Saturday, February 28, 2004

In the non-denominational setting we have chosen for our family's church experience, seasons such as Lent and Advent are not observed. I always miss the calendar days; the variations in the liturgy. I observe Lent with my kids (in a very informal manner) as well as Advent (also informal), but this year I wanted something more. This year I took them to Ash Wednesday service at Gen's little church. It is the first time I've done this with them. I don't think it's essential to their Christian walk, but I think they will be more rounded out to have these experiences. SO, I planned to go to Ash Wednesday service, and invited them to go along with me. My daughter was eager, but my son had his normal youth group night scheduled and wasn't as excited to miss it in order to appease me. I figured it would just be my daughter and me. When he decided to come along in the last minute, I felt giddy. I hadn't realized how important it was to me. I wouldn't have forced him to go, but I was so very glad to have him along.

We struggled, and made it by the skin of our teeth. Work was more hectic than usual, I left hours later than I'd planned. It poured (unusual phenomenon here). We missed the street. We wandered in the pouring rain, looking for the little church, and finally found it (miraculously, really). We had nearly given up. We were 30 minutes late, which on Ash Wednesday is about the length of the entire service. We were just in time for Communion, the very last part of the service. We could see immediately that everyone had already gotten their ashes. We were the last up, and were clearly awkward at the alter rail, my son whispering instructions to my daughter, "Dip your wafer into the cup -- don't sip out of it! Everyone is drinking out of that cup!" (He is very freaky about germs.) The Rector kindly offered to give us ashes after, whispering an invitation. We waited at the rail, thinking she meant right then, and were kindly ushered back to our seat. My son shook his head in embarrassment, "I TOLD you!" he scolded.

After the final prayer, she invited "anyone who came late" to come up to the alter rail for ashes. It was just us. We went up and received our ashes, "Remember, O man, that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return". And it was time to go.

My daughter was smitten with the religious act. "I won't wash my head," she stated. "eew gross" (my son the clean freak). We got in our car and followed Genesis to the freeway (so as not to get lost again). My kids discussed their experience, both agreeing that by a miracle we managed to find the little place.

We eventually talked of what we'd give up for Lent, and somehow we seemed a little more serious than in years gone by. The trailers from "The Passion of the Christ" have caused us to see this season more intensely than others. Whether we see the film or not, it has had an effect on us. As an Episcopal, I observed the traditional Easter Week services. I went to the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday. My kids (and my husband) have missed out on this, even though their experiences have given them a different depth of knowledge about Christ; A different aspect of who He is. They have a personal relationship with him before they understand the suffering and death that came before resurrection. I met him after I knew. This Ash Wednesday, in a brief little capsule, they saw something of me that they hadn't seen before. A glimpse into my history. I'm not sure why this means so much to me. It was a sacred little moment.

My husband and son plan to go together to see "The Passion of the Christ", by the way. I don't think I can go. (I can't handle the violence -- I don't need to see it to believe it, but do feel I am missing something by not going). You may ask why I'd let my son see this if I can't handle it myself. He is different than I am; stronger in many ways, smarter. I think it won't hurt him to see the stations of the cross in a way he will remember, in a way that won't bore him or let him forget. He will learn something about someone he loves that all the telling couldn't say. I will go with Genesis to the Stations of the Cross (assuming I get there on time) on Good Friday. I'll bring my daughter again (and my son, if he'll go).

I'm glad to remember the holiness of this season. I think Mel Gibson has helped us all to remember. However you choose to observe it, I hope that this Lenten season will bring an incredible measure of blessing to your life. It has mine. ++thank you Lord, for teaching us reverence.++

(Many make mention of this film, but read Roger Ebert's film review. I also loved Birgit and Randall's reviews in the comments section.)

Saturday, February 21, 2004

I've been researching. Not in a graduate-student-going-for-the-doctorate sort of way, but in more of a I-need-answers-now sort of way. Here is what I've come up with.

First of all, Church History: the Kim Johnson condensed version. (Hold on to your seats, my historian friends...) Christianity managed to spread radically after Christ's resurrection for approximately 400 years before there was a "church" per se. (this despite the egregious prosecution of the Christians and the lack of literacy, biblical references and TV evangelists...). The conversion of Constantine really changed the flow of things, as the Evil Empire was now the Christian Empire. A few major adjustments to the way things were done, and viola! The Holy Roman Church. The Holy Western Church.

Now here's a really cool element of historical interest: opening up the church to the plebeians kind of tweaked the established Christian sects, even though they were now way less likely to find themselves in the belly of a lion (or several lions). You see, this change made it easier to be a Christian than not. Everyone was doing it. "As a result, Christians began to feel that standards of Christian conduct were being lowered and that the only way to obey the moral imperatives of Christ was to flee the world (and the church that was in the world, perhaps even of the world) and to follow the full-time profession of Christian discipline as a monk." (MSN Encarta: Christianity)

I have to pause here and remark. This is amazing to me. A new discovery! Once again I am reminded that there is absolutely NOTHING NEW under the sun. (Ecclesiates) This echoes to me thoughts in the blogs, in the church, in me -- Beth Keck referred to this as "the Wheel" -- we are dissatisfied. We are hungry for God. We strive to achieve holiness. These are all good things. All part of the plan. We move on to a new church, we build our own church, we change, we grow -- all a part of the plan. Okay, back to the point ---

This move to the monastic orders began at this point in time (appx 400 a.d.) and spread throughout the "civilized world" of the time (Roman Empire (which was like, everywhere), Egyptian Desert, Greece, Asia). The monastic orders dedicated themselves to prayer, asceticism and service. "They were to become, during the Byzantine and medieval periods, the most powerful single force in the Christianization of nonbelievers, in the renewal of worship and preaching, and (despite the anti-intellectualism that repeatedly asserted itself in their midst) in theology and scholarship. Most Christians today owe their Christianity ultimately to the work of monks." (Encarta, again).

I want to define what the word monastic means to me (finally, after a month of promising Laurie I'd eventually get to it). To me, a monastic life is simply a life called apart. It is a life that defines itself on the basis of a Christian "calling". Although the true Monastic Orders require a physical separation and commitment to the church, I believe we can define our own type of monasticism as a commitment to Christ. I think this commitment must include disciplined worship, prayer and the study of scripture. I think it requires a commitment to service. I do not believe that Christianity should be defined by these constraints. In other words, I believe that not all Christians are called to the same level of commitment to this journey. I believe that sometimes we think they should be -- kind of like the original move to the monastic orders -- the "Committed Christians" felt that the conversion of the Empire to Christianity was lowering the bar ("there goes the neighborhood").

Here is the point that gets to me: No matter what we may think of their motives, the people who created the Monastic Orders did so to "advance the kingdom". The act of separating themselves actually advanced the kingdom! They didn't chase down the non-believers -- they created a better life set apart! ("if you build it they will come....") Historically, the move they made was ordained. Blessed, even.

Wow. I didn't know this. I never really knew the facts. Some would say that this is proof that the Christian walk should be completely cloistered from the real world. I don't see that at all. It shows me that God has and will create a safe haven for every generation. "You have been a shelter, Lord. To every generation, every generation. A sanctuary from the storm. To every generation, to every generation Lord." It also shows me that no matter what motivates you, what drives you, when you choose your path in pursuit of God, He will use you. Ask and it shall be given to you, seek and you shall find. Knock and the door shall be opened." (Matthew 7:7) And it shows me that the church did not position itself as the enemy of the woman. I still don't understand how that came to be, but I know that it wasn't true of Jesus, and now I can say with faith that it wasn't an element of the early church, either. Cultural History has not been good to the woman. But if I had a daughter in these ancient days, I would have given her over to the church to save her from the brutal, brutal world. She would be valued there, educated. (I might be picky about which monastic order I would choose...but that's another topic all together...).

I don't know exactly why it is so important for me to know this, but I am so very glad for this little piece of insight. (I suddenly feel more confident in the rock upon which I am building my house -- I know suddenly that it isn't on as much sand as I had thought)...The church continues to be imperfect. It seems every good thing mankind sets up is subject to mutation over time. But God keeps leading us on. Using us, despite ourselves sometimes.

I've asked a lot of big questions lately. Especially with regard to women in the church and the church's history regarding women. I've asked a lot of fellow Christians who don't want to talk about these things -- and some that will talk about this stuff with me over and over until I'm sure they're bored to death on the subject (thanks for them, Lord). Jesus was never misogynistic. I've gone over the Gospels over and over. He was even good to his Mom. The church, however, has been -- and this troubles me. DaVinci Code pushed me over the edge and caused "Cognitive dissonance" (a topic I'm personally all too familiar with)(if you click on the link, you'll need to scroll down to Sept 17 entry -- sorry). And always, ALWAYS -- when I've exhausted my list of people to ask, when I throw back my head and scream my questions to the heavens -- God shows me the way to the answers. Always. This is the coolest part for me. You see, despite all of the evidence to the contrary -- the church -- the monastic orders -- were actually a refuge for the women of the day. Anyone could escape the world and sign on to serve God. Intellectual women were not turned away. In fact, this was the one place they could count on. Was it imperfect? OF COURSE. Still is. But it was a place they could go to pursue knowledge and personal growth. To a certain extent they were allowed to thrive there. They had a hierarchy and structure, leadership roles and decision making skills -- albeit separate from that of the men (but better than nothing I venture to say.) And this place did not discriminate -- rich, poor, black, white, purple, disabled -- all were welcome here. All were entitled. The cost was commitment.

I imagine that if I managed to escape being burned at the stake or being traded to some old fat guy for a lot of goats and chickens (I hope I'd be worth a lot of livestock at least), I would have found refuge in a place such as these monasteries. I think I could have been happy here, given the alternative options. I'm really glad I only have to imagine it, by the way. I am probably one of the only people I know who is convinced the days are way more palatable now than then. I know the world isn't the greatest place -- I have kids. I have fears. But man oh man I am so glad to live in the USA in 2004. I love my car, my phone, my computer, my job, my medical coverage, my electricity and plumbing, my grocery store, my credit card, my kids, my husband. I'm completely convinced that I live in a better world than my mother did, and especially better than her mother or her mother's mother. And their world was light years better than the world of the early church. The world of the Holy Roman Empire, or the Byzantine Empire, or the Middle Ages -- I'm fascinated by the history, but wouldn't go back there for anything.

How nice of you, Lord, to guide me to the truth. Thank you that you would, with the greatest compassion, take my hand in yours and place it into your very wounds. I'm sorry I doubt you -- but your answers make me stronger. I won't stop asking.

"Then Jesus told him (me), "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (John 20:29).

Bless you my friends. Believe.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Well I have finally finished reading the DaVinci Code. Finally.

I have been laboring through this book for several months. (Several unusually dramatic months, I must add.) Since I purchased the book, I have read (and re-read) Wishful Thinking (by Frederick Buechner), Like the Lion's Tooth (Marjorie Kellog), The Lake of Dead Languages (Carol Goodman), and parts of Drinking Coffee Elsewhere (ZZ Packer), The Cloister Walk (Kathleen Norris), and Affluenza --- All of these books I love. They easily distracted me from completing the task. It's not that The DaVinci Code was a bad book. It had an "Indiana Jones" appeal and all the qualities of a well-crafted page turner. It's doctrine offended me. And it deeply troubled me for more reasons than I can write at this time.

I will say that the book took hold of pieces of truth -- the demonization of women by the church, the bible's history ("it wasn't faxed to earth from heaven, you know") The Apocrypha -- and infused them with fiction, supposition, and Pagan religious belief and ritual. I'm sure this must have been discussed somewhere -- I'm so late in reading this book that I've missed the chatting it seems.

I see an equation derived from this book that troubles me. Those who oppose the way things are -- who question the validity of the bible and the role of women -- are (as history has indicated) in the "Witch Camp" once again (even if they are good witches, witches non-the-less). And of course as soon as we utter the "w" word, any bits of truth that might be floating around in there will be spilled out with the bath water so to speak.. (You're either "with us" or "against us".) Is there no place for people who question but yet still believe? I have yet to find that place.

I have searched for the Creeds of my childhood -- I wanted to remember what it was I professed to believe. I am pasting them here: The Nicene Creed:

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.

And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

And the Apostolic Creed

I believe in God, the Father, almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary,
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead and was buried;
he descended to hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic* church,
the communions of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

*that is, the true Christian church of all times and all places : the church universal.

I am glad to revisit these. These beliefs have never changed for me. Never. In all of my life's travels. (And believe me, I've been places you wouldn't want to go). I have said it before and will say it again: Everything I know to be true could crumble around me -- but God would remain. He may truly be the only real thing that exists in my life. "Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and lead me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long." Psalm 25

More later.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Found this link in a comment on the Real Live Preacher Site.

This after grappling to explain what the word "missional" means to me. Sometimes it's just better to stop talking and just point.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Okay. Inappropriate Disclosure about to happen here.

I need help. My shower is filthy and I can't seem to get it clean. Not really.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I suck at housework. This is a complete irony, because I really prefer clean. My husband (the ex marine) is awesome at cleaning. He's like a white tornado. Sometimes he'll send me off on an errand to get me out of the way. When I return the visible parts of the house are completely done: the kitchen, the living room, family room. He even cleans the floor. (I'm not bragging (well, maybe a little)-- I'm truly grateful to have him around, for a thousand other reasons, too.) Granted, he has his bad habits, too, but I think my bad habits in this arena out number his about 3 to 1.

I've got my good points. I'm great at laundry, for example. And I love to garden. I'm a halfway decent cook. But I dread cleaning the house. Like I said before -- it's not that I don't appreciate a clean house. I'm even embarrassed when my house isn't clean. I just can't seem to get the job done efficiently. I could spend hours and still it isn't done. My husband gets the work done in less than half the time, with a way better end product. He's not the only one. I have many friends (including my own mother) who are good at this as well. I have picked their brains multiple times. I figure this shouldn't be so hard. There must be some trick, some miracle product, some underlying knowledge that they have access to that I must uncover. I mean, come on, it's cleaning. What the heck is the problem here?

The Bathroom is my greatest enemy.

I have the toilet cleaning part down. I do this often, since there are 2 men in my house. It scares me to use the toilet if I don't stay on top of this chore. (Despite my confidence regarding this fixture, my husband has dismantled the toilet on more than one occasion to get it "really clean" -- shocking me by how much grime can get into the place were the bolts hold the toilet seat on...I'm really better off not knowing...).

But the tub/showers are the absolute bane of my existence. (I know, I know -- war, hunger, cellulite -- yet the shower is the bane of my existence? Sorry, just telling it like it is...) I spend more than 2 hours scrubbing these stupid things so they will sparkle (and they never really do, I have to tell you), and within one day's wear and tear (there are only 4 of us, plus one tortoise and one dog bathed weekly (or bi-weekly, or even monthly if we're really busy--yikes) they're grimy again. And my arms and shoulders are in pain from all the scrubbing. It's a battle I cannot win.

One time, I confess, about 10 years ago, I hired a woman to come and just clean the shower. I paid her $20. She used only what I had in the house, and was finished in under 1/2 hour. It was spotless and shining. I was flabbergasted. "How did you do this?" I asked her, in awe. She smiled and said in Spanish, "I used green scrubby and lemon oil." "But I've tried that option. It didn't work for me." "Oh, Mija," she said consoling me, "White people can't clean." I wanted to believe her, but I had evidence to the contrary. White people could clean -- just not THIS one.

You may wonder why I don't just let her come and clean my bathrooms. Well, for one thing, the $20 deal was a one time offer just for the shower. Once she got a good look at how it would be, her going rate went up to $100 for the 2 bathrooms. I couldn't really afford that luxury then. I'm sure the rate's gone up in 10 years, but I am considering this option. Now that I'm back to work full time, I think it may be worth it...But there is still a part of me that wants to overcome this challenge. My Fiberglas Mt. Everest.

Now the facts. I have 2 bathrooms -- one with a shower/tub and the other with just a shower. The shower/tub tends to be easier to clean than the shower only. Both are made of that nasty molded Fiberglas, and they are both at least 30 years old. ('well, there's your problem', you may be thinking, 'it needs to be replaced!' I agree, but it's budget prohibitive. I have to live with it as is.) Because it takes me so long to do it, I tend to neglect the shower in the Master bedroom. (since I'm confessing, I'll let it all hang out here...) Avoidance and procrastination aren't helping.

My husband bought me a Scrub Buster for Christmas (on my continued request). He thinks it's a monumental waste of money. I used it this morning. Final analysis -- 90 minutes in the shower and it's only 3/4 done. (In all fairness, I hadn't cleaned the shower in a really long time. Maybe it'll be easier the next time. ) My arms aren't so sore, but it isn't really different than cleaning without it. Bottom line: I can't go on like this. I need all your tips. I am 40 years old, I should be able to clean a shower by now...

SO .... Bring me your best wisdom ladies and gentlemen. I'm all ears.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Wow. It's over a week since my last post! I've tried to be deliberate about my visits to other blogs. This can really take up as much time as posting and puttering can! All good, I must add, albeit time consuming.

On a very sad note, my daughter's bird was found dead in his cage Sunday morning. If you have been reading a couple of posts back, you would know how weird this is for us at this moment in time. Only last week we flushed the fish. (This on the heels of her "discussion" with God about her Dad and his health.) This parakeet was not in poor health, nor was he old. One minute he was singing happily, the next he was gone. I have no more to comment on this at this time. It is still a mystery and a bit of a shock. We have been having a rough couple of months at my house with regard to life and death. Pray for her. She is deeply grieved.

Now on to the word game: I posted the dictionary definition of Mission last week. Since then I have asked around -- "How would you define Mission?". This has been great fun for me (yes I am a nerd). My son's response was immediate and unwavering. "Mission Impossible" he stated. "Mission Impossible?" I asked, "like the movie? or like the concept?" He started singing the theme song and acting the part of a secret agent. (He's 13...I hope that explains a lot...). "Okay, I'll draw my own conclusions," I state, knowing that I've gotten as much out of him as I will, but I add, "are you SURE nothing else comes to mind?" He said "My second choice would be the California Missions and the Exploring Priests -- you know, Father Junipero Serra, Santa Barbara, San Juan Capistrano, San Jose..." (This is a staple of the California State History lessons. The missions are still here today, and all the kids have been to at least one...) This aspect for him equates to his adventurous perspective of the word "Mission". It had to be a great adventure to "boldly go where no man had gone before". Sure, they dressed weird, but they had a pretty cool life if you think about it. (in the eyes of the boy...) I would say his perspective of the word Mission covers definitions 1, 2, and 6 mostly. (see my last post).

My daughter (age 10) went straight for the California Missions. Nothing else came to mind for her. After all, she fed the birds there. She just built a mission model in 4th grade. She did point out that the Missions were about settling land so it could be claimed for Spain. I asked her if she thought the Missions helped to teach the people about Jesus. She said that it would have been better if the Fathers were nicer to the people -- but that yes, they did learn of Jesus from the Missions.

My own feelings about the word Mission and missional are complicated at best. I see the concept of mission as being completely westernized. The age of exploration has done this to me. I see this model as a completely different reality than what Paul lived out biblically. Our missions were footholds for living out the "manifest destiny". Our culture was built by conquerors who came to commandeer the land and erase the cultures that existed here. ("you think you own whatever land you land on"... Disney's Pocahontas) To learn of Jesus also meant to give up all other cultural beliefs and traditions. It was a hostile take-over. Paul didn't operate that way. He spoke to the people in the context of their cultures. Our Christians don't do that. I see today's churches as big business. Christians are out to "Win people for Christ" (to be translated -- "win people for our church and win the sales incentive award. Maybe there'll be a bonus.") Love is not the basis of this quest. It's about numbers. And competition. We are racing to win that guy to Christ before you do. Then we're off to the next...(this is the pyramid marketing missional statement).

I don't disregard the good work that the Missions have accomplished. Definition 2 really rings true on many levels then and today. Missions provide education and heath care, food and clothing to so many cultures all over the world. I believe that the California Missions brought more good than bad -- so much depends on the agenda of the Missionary, the motive of the heart. I feel that this model of settlement was far more amenable than a complete military invasion. The church tempered the motives of the movement. Spain was coming whether the church jumped on the bandwagon or not.

I feel strongly that Americans have a duty to distribute the incredible wealth we enjoy to all the corners of the world, and I think a Mission is a great way to do this. But I know that this model of Mission work is based on a system of haves and have-nots -- The Missionary has something physical the subject needs, and while they will minister to the body, they attempt to deliver the spiritual as well. I don't think you need to have anything to be missional. And I believe that people, although to a degree grateful, will eventually resent that every "gift" is given with a string attached. If my children are starving, I'll agree to listen to your sermon in exchange for food. Maybe I'll hear it, maybe not. You are holding all the cards. (this is the forced attendance option). The danger in this type of Missional work is confusing cultural preferences with Godly concepts.

I have a missionary friend (that sounds dangerously like "some of my best friends are republicans...") who once described her experiences beautifully. She started off a Blue American. Off to save the world. She went to the land of the Yellow, and couldn't help but become Green. She would never be Blue again, nor would she ever really be Yellow. But her work changes her culturally and ideologically, and she changes them--the people in her path. It is a chemical reaction, slowly but surely. "You really have to leave your culture behind if you want to represent God. He transcends all of that." "Sometimes", she added, "it's easier to see the failings of the American models (of Christianity) by stepping away from them and seeing them from another's eyes."

My mother worked for many years in the UN. She owned a business there. The many diplomats we met there were "Ministers" of their country of origin. Representatives. Their offices were called Missions. (Definition 1 on the dictionary list). Some wore the costumes of their country of origin. All ate at the cafeteria along side one another (and my mom and me!) They were not ashamed of their differences, nor were they bothered my ours. I love this idea as it applies to Christianity. I am a child of God, sent to represent His kingdom here in a foreign land. I am establishing relations with this foreign country, the world. I am learning about the people that my Father, the King, has assigned me to. He loves these people. It is not my job to demand my own way here, my Kingdom is from far beyond the confines of this land. I will influence the world around me by being present here, but change will be subtle. I am a representative. People will know I am a Christian by my love. It will be a result of that love that they will come to me to connect them to the amnesty they desire. They want what I have in Christ. I only have to introduce them to my Father. (this is the diplomatic missional approach).

I have to say that being missional to me bears no resemblance to the Evangelists of fame. I cannot bear to look at them. I can't stand the words Proselytize. Converts. These images and terms turn sour in my stomach. Birgit says that the term evangelist is no longer PC. This may be true. Have I equated the term to the unsavory images it evokes? Maybe so. I have heard the churches I've attended categorized as Evangelical. It actually made me consider running in the other direction. (I didn't run, by the way, but still wonder if I should have...) TV Evangelists are in the same category as computer spam in my book -- sometimes the message hits pay dirt (after all, I did buy a star...) but how many thousands of those messages are deleted before one catches your eye? I have heard it said that if even one person connects to Christ as a result of this method, than it has a value. I wonder how many refuse to connect to Christ because of what they see here? I am glad I won't be the one doing the math on that one day. I know that many love this genre of religion. I say "God Bless them". I know that God is way bigger than the sum of my preferences. Allelluia to that. I am thankful that the body of Christ is not limited to only that which falls within the context of my comfort zone. Even if I have to wince on occasion....

I asked my husband in the end what his thoughts were (he having grown up in the conservative evangelical bible-thumping genre). "Mission Impossible" he stated simply (a man of brevity). After verifying that he was not kidding and that he did not collaborate with our son on his answer, I asked him to clarify. He said simply, "It's all about the adventure." (...Men...or should I say 'amen'?).

In conclusion, for me, being missional is a combination of the UN model (a representative of the Kingdom), the Good Works model (teaching and feeding those in need--or being the hands and feet of Jesus), the Green theme (allowing God to use others to change us and make us grow) and quite truly (even though I hate to admit it), the Mission Impossible model. I am a card carrying member of the God Squad. Agent 007 -- in the service of His Majesty, the King of Kings. (After all, its all about the adventure....)

God Bless you, wherever along the path you may be. I hope great adventures abound for you. May you find joy in the journey.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

I am frustrated by time constraints these days. I have so much to read, to write, to do -- it seems I'm unable to complete any of the tasks at hand. I want to thank all of you who have helped me with the technology of blogging. There are many things I'd like to do -- more of your blogs I'd like to add to my links, changes to the font size or color, etc. -- but I find I have to choose -- do I post or do I putter? (This hobby can easily become an obsession, I'm sure you have already realized this...) Thank you for hanging in there as I work out the kinks.

I am eager to jump on Laurie's bandwagon (Tahoe Pilgrim) and begin defining certain words we are using in the blogs. I loved seeing Birgit's definitions, and I am working on my own. Before I continue in that direction, I want to complete my thoughts on bridge building from Feb 01 at the complete risk of beating a dead horse...(okay -- here's a trivia tangent for you -- where did that term come from? "beating a dead horse"? What? Why? It is a phrase that makes it's point, but really makes you say "HUH?" or if you really think about it, "eew, gross"...)

This is the thing -- the word bridge from my last post cannot be built by someone else for you. When we as Christians speak of "leading someone to Christ" we have to do so with our feet. I can't build a bridge for you. I can only build one between you and me. I can show you the path that leads to God, maybe even point out the deep gorge that separates us from Him, but I can't build your bridge for you. I can only show you my bridge. I can't take you along with me when I go. You have to build your own. (He'll help you, of course.) But don't look over at my bridge, don't compare yours to mine -- that is as dangerous as looking down if you have a fear of falling.

Okay. Enough about bridges for today.

The word I'd like to beat now is "missional". I figure this will take a while, but I'd like to start here. I am pasting the dictionary definition of "mission" into the blog -- It's only a start, but I figure it's a good one. There are 7 listed definitions on the Encarta dictionary page.

a. A body of persons sent to conduct negotiations or establish relations with a foreign country.
b. The business with which such a body of persons is charged.
c. A permanent diplomatic office abroad.
d. A body of experts or dignitaries sent to a foreign country.
a. A body of persons sent to a foreign land by a religious organization, especially a Christian organization, to spread its faith or provide educational, medical, and other assistance.
b. A mission established abroad.
c. The district assigned to a mission worker.
d. A building or compound housing a mission.
e. An organization for carrying on missionary work in a territory.
f. missions Missionary duty or work.
3. A Christian church or congregation with no cleric of its own that depends for support on a larger religious organization.
4. A series of special Christian services for purposes of proselytizing.
5. A welfare or educational organization established for the needy people of a district.
a. A special assignment given to a person or group: an agent on a secret mission.
b. A combat operation assigned to a person or military unit.
c. An aerospace operation intended to carry out specific program objectives: a mission to Mars.
7. An inner calling to pursue an activity or perform a service; a vocation.

tr.v. mis•sioned, mis•sion•ing, mis•sions
1. To send on a mission.
2. To organize or establish a religious mission among or in.

1. Of or relating to a mission.
2. Of or relating to a style of architecture or furniture used in the early Spanish missions of California.
3. often Mission Of, relating to, or having the distinctive qualities of an early 20th-century style of plain, heavy, dark-stained wood furniture.

How's that for "food for thought"!? More on this later. Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it's off to work I go....

Thanks, Laurie. This is fun.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

I love words.

I love the complexity of their meanings and the power they can wield. I love that they are the only bridge that connects what is inside of me to you, or you to me.

The bridge they make is unfortunately very treacherous. There is, after all, a huge cavern -- a gorge -- between you and me. It is often like a suspension bridge swaying with the wind, and I am so fearful of falling...

But there is no other way for me to reach you. No other way for me to be known to you. I will die if I don't use that bridge, and you will too.

Sometimes the bridge is much less treacherous -- over time it can become like the George Washington Bridge or the Golden Gate Bridge. I think that is the result of many words and years of building. Shared experiences help to secure and maintain the bridge -- but it is, after all, only a bridge. Just the smallest amount of consistent neglect could result in its collapse. Perhaps even the fear of its collapse leaves us to travel the suspension bridge once again.

Words are insufficient and imperfect, but I love them anyway. They are all we have. They are the ultrasound, the x-ray, the full body scan, the MRI. "search me oh God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (Psalm 139: 23-24)

I love that Jesus is the ultimate bridge. He is our connection to God. I love that this analogy is made complete in the Gospel of John: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Our creator made us in this state of isolation. He caused us to need that bridge. Sometimes it is a suspension bridge swaying in the wind. He made us wanting to know and be known; needing to build and travel those bridges.

And once again, words are our only tool. Our only weapon. We use them to pray, to dream, to turn our feelings into flesh, our ideas into 3 dimensions.

Yes, I am a lover of words.

I have been reading (re-reading and then reading again) a treasure of a book called "Wishful Thinking -- a Seeker's ABC" by Frederick Buechner. I just love this little book. This lexicon reviews the Christian terminology that we in the blogs have been bouncing around, plus a few other words that I hadn't really thought of at all. I am posting Buechner's definition of Magic, for those of you who haven't had this lovely experience yet.

"Magic is saying Abracadabra and pulling the rabbit out of the hat, is stepping on a crack to break your mother's back, is a dashboard Jesus to prevent smash-ups. Magic is going to church so you will get to Heaven. Magic is using Listerine so everybody will love you. Magic is the technique of controlling unseen powers and will always work if you do it by the book. Magic is manipulation and says, My will be done. Religion is propitiation and says Thy will be done.

Religion is praying, and maybe the prayer will be answered and maybe it won't, at least not the way you want or when you want and maybe not at all. Even if you do it by the book, religion doesn't always work, as Jesus pointed out in one of his more somber utterances when he said, "Not everyone who says, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven." (Matthew 7:21) the corollary to which would appear to be, "Not everyone who wouldn't be caught dead saying 'Lord, Lord,' shall be blackballed from the kingdom of Heaven." He softened the blow somewhat then by adding that the way to enter the Kingdom of Heaven is to do the will of his Father in Heaven; but when religion claims that it's always sure what that will is, it's only bluffing. Magic is always sure.

If security is what you're after, try magic. If adventure is what you're after, try religion. The line between them is notoriously fuzzy."

I love how Buechner used these words. They surprised me, delighted me, and added some girding to my bridge to God. I love how God provided these words to me in an hour I needed them most. I would say that that was "magical" -- Buechner would remind me that it was "religion".

++Thank you, King of the bridge builders, that when we tire of traveling the suspension bridge, You'll make the journey to us.