ask me.
The site that she jumped off of which she links to is also interesting to get what the other side is saying are the weaknesses of the movement.
Saturday, July 28, 2007
If you are interested in the whole emergent, missional mindset that many are speaking of and reading about and practicing in some segments of the church today, please link here to Emerging Grace's blog to see a pictorial of the verbage being used.
Friday, July 27, 2007
I wanted to start and maintain this blog for one reason. I wanted to have another story out there where someone could happen upon it and realize that they were not alone – that someone else was going through something similar. This helped me so much in the first few months of leaving our CLB. The ones who went before me were so honest. Their honesty helped me – even when they posted about their doubts. So today is about doubting our decision. I hope it helps someone else know that it is part of this process…at least for me.
I don’t want anyone to think that once we made our decision, there were no other doubts or thoughts or emotions that wanted to call into question our decision. The truth, at least for me, is far from that. There are times when I wonder, “What in the heck did we just do?” “Are we crazy?”
Listed below are some of the thoughts I have encountered in the past few weeks in a messy and random stream as thoughts often are.
What did we just do to our lives?
I want everything to just go back to the way it was. I want lots and lots of friends. I want to feel useful. I want to be busy. I want to feel as if I belong.
How am I going to make any friends at all outside of going to a service at least once a week to meet people?
I am not helping anyone “build the Kingdom of God.” I am not doing anything significant.
Are my kids going to be ok? How will they have friends that are good for them?
I feel like I am just treading water. What should we do now?
Who are we going to invite to my daughters wedding next year? What once was to be a huge gathering of friends is whittled down to a few. They have known her all her life. We were to share these things.
I hate to call people on the phone. How am I ever going to connect with people without that one or two services a week?
It is coming up on 3 months and there are women I would love to talk to. Should I call them? Should I ask their permission to call them? What if they won’t talk to me or their husbands won’t let them talk to me?
Should we start to do something more “formal” for our family on Sundays? Sometimes I hate the “non-structure” of this whole time.
Should we visit other churches?
Why isn’t God saying something? Why isn’t He instantly filling our hands with stuff to do? Don’t we need to be ministering? Building?
Can you hear the panic start to rise?
Of course it only takes a few minutes before reasoning sets in.
I know I can’t go back. I don’t really want to. I know that in all those years of “building the Kingdom” what was really happening on my part was not really that. I know I could never fit in again. I can’t even listen to Christian radio without cringing sometimes. I can’t go back and not question. I can’t be one of the followers who doesn’t make waves. I know I am in a process of the Father. I know I need to wait right now. I really am ok.
But today, I wanted you to see that you were not alone in your doubts. I’m sure you will feel this way too sometimes. If you don’t – good for you. It must be nice to be you where truth triumphs over feelings.
In closing, can I share with you something that I read this morning? It is from Inward/Outward. It brings truth, which for the moment, brings peace and helps to heal up the holes.
By Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
And so I think it is with you.
Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
1 Corinthians 4:1,2
Don’t imagine us leaders to be something we aren’t. We are servants of Christ, not his masters. We are guides into God’s most sublime secrets, not security guards posted to protect them.
This was what I read this morning in the Message. It reminded me of two conversations I had recently on leadership. One was not so much a conversation except that it is ongoing and I am continuing to read one blogger, Nakedpastor, with interest. He wrote a post the other day on being a shepherd. You can read it here. Made me stop and think, and at least, want to have a two way conversation with him. I would love to see what a church, run by a true shepherding approach, looks like over many years.
Anyway, he speaks of a very hands-off approach for taking care of his people. Not intervening much in what God is doing in their lives - mostly only there for simple things. Not making it all about him and his leadership but about them and their lives in Jesus, in community.
This brings me to my second conversation – a real one this time – with Best Friend. We were talking about a friend of ours who, when he was in our church, had a mental breakdown. It really shook his faith. We, in the church at that time, all had a plan of how to help him. It was a confusing time for all, I’m sure. I know the pastors really tried to do everything that they could. It seemed that this guy just could not pull it together or find a way to follow them out of his confusion. He got some medical help and stabilized but soon after left our church feeling like he had failed – failed God – failed leadership. Anyway, Best Friend still kept up the relationship with him and his family. (She never got the shunning memo.) They were just over to her house the other day and she told them that she wished they had been to my house for the 4th. The ability to be together and hang out without judgment was just what she thought he needed - no one trying to fix him and for him to have the opportunity to just be with us the way he was. To have people who would just be there with him and love him while he “labors” with his questions.
It was then, that the conversation switched to brilliance.
She started comparing her role as a midwife to that of a traditional doctor in a hospital. We, of course started seeing the parallels of midwife to shepherd and traditional doctor to that of our traditional pastors.
Some of her points about midwives and doctors were:
Midwife: Has a woman in labor about to have a baby
Dr.: Has a “patient” in labor about to have a baby
Midwife: Comes into your home. Makes herself at home in your place
Dr.: You check into his establishment. You have to conform to his place.
Midwife: Sees the birthing process as an incredibly naturally process – thus no need for invasive monitoring.
Dr.: Sees the birthing process as somewhat natural but also something to be carefully monitored for bad outcomes
Midwife: Comes alongside the birthing mother as a servant. One to help. Not one to direct.
Dr.: Immediately upon arrival at the institution, he starts to tell you what is needed. He is there to direct you and the whole birthing process.
Midwife: Tries as much as possible not to intervene. Only intervenes if there is true danger to the woman or baby.
Dr.: Intervenes as soon as you arrive - with monitors, IV’s, blood tests, etc.
Midwife: Allows the woman to find her own pace. BF said that once labor starts to really kick in, that is the time you really try to not intervene. If you just sit back and let the woman have her space, each woman will find her own rhythm. Each woman will be different. Some just lay quietly and breathe, some will walk the floor and keep their hands busy, some will try to distract themselves, others will internalize and deal with the pain that way. The key to what she was saying though is that each woman, if left alone, always finds her own rhythm that will get her through the hardest part.
Dr.: The ability for the patient to find her own pace is sometimes non-existent in an institutionalized hospital. There is so much intervention going on that the woman often cannot deal with the pain of labor and thus needs to resort to even more intervention.
Midwife: Assumes you will be fine and have a healthy baby – all on your own.Dr.: Assumes that he needs to protect you so that you will be ok and have a healthy baby.
Now, I have been told that statistically, midwives have far fewer complicated births than in the hospital. (Not the screwed up statistics that don’t allow for the fact that midwives, if they suspect a problem will send their patients to a hospital but just the normal births that happen in both places). BF wondered if some of the problems in an institution were caused by the institution that was there trying to prevent them. How many problems are caused by their intervention? I have asked myself the same question about institutional churches. Do we help to cause the problems that people have?
(Now before you start writing and assuming that I need to give doctors a break – please stop. I have had both. There were times that I needed a medical, traditional doctor desperately. They have saved my life and one of my children’s lives. I value them. So don’t go there. I’m not being unbalanced. They have their place.)
But do you see the parallels of the Doctor/traditional pastor and a Shepherd/Midwife?
Shepherd: Understands that this Christian life we are to live is a natural thing
Trad Pastor: Understands that this Christian life is fraught with pitfalls that he is to protect you from and needs to be constantly monitored for bad outcomes
Shepherd: Is there to come alongside you and walk with you through your journey. A servant – one to help – not to direct
Trad Pastor: Starts at the beginning with a plan, direction, and information about what you need to do to avoid every pitfall that “could” be out there. Heavy direction.
Shepherd: Tries his hardest not to intervene. Only intervenes at crucial periods.
Trad Pastor: Intervention is his middle name – if not his first.
Shepherd: Understands that each person in their walk with God will have to find their own rhythm. Does not think that everyone will look the same – especially in the hardest moments. Does not have a cookie cutter plan for discipleship.
Trad Pastor: Does not understand this at all. Has a dictated plan for everyone that usually looks like the plan that he has found to work for himself.
Shepherd: Assumes that you and God will have a great life together. Knows that it is a natural process and that he can relax and let the two of you work out almost everything.
Trad Pastor: Wants you to have a great life with God but assumes that he is the critical element in having that happen. With out them, you will not be able to navigate that life safely.
BF went on: Doctors have never seen a truly natural childbirth. They have no experience or training in it. They only know what they have been taught and what they have experienced. They only know all the bad things that can happen and how to prepare for and guard against them. (They also have a huge job making sure they are not sued).
But the same goes for the Traditional Pastor. He has probably never seen leadership done naturally. He has never had a Shepherd and was not trained to be one. As a doctor cannot imagine why anyone would want a natural childbirth at home with a midwife, a traditional pastor cannot imagine why anyone would want a natural Christian life outside his institution. Both have been trained to see all the bad stuff and how to prevent it. Neither have seen the other side.
So my theory is maybe we need both. Just as there is a time to go into the hospital to have a baby and take advantage of all there is to offer in truly desperate care measures, maybe we need some sort of traditional counseling people when there is truly a crisis in our spiritual lives. My proposal is though, that we should not have these people be shepherds. Let’s have the midwives/shepherds take care of the daily cares of the sheep and have the doctor/counselors be the ones to step in when there is a true crisis. One person could be both but he/she needs to understand that their primary role is that of a midwife/shepherd and not get the two confused.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
In my post of Sunday, the comments were so good. Two of them urged me to be careful to not dismiss the power of the resurrection, which is at work in us now. Husband and I talked about what I had written and what the article I had referenced said and he also was uncomfortable with the whole tone of it.
You are all so right. In re-reading the article in its totality there is an air of despair and futility that I actually do not feel. I get the point that the author was trying to make that Jesus does embrace our brokenness yet I am convinced that he longs to heal it. I have seen resurrection power in my life and in others around me. I am changed. I am being changed. In coming to a place of repentance – even here in this time that I am walking through in my life - that is changing me. It is healing me and transforming me. I have seen the victorious life. I have seen healing, wholeness, transformation, deliverance and salvation. Here in this life – now. I also live with brokenness but I do not want to celebrate the brokenness – I celebrate the Love that loves me when I am broken and longs to heal me. I celebrate not other’s brokenness but my ability through Jesus to love them even in that place and give them a hope that there really is a healer and one who desires to pull them close to himself. Those two are different.
I am bothered (in re-reading the piece) by his words that seem to give that changing power of the love of God a seeming second place. Yes, Jesus does embrace our brokenness but gently, by learning to lean into him, he also begins to heal it. Not every time. But scripture is replete with the heart of God being revealed to do this very thing.
I guess I have spent so much of my church life trying not to look broken and also not loving those who were broken, that it struck a chord of resonance in me. When that happens I tend to get tunnel vision. I state things too brashly. I make things too simple to get across my point. I become lopsided. And sometimes when Husband or someone else tries to point out what I am missing – I may get a bit prickly.
There is truth in so much of what we write but I need to be careful to examine things from all angles. I’m not very good at this. I often go off onto tangents that leave Husband fearing for my life. I don’t actually live that way for long but I’m sure it is scary.
Which is why I need others in my life. I posted one day on Mary’s blog that I think very linearly. Therefore I, in my attempt to get to a point, may miss some very important and crucial elements in the whole picture. Husband thinks circularly. He is more apt to see the bigger picture with all the fine details. Best Friend is also like this. You think God thought I needed others around me who were not like me? Duh……
So thanks to you who are commenting. Keep challenging me. Thank you, Husband. Your patience with me is amazing. I need to lean on you more.
Sunday, July 8, 2007
In my browsing today and in light of what I wrote the other day, (Good Enough To Lead?), please check out this article from The Internet Monk entitled, "When I Am Weak."
It will bring reality to your Sunday.
In case you don't have time to read the whole article, let me paste here a few paragraphs.
Indeed. Why are we, after all that confident talk of "new life," "new creation," "the power of God," "healing," "wisdom," "miracles," "the power of prayer," ...why are we so weak? Why do so many "good Christian people," turn out to be just like everyone else? Divorced. Depressed. Broken. Messed up. Full of pain and secrets. Addicted, needy and phony. I thought we were different.
It's remarkable, considering the tone of so many Christian sermons and messages, that any church has honest people show up at all. I can't imagine that any religion in the history of humanity has made as many clearly false claims and promises as evangelical Christians in their quest to say that Jesus makes us better people right now. With their constant promises of joy, power, contentment, healing, prosperity, purpose, better relationships, successful parenting and freedom from every kind of oppression and affliction, I wonder why more Christians aren't either being sued by the rest of humanity for lying or hauled off to a psych ward to be examined for serious delusions.
And later in the article,
We need our brokenness. We need to admit it and know it is the real, true stuff of our earthly journey in a fallen world. It's the cross on which Jesus meets us. It is the incarnation he takes up for us. It's what his hands touch when he holds us. Do you remember this story? It's often been told, but oh how true it is as a GOSPEL story (not a law story.) It is a Gospel story about Jesus and how I experience him in this "twisted" life.
In his book Mortal Lessons (Touchstone Books, 1987) physician Richard Selzer describes a scene in a hospital room after he had performed surgery on a young woman's face: I stand by the bed where the young woman lies . . . her face, postoperative . . . her mouth twisted in palsy . . . clownish. A tiny twig of the facial nerve, one of the muscles of her mouth, has been severed. She will be that way from now on. I had followed with religious fervor the curve of her flesh, I promise you that. Nevertheless, to remove the tumor in her cheek, I had cut this little nerve. Her young husband is in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed, and together they seem to be in a world all their own in the evening lamplight . . . isolated from me . . .private.
Who are they? I ask myself . . . he and this wry mouth I have made, who gaze at and touch each other so generously. The young woman speaks. "Will my mouth always be like this?" she asks. "Yes," I say, "it will. It is because the nerve was cut." She nods and is silent. But the young man smiles. "I like it," he says, "it's kind of cute." All at once I know who he is. I understand, and I lower my gaze. One is not bold in an encounter with the divine. Unmindful, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth, and I am so close I can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate to hers. . . to show her that their kiss still works.
This is who Jesus has always been. And if you think you are getting to be a great kisser or are looking desirable, I feel sorry for you. He wraps himself around our hurts, our brokenness and our ugly, ever-present sin. Those of you who want to draw big, dark lines between my humanity and my sin, go right ahead, but I'm not joining you. It's all ME. And I need Jesus so much to love me like I really am: brokenness, memories, wounds, sins, addictions, lies, death, fear....all of it. Take all it, Lord Jesus. If I don't present this broken, messed up person to Jesus, my faith is dishonest, and my understanding of it will become a way of continuing the ruse and pretense of being "good."
Good reading for a Sunday Morning - Especially for Church Lady.
Friday, July 6, 2007
On Thursday I read a post at Inward/Outward.
Learning to Forgive:
When we accept that we have weaknesses and flaws, that we have sinned against God and against our brothers and sisters, but that we are forgiven and can grow towards inner freedom and truer love, then we can accept the weaknesses and flaws of others. They too are forgiven by God and are growing towards the freedom of love. We can look at all men and women with realism and love. We can begin to see in them the wound of pain that brings up fear, but also their gift which we can love and admire. We are all mortal and fragile, but we are all unique and precious. There is hope; we can all grow towards greater freedom. We are learning to forgive. (emphasis mine)
Wednesday was a very healing day. We had friends over for a 4th fest. It was complete with all of my favorite things, music, laughter, food, beer, kids, pool, friends, rum punch, fireworks…. We had fun. Gratefully, a lot of former friends and current friends were here. (Old friends who had celebrated every 4th with us for over a decade were not and even though I don’t wish to go back, their lack of presence was felt very keenly by me) The ones who were there were people who had also left our CLB. Some before us, (those who had forgiven us), some after us.
At one point, later in the day, one of the guys picked up his guitar and soon, bit by bit, all of us gathered around in some halting, beautiful worship. Old songs. Songs that had been sung a few years ago and some sung many years ago. Wow, it was good. (Almost made me not dislike the word “worship.” ) We were all a bit weepy.
The thing that struck me was this….Here were a bunch of people – all broken in some way. Some were struggling with hidden things. Some had kids who were not following God. Some with deep issues and areas of un-healed-ness. Yet, they were leading worship. They were playing. Others were just being there. And it was good. Broken people. Worshiping people. People not judging whether or not one was good enough to lead us. People not judging whether you should be there or not. People not judging. Just people worshiping, and singing, and laughing, and eating, and drinking rum punch. And it was good. I think God liked it. I know I did.
See, our CLB used to say that if you played up front on a worship team or were in “ministry” somehow, that your lives had to reflect that you were a good disciple of Jesus or you could not play or or work. Now that sounds good right? Well, it wasn’t.
Because, whose standard do you use to determine if a person’s life reflects the “right amount” of discipleship or Christian growth? I have seen people reprimanded on worship teams or leadership teams for not keeping their cars and houses clean enough. Others because they had a perceived “sexual spirit”. Others for not tithing. Others for not being kind enough. Others for not being under authority. Others for the fact that their children were not OK. Others because they did not reflect the “look” the church wanted to project. It was brutal at times. It hurt a lot of people.
Do you see what this does? At what point do you become good enough for a worship team? At what point do you become bad enough to be removed? And we talk about grace? Where is it? Of course this was always ultimately decided by the leaders.
But again, you could not have someone living in obvious rebellion leading a worship service, right?
And then you ask yourself – what is worse – obvious rebellion or the hidden, secret rebellion that each of us lives with every day. How do you get that off your stage in a church?
All I know is this. I did not have to judge anyone’s life that day. I just sat and watched these people who are deciding to love God as best as they know how, sing some songs about Him and to Him. And I didn’t want to go back to the place that has to determine if someone is OK enough to lead. I know I’m not. How could I judge if anyone else is or not?
So the entry that I started this post with was good to read on Thursday. Very good.
Monday, July 2, 2007
Sometimes Husband and I look at each other and smile and say to each other that we feel virtually unscathed. We left our church about 2 months ago. Yes, we lost a lot of friends but we have not been separated from some of our best friends who are leaving or have already left. We have a whole community that received us with grace and joy and forgiveness. We still love God. We are growing in a simple gospel of Grace that is truly good news. Our kids are fine so far. So we are OK…..right?
The other day I had a friend from out of town visit. She had listened to my story for a while. Then she said to me. “I think that you should use this time of tenderness and healing to spend in intercessory prayer for your region and for what God puts on your heart.”
I suddenly wanted to be sick. I had a fleeting moment that wanted to be sick ON her. I know she could tell by my face that I was not (at all) receiving her message to me with any excitement whatsoever.
I finally told her what was bothering me. I did not even want to hear the word “Prayer” without having the reaction of wanting to punch her – And I didn’t think I was a violent person. I realized that day that “Prayer” was not a pleasant word to me right now.
Later that day, we talked more about it. I explained to her that the very word “Prayer” conjured up circles of “intercessors” praying for the leaders vision. (who gave us that title of intercessors anyway) It brought up times we spent in prayer for prophetic promises that never came true. It brought up times of “pushing through,” “believing for,” “agreeing together,” “speaking out,” and “prophesying over.” My times of praying had been used for the purposes of our leaders and myself to get our will accomplished. In actuality, it seems there was a LOT of wasted time. There were huge loads of guilt heaped on all of us for obviously not praying enough to get this stuff done on earth as it is in heaven. At least it felt that way.
But my reaction to a positively harmless word was a bit much. I sat back and laughed later that night. I guess there is still some healing to be done. I don’t mind talking to Father about things. Maybe someday I will be able to call it prayer again. For now I’ll just call it talking. And don’t ask me to do it in a group for a while.
So don’t mention prayer to me for a while……. especially if it is accompanied by the word should.
Sunday, July 1, 2007
Sometimes when you link to another blog you will see scores of links to other blogs or web sites. The problem with this is there is no information as to why the writer links to them or what you would find if you read them. If you do not have tons of time to sit at your computer and read, it is impossible to sort through and find the ones that you may find helpful or insightful.
In my purpose of mostly having this blog be an encouragement to those who are either considering coming out of their churches due to some form of abusive practices or disillusionment with the established system, I have referenced some blogs and web pages that have been helpful to me on the sidebar of my web page.
Today I want to tell you why they are there. As I add more in the future, I will also tell you what I found. Some I referenced in my blog, My Heroes from June 1, 2007.
Battered Sheep Ministries. This was the first website that actually my husband found. He would tell me of things he read on this site and I would refuse to look at it. It felt like spiritual porn. BUT…..when I did start reading it started taking off the blinders I insisted on wearing. Not all articles are necessarily beneficial but some were life changing. One was the article They Told Me that If I Left. It did not describe our situation accurately, but to hear that the cults use some of the same arguments that we had levied against those who had left was eye opening. I also read a lot about leadership in the church, abusive authority practices and covering.
Being Martha. This is a lady who started blogging about her leaving experience about the same time as I did. I felt as if I knew her. When she wrote about what she had experienced, I felt that she did and would have something to bring to the discussion and help to those who were also going through this particular journey. She is blogging anonymously also.
Brother Maynard – not is real name. He has a site called Subversive Influence and despite the name is not as rebellious as it sounds. There are people in this blogging world that seem to have their fingers in everyone’s pie. They can link you to all kinds of worlds outside the few you can find. I think the book Tipping Point calls them Mavens. Brother Maynard has been key to this. His balance and bringing people together for a discussion has been invaluable to read. It is far more eclectic than the personal blogs but that is what makes him valuable. Check out his Subversive Bookshelf at Amazon on his sidebar and you will get a picture of what I mean.
Detoxing from Church was one of the second websites I encountered on my journey out. Robbymac (I could probably find his real name but in this blogworld, that is how I think of him) is a YWAM leader and trainer. He is probably much more but I have never researched it. (Sorry Robby if I under-title you.) Anything I have read on his site has been worth the read. I am really anxious to read his new book about Post Charismatics. He lists 4 reasons that Charismatics are pulling away from their Pentecostal, Charismatic or Third Wave roots. They are l) Abuses and Elitism in Prophetic Ministry, 2) The excesses in the Word of Faith teachings, 3) Authoritarianism and hierarchical leadership structures and 4) An approach to spiritual formation (discipleship) that depends on crisis events see link here to an online article from Next-Wave about his research.
Emerging Grace. I have gone back and read about 2-3 years of her blogging. At one point I said to her, I either know you or I am you. Her journey out of the institutional church and beyond helped me more than she will ever know. It was through her writings that I figured out that maybe I wasn’t crazy. I cried through her experiences and gained hope through her healing. She has gone on from that experience to truly become, what I consider, a teacher and true thinker in this field – with one exception. Teachers and thinkers are usually not able to really relate to the normal person. Grace can take what she knows and is thinking about and disseminate it to you where you sit in your living room, where your kids are playing, where the phone is ringing, and the laundry is waiting and you understand it. That is the mark of a really exceptional teacher.
Jesus the Radical Pastor. John Frye is a pastor in Michigan and also brings to the table a great perspective of Church life, structure and leadership that has been just good to read. He wrote a post to add to the People Formerly Known As The Pastor which is a wonderful addition to this meme. His latest series on Ruth has been life-giving.
LifeStream. If you read nothing else on my list of blogs and sites, read this one. I cannot tell you enough how you need the message of Wayne Jacobsen. His message is one of grace and following the lead of the Father in your life. It has truly changed my life and will take a lifetime of living in this grace to even start to understand it.
Live With Desire. I loved Heidi from the moment I read her blog. She wrote a part in the People Formerly Known as series and her heart and life have been a joy to read. Her writing gave me permission to not have everything together. Thanks Heidi.
One Thing is Needed. Mary is also a new blogger to this venue. She has started writing about the same time as I did and I find it great to see what she is dealing with day to day as well as reading her story as she is unfolding it. Husband said the other day as I was reading from her blog that he could swear that I had written it. The stories are so similar. She comes highly recommended.
Super Apostles. Cultwatch is the name of the site. It is a bit reactionary in its scope but really helped me look at the various teachings in our former church and evaluate them. It was from this site that we actually looked at tithing, covering, authority and such. For a tongue-in-cheek exercise, you can take the Super Apostle quiz. This was scary in its accuracy to our former church and the things said.
Wayne Jacobsen’s Blog. This is the blog page to Life Stream. It has really been good to keep up with what is happening weekly.
So there they are. Please use the above as a reference for what might help you as you are on this path.