thoughts on church.

i visited church today for the first real time since my “hiatus” (Easter doesn’t count).  i’m not sure why, except that it’s been a rough weekend and i just needed something familiar, something like home.  i was quickly reminded why i’m going to maintain my hiatus.  here are some of my notes:

“i am weary with this life…or at least with the life the church expects me to live.  one of the tenents of Christianity is that this world is not our own, that we live toward a greater place.

so then what do we do with this life?  why can’t we just be ordinary, living out and appreciating the minutiae of life?  why can’t we settle into relationships and places and do the steady slow work of putting truth and life and light into the dark places?

we use such language to talk about God–rightly so, He is a big mystery.  but we think we have to constantly work to grasp Him, instead of just allowing Him to be big and us to be small.

why do we have to be aware of what the “enemy” is doing?  did Jesus ask this of us?  did he ask us to be so aware of darkness, or to just love the light so much we radiate?

this is why i’m not “doing church” right now…all of our language is laden with conviction, and some believe strongly that is the greatest catalyst for change.

but Christ brought grace.  He constantly met people where they were and told them He saw all of them, and His heart broke for them.  why do we keep trying to push people into the mold of who we think they should be?  instead of affirming who/where they are, allowing our love to provide space for the transformation they uniquely need, the transformation that looks like what they need it to look like.”

i went in this morning completely exhausted, emotionally, physically, mentally.  i felt weary and heavy and sad.  i needed an old friend and a couch to lay on.  what i realized is that the church is not for the weak, or the weary, or even the marginalized.  the only way to survive there is if you’re strong, happy, able to participate in “meet and greets” and smile.

i want to be that version of church i long for.  i want to be a place where people can find rest and unconditional love.  i want to be that all the time, not just on Sundays.  i want to be a person that meets people wherever they are, in whatever state, and says, “let’s be encouraged, because we are so dearly loved,”  because that’s the heart of what i need to hear.  and the heart of what i see so many around me longing for.

we don’t need another message about we’re not living up to some standard; i think we are all very aware of our shortcomings.  even those of us who’ve learned to hide it well.  we could all say, if we were really brutally honest, that we are crappy creatures.  we need to hear that there are good parts of us too.  that we were created in the image of a loving, beautiful God which means we are also loving and beautiful.  even when we’re messy.

that’s the church we need.

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confirmation

i have all the symptoms.  sore throat. trouble (ok, it hurts like hell) swallowing.  my glands are swollen.  my ear drums ache from the pressure.  and a look into the back of my mouth with a flashlight revealed: strep throat.

still, i needed someone to confirm.  fortunately, i am blessed to have a good friend and brother, who happens to be a dr.  within seconds of taking a look, he suggested antibiotics and a regiment of aleve for the pain.

i breathed a sigh.  i’m not crazy.  i really am sick.  a doctor said so and he gave me medicine.

i think about how much we just need someone to tell us we’re not crazy.

i meet bi-weekly with a mentor, and tonight was the night.  he listened well to my rants and struggles with, what i am calling, my “quarter-life/faith crisis.”  he listened without judgement.  he listened with compassion.  he was well-armed with thoughtful questions.  and most importantly, he said i wasn’t crazy.

even better, he said i made sense.

too often i find that we perpetuate emotional and mental “disease” because we will not offer a simple confirmation to people that they’re ok.  we suppress identity and encourage a sheep/herd mentality.  we suppress expression and push conformity.  we tell people they are crazy if they don’t fit our mold or revolve in the patterns of our society.

the freedom to process and ask questions and challenge the norm has always been important to me, especially lately.  it is hard to articulate what is happening internally, but the image i get is of having these cages around me, pressing closer and closer against me.  and just like that, the doors have been opened, and my fragile wings are spread, taking flight.  new perspectives abound as i stumble and fly and stumble again.

no matter what, i have a choice in this.  i get to choose.  and i’m not crazy.  i am a human bird, freed from my cage.  ready to fly.

as it’s meant to be.

‘cuz i need freedom now 
and i need to know how
to live my life as it’s meant to be.
the cave by mumford & sons

eight years ago i sat across from a young man, Matt Conner, with my good friend Lindsay.  this young pastor was full of excitement to  be planting a church in Anderson, and together the three of us dreamed, giddy with the possibilities God had in store.  we were young, naive, eager for the future.  before the idealism ran out, and the reality of ministry set in.  before the struggle of birthing something brand new and the mistakes to be made in that.  before the desert, and the wilderness, and the sometimes surprising waterfalls one stumbles on in those lands.

we launched the church and, for my part, it was an increasing struggle to stay committed.  i learned so much about myself, what i’m gifted in, and even more so what i’m not (eh hem…children’s ministry…eh hem).  i eventually left the community to strike out for Arizona, came back for a brief period, and then officially left when i moved to Indy.  i’ve kept up with them, though, this beautiful little community in Anderson, as they’ve strived to serve an underserved population with little to no resources.  they’ve established a thrift store, a bike hub, an after-school program for the neighborhood kids.  they’ve seen young people come, and young people go.  they’ve prepared people for ministry, and sent them around the world.  they’ve struggled financially, but been blessed with so much life.

now, after 8 years of steering this ship, my dear friend is aiming to do what he has encouraged so many of us to do over the years: “Set your heart on God.  Follow accordingly.”  he is stepping down as pastor, opening himself to a new direction.  he is living out what he’s taught.  he is beautifully, and crazily, and recklessly living into the Kingdom.  he is, as usual, setting an example and blazing a trail for the rest of us.

i have been wrestling, myself, with what it looks like to live the life i’m meant to live.  the cave by mumford & sons (lyrics above) has been my anthem for the last year or so, as i scream the words and shake my head whenever it comes on (in private only…that may scare people).  here is an excerpt from some journaling i did early this am:

“i think my greatest struggle lately has been having the confidence to live my life as i think it should be lived.  to the outsider this won’t make sense, as i’ve taken incredible leaps and made tremendous changes (to my life).  but inwardly, i battle constantly, allowing myself to be bullied by the thoughts  and opinions of others.

still, something is scratching at the surface, pushing me to own my life, to choose what will be in it.  Beth (Booram, a wonderful woman!) sat that to me a couple weeks ago, that i should choose the life i’m leading, instead of living the life others would choose for me.  this is in line with the call of Christ, for He has a life for me, has created me for a certain kind of path.  if i do not choose to walk it, i miss out on being fully myself.

so, here’s to my dear friend, Matt Conner.  here’s to our naive selves, and to those selves who’ve learned the hard, and the selves God has created us to be.  you are such an encouragement, friend, and i am excited for this next phase of your journey.

life on the edge

there are a lot of things going through my mind, a lot of options that, as my dear friend JR puts it, i’ve been “noodling.”  (translation = “thinking about a lot).

do i stay or leave my job?  if i stay, how many hours should i work?  but i really hate the drive and Fishers and don’t feel challenged.  but then again, it’s steady money.  but if i sold my car, i would eliminate the majority of the money not being covered by my hours at the coffee shop.  still, i would need to make about $200 a month; can i do that by finding something where i can ride my bike?  what if i need to get to my mom’s or my dad’s (both 10+ miles from me)?  still…it seems silly to drive 60 minutes round-trip in this gas economy, just to own a car.

it’s crazy, at least in my paradigm, to consider not owning a car.  especially in a city with poor public transportation.  still, not spending my money in that way would free me up so much to do the work i am increasingly clear God is calling me to (but that is not able to pay me).

like meeting with beautiful women considering the training school, or who just need some lovin’.  or creating newsletter for this little coffee shop trying to add a bright spot in the world.  or trying to create my own business (McNabb Says–a marketing and communications business that helps start-up businesses get off the ground).

all of these things make me feel so alive…so much more myself.  i don’t know that i can sacrifice them any longer to the gods of convenience and money.

i was sharing with some friends this morning stories from a book i recently read by Richard Foster (Streams of Living Water).  in it, he explains the 6 different traditions of the church (charismatic, evangelical, holiness, social justice, contemplative, incarnational) and then gives brief biographies of people in church history who’ve been instrumental within each movement (MLK, Suzanne Wesley, Augustine of Hippo, St. Francis of Assisi, Dietrich Boenhoeffer, etc).

i almost cried reading them, seeing how daring and brave each of these people have been in the face of adversity, boldly living life on the edge.  i want to be like that.  in the end, i wanted to be counted with them.  in order to do that, i think it’s time to make some (seemingly) radical changes so that new life can begin to grow and bloom.

“i see a people….”

these words struck me, and since i cannot do them justice in paraphrasing, i decided to share them in full.  enjoy.

“Right now we remain a largely scattered people. . . .But a new thing is coming. . . .

I see it happening, this great new gathering of the people of God.  I see an obedient, disciplined, freely gathered people who know in our day the life and powers of the kingdom of God.

I see a people of cross and crown, of courageous action and sacrificial love.

I see a people who are combining evangelism with social action,the transcendent Lordship of Jesus with the suffering Messiah.

I see a people who are buoyed up by the vision of Christ’s everlasting rule, not only imminent on the horizon, but already bursting forth in our midst.

I see a people…I see a people…even though it feels as if I am peering through a glass darkly.

I see a country pastor from Indiana embracing an urban priest from New Jersey and together praying for the peace of the world.  I see a people.

I see a Catholic monk from the hills of Kentucky standing alongside a Baptist evangelist from the streets of Los Angeles and together offering up a sacrifice of praise.  I see a people.

I see social activists from the urban centers of Hong Kong joining with Pentecostal preachers from the barrios of Sao Paulo and together weeping over the spiritually lost and the plight of the poor.  I see a people.

I see laborers from Soweto and landowners from Pretoria honoring and serving each other out of reverence for Christ.  I see a people.

I see Hutu and Tutsi, Serb and Croat, Mongol and Han Chinese, African-American and Anglo, Latino, and Native American all sharing and caring and loving one another.  I see a people.

I see the sophisticated standing with the simple, the elite standing with the dispossessed, the wealthy standing with the poor.  I see a people.

I see a people, I tell you, a people from every race and nation and tongue and stratum of society, joining hearts and hands and minds and voices declaring,

Amazing Grace!  How sweet the sound–
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind but now I see. “

Richard J. Foster, Streams of Living Water

ladies and gentleman, Nolan Sells….

“i don’t believe that anyone who questions God or Christianity is an apostate or doing the work of Satan. if Jesus intended for right-thinking to be the path to heaven then He wouldn’t have spoken in parables. the basic principles of Christianity are obvious because Jesus made them obvious–everything else is available for interpretation.

what frustrates me in all this is the idea that Christians feel that it is necessary to call out other Christians when they have any disagreements, even over the most trivial of points. it is as if they have to try to prove Christ wrong when He says “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” i see this “controversy” as the foot in the body of Christ calling out the hand for having a different function. so what if rob bell is a universalist? so what if the pastor in the video from whatever church isn’t? it doesn’t matter.

it will not be our ability to provide answers to the tough questions of life or to provide sound theological reasoning that will set us apart as followers of Christ but our unity. the only way to have unity is to love each other despite and because of our differences, which is basically as Christ loves us.

love does win.”