January 5, 2007

So I was in class yesterday and we were put into groups and were told to talk about our winter break. This one girl was telling us God answered her prayers and that she felt like God was really, physically, close to her during break. It kind of made me sad. I long for that kind of intimacy with God, but God doesn’t seem to talk to me like that.  More often than not, prayer feels dry. Empty. Silent. I mean, there are times when I am overwhelmed by God. Where I can almost feel God’s arms around me. But not very often.   

It makes me feel like a bad Christian. Like I just don’t believe in God enough. Or that I don’t try hard enough.  But I know that God doesn’t work that way.   

There have been periods in my life when I felt very close to God for months at a time, but it just isn’t how it usually is for me.  So yeah. I struggle to feel good enough for God.  But at the same time, I know (intellectually at least), that I don’t have to do anything to get closer to God. I guess I wanted to say that if you ever feel distant from God, there is nothing wrong with you. And I just wish the Church would admit that sometimes God is silent so we wouldn’t feel so guilty when we don’t hear the booming voice from above.     

party party party

December 21, 2006

So we had the Christmas party at my apartment complex. It was crazy! Between making all the food, decorating and meeting tons of people I didn’t know, I was exhausted by the end. But it was really really good.

The whole thing was a little awkward because I didn’t know anybody, and nobody knew anybody, but eventually people started chatting and hanging out. It surprised me how long some of the people had lived there (one guy has lived there for the past 18 years!). And it was sad how few people knew each other. Everybody seemed to like the idea of getting to know their neighbors though, which was the whole idea. Its really cool, I’ve actually talked to some of the people since the party. I hope I can get to know them enough so that I can bless them in some way.

(on a side note, I kind of feel like I should stop walking around the apartment complex in my pajamas. I ran into somebody I knew yesterday when I had my pj’s on)

On a completely different note, I’m trying to find somewhere I can serve on Christmas. I go in phases where I am really motivated to help others, and where I become kind of indifferent. I just watched a talk by Shane Claiborne the other day, and I think that sparked this most recent interest in serving. I think that loving people and tangibly meeting their needs is so much a part of what it means to follow Jesus. But so much of what I do for my job and to “be a good Christian” has nothing to do with feeding the poor and comforting the lonely. Its depressing really. It is so easy to forget that first and foremost we are called to be a people who love others.

I wonder if that is what it means to be the Church. Not to worry about getting more people through our doors. Not to count the number of times that we explain the 4 spiritual laws. But instead, to just live the kind of life that Jesus tells us to live. To worry instead about loving radically, being excessively generous, forgiving the unforgivable. Maybe if we do these kinds of things, people will know that we are different, and will be drawn to God because of our incredible love.

Christmas Parties 2006

December 15, 2006

Hello faithful readers!

This is my first official post where I am not required by my teacher to talk to you people. So here we go. This year my roommie and I are hosting a Holiday Party for my apartment complex. We are super excited.  I dont know any of my neighbors (well, that isn’t completely true since I wave ‘hi’ to the family next door, but that is about it).  Our goal of putting on this party is just to get to know people a little bit. So that when we walk down the hall way we dont have to avert our eyes in awkwardness or that if somebody needed a last minute babysitter, they could drop their kid off with me.  I know it is optimistic, but it is a start. 

It’s a little nerve racking though. Up until now, I could do whatever I wanted, and not care at all what my neighbors think of me. Tomorrow is almost like my coming out party. From here on out, people will look at me and associate my actions with Jesus. Not that I am going to advertise that I’m Christian, but since I work at a church, it comes up a lot.  It’s strange. Not that I screw around a lot or do things that I don’t want people knowing about (most of the time), but it just makes life that much more authentic.  Who I am and how I live matters.  And now people are going to know about it.

I’ll let you know how it goes after I make it through the craziness that is this weekend (this is 1 of 5 parties between now and Monday. yippee)

I’m kind of sad that this class is ending.  There was nothing in particular that stood out to me throughout the quarter, but I feel like the class has shaped me and pointed my ministry and my life in a different direction. I’m really thankful to Ryan for his passion and insight into the emerging church.  Struggling with all this material this quarter was really challenging, but I felt like I was in good hands and that I learned so much. I can’t wait to take another one of Ryan’s classes, God is definitely moving in his life.

I really don’t have anything brilliant to say today, so feel free to stop reading now. Class was good this week. I really like studying about how culture has changed over time, and it is helpful for me to have a better idea where our country is coming from and where we are heading.  It is interesting that in modernity, we tried to make everything the same.  We could study a process and then try to reproduce it to get the maximum return. 

I think it is really funny that with the growth of the Emerging Church, people are trying to come up with the 5 steps to making an emerging church.  The emerging church is about rejecting modernity, structure and order. It is about letting things develop naturally, to flow from their structure, to evolve as things change.  And it definitely isn’t about being efficient.  Yet, many people’s first instinct, mine included, is to take it apart and study it so that I can reproduce the exact same thing in my community.  I guess that should just remind us that we are still dealing with modernity, and that modernity is still engrained in much of how we think and what we do.

How many of you have heard of postmodernity before (it doesn’t count if I’m the only one you’ve ever heard talk about it).  Well anyways, it’s this idea that in the past 20 or 30 years, people have changed.  We still get up and go to work everyday, but how we view the world is different.  We aren’t so concerned with facts, and we are drawn to stories about how God is moving in the world.  We don’t just learn by hearing somebody talk to us, but we like to experience life, to participate in the world, to belong to something, and through these activities we are changed. 

Now, I pretty much buy into the whole postmodern thing, obviously.  It fits me so well and I see it in other people my age.   But for some reason, in the circles I hang out with, “postmodernity” is seen as an evil thing.  Just the word makes people cringe.  If I start talking about something I’m excited about and then accidentally slip in the word postmodern, people stop listening and immediately dismiss me as radical and liberal.  Its like to them, the word postmodern = “I don’t love Jesus and I want to destroy the Church”. I don’t get it, and it frustrates me. 

In class last week, Ryan said something that I just think is hilarious.  Instead of saying “postmodern” he says “second-moderity” and people love his ideas.  Just by changing the word he uses, even though he is talking about the same thing, people are willing to listen to him and even adopt some of the changes he suggests. Wow. So from now on, I don’t believe in postmodernity, I believe in second-modernity. I’ll test it out and let you know if it helps my little revolution…

Last Thursday, Wess lectured on two of the books that we read for class, which was mildly helpful. I feel like I read those books so long ago, that I have already processed them and that they have already become a part of me, so talking about them this late in the quarter wasn’t extremely helpful.

But, I really liked the Quaries (sp?) that Wess lead us in at the beginning of the class.  We had a time of silent prayer and reflection, where Wess directed our thoughts by asking a number of questions. We then were told to just listen for God’s voice.  I really like the meditative / contemplative disciplines. I find life so hectic that it is hard to slow down enough and just be with Jesus.  I struggle with calming myself enough to listen to God, but I found the process of asking questions and listening for God’s voice to be very helpful.

In class today, Bolger told more stories about churches around the world. I want so much to be able to do church differently. To talk about Jesus in a way that means something to people. To be able to be a part of the culture and love people like Jesus did.  But I don’t really know how since I am so immersed in the Christian bubble.  This is very frustrating to me.  I want people to teach me to be like Jesus. who can show me a new way of doing church, but I don’t know anybody who is doing this kind of stuff.   

It occurred to me today that following Jesus is a really hard thing to do.  (surprise surprise) Yes, we are supposed to love people, but love takes sacrifice. We are supposed to stand up for the abused, but that means risking our own status.  We are supposed to forgive people, but forgiveness can be so hard.  Its easy to just tell people that this is what it means to follow Jesus, but it takes so much more work to actually do it. I think this is real Christianity.  Radical faith.  I wonder what it would look like to actually live this way. And how can I let people challenge me to do these things and help others as they also struggle to follow Jesus? 

“The cost of the cross is social non-conformity” – John Yoder

This week Fuller sponsored some lectures on Children at Risk. It was really interesting to hear about the different types of ministries people are doing to help disadvantaged children around the world.  So often the Church focus on providing for people spiritually, but then neglects their physical, emotional and social well-being. It was so encouraging to see groups working to heal the whole child, so that they can grow in fullness and joy in all aspects of their life.

I think we need to redefine what it means to be in community with each other.  In the Church, you have to believe the right things and act the right way in order to be a part of my group.  I can be friendly with you, think you’re a nice person and even hang out with you, but it will always be an “us” vs. “them” until you say The Prayer.  

I don’t like that.  Why can’t I be friends with somebody who doesn’t believe the same things that I do? Why can’t I move past casual acquaintance with a Jew or an atheist, and actually share my life with them? Why is believing such a huge part of who we are? 

I kind of think that it has to do with modernity. Ever since the Enlightenment, we believe that things can be proven.  We know what is right and what is wrong, and information rules our life.  I don’t think that everybody is like that.  Instead, I think we are much more communally oriented now.  Maybe instead of getting people to believe the right things, we should invite them to experience God in the world and in our lives.  maybe if we let people belong to us, to be apart of who we are, that they could know God in a real and tangible way. And then maybe, after they belong to us, they can come to believe.