Monday, December 10, 2012

Faith Journey

Please forgive me for using the word 'journey' without any irony whatsoever. It's the only word I can think of right now that sums up what I'm learning my faith is about; not a destination, but a long, painful journey towards being more like Christ.

That is not always pretty though. Most times, heck, most days, it is an ugly, ugly thing.

So this faith journey is one big tangled mess for me at the moment. I am learning and un-learning so many things simultaneously, which makes it incredibly difficult to share it with anyone in any articulate way (apart from my husband who sifts through my ramblings). I worry so much about coming across as flaky, or worse, a "backslider" because in the world I live, that is one of the most pitiable creatures around according to most, and I don't want or need anyones pity.

I feel like I need to type/write some ideas down to make it nice and orderly in my brain. Or at least give me the false impression that I have it "all figured out" when I am often just scrambling to feel on track for one moment at a time.

These ideas will be really badly thought-out, so I need a massive amount of grace from anyone reading this.

1. Ok, how do I say this? I am becoming more and more intolerant of any form of sexism, misogyny or discrimination against women in church. This also includes jokes from the pulpit (!!) about how "every man's action results in a completely irrational reaction from a woman hahahahahahaha". And that is a direct quote.
Talk about buying directly into the destructive culture of our world that says women are not only irrational but hysterical, overreacting banshees that need to be placated, controlled and 'demystified' at every turn. I just cannot take it anymore. The church of Jesus Christ should be fighting against every form of oppression, not perpetuating it. I get that people are broken; I get it more than people may realise, because I am one of them. I am flawed and broken and desperately in need of grace. But it doesn't excuse overt sexism coming from the very place that needs to be administering grace and mercy and offering us all safety from the tentacles of our death-culture.

2. I want to be more open to the cries of the needy and the poor and the completely marginalised in our society, and I want church to be less about building projects and more about the single mum down the street who has no family, 4 kids and an abusive ex-boyfriend. What about her? And the thousands more who only know that the church is definitely against gay marriage and has a really awesome Easter production coming up. If that's all they know of Christ's hands and feet, then I am ashamed.

3. Questions are okay. Questions are not to be feared. In fact, questions are being asked all the time by many many people in our churches but rarely acknowledged, and this only lends weight to the idea that our faith is not capable of handling scrutiny and probing. Being afraid of questions betrays a shallow understanding of what Christ came to do and has done. Being afraid of questions tells me that the faith is not strong enough, that it is a fragile house of cards that we must take care not to disturb lest it fall around our ears. That is not the faith I inherited from my mothers and fathers in the faith. That is not the faith of martyrs both ancient and current. That is not the faith of Thomas who questioned his Lord and received a reply.
I haven't always believed this, and it's taken me a while to become accustomed to all these questions. They're my constant companions, but I find that it's got me thinking about all things Christ/church/faith all the freaking time!

4. Leading on from Number One, I am weary of the huge imbalance of stories being told that hold up only males from the Bible as our heroes in the faith. I can count on one hand the amount of times that I've heard about the women who believed, who acted, who lived out a life that we should all aspire to. And this may be due to my Protestant, in particular Pentecostal upbringing, but I am especially sad about missing out on learning about and learning from Mary, mother of Jesus. The pendulum of Mary-worship that Catholics are accused of has really swung from that side to the equally destructive side of belittling and minimising her life and actions that we could all learn from. I've heard more about characters like Gideon than on people like Deborah or Esther. There's an entire book of the Bible dedicated to extolling Esther's life and faith, and yet I cannot recall hearing much about her at all! This is not an attack on any particular church/person/preacher, but an observation of a trend across the board - ask any middle-aged Christian about women like Phoebe, Junia, Mary, Esther, Huldah and see what replies you might get. Scot McKnight wrote a book called 'Junia is Not Alone' that is incredible.

5. I love icons. I don't really understand them, and I don't know why, but I am drawn to icons of the early church in a strange way. I say 'strange' because I have grown up being told that Orthodox Christians "aren't proper Christians" and that icons are completely idolatrous and definitely 'not ok'. I don't believe they are idolatrous, in and of themselves, and my heritage seems to me so pale and sparse and empty of beautiful art or imagery because of this. It makes me sad that so many traditions of the church have been rejected or denounced as 'heresy' when Scripture isn't as clear on that as many think.

Isn't it funny that even typing out of those 5 'things' has filled me with a sense of dread about what people might think? I am tempted to delete this post, but I don't want to live in fear of people's opinions anymore. Suffice to say, my faith is getting deeper, but in a way I cannot really fathom or understand just yet. The scaffolds of what held it up before are falling away, and that's ok, because I think it's time for new scaffolding, new ways to think about Christ and who he might be. The cradle of my faith has got me this far, and I am eternally (haha) grateful for that, but I think it's time to get out of the cradle and walk.

Some amazing blogs/writers that are helping me do this are people like Sarah Bessey at who says;

“Be grateful for your disillusionment because it will push you away from revere-ing your own self or your heroes of the faith or the mystics or doctrine teachers or bloggers or missionaries or churches. Now we can learn from one another, as partners and friends, but we are pointed towards the only true example for humanity, the true Shepherd, the true Father, the true Mother, the true God. We can now embrace each other in our humanity, flawed, and moving together towards our true selves with open hearts to God.”

Others like;
The Book of Common Prayer

and so many more.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The most adorable boy in the whole world  -my husband when we he was a tiny wee boy.

My husband about 2 years ago, on our holiday to his homeland Rarotonga

Been in a foul mood lately, and he is one of the few things that makes me smile. I know, blergh, saccharine sweet and all, but it's true!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Two Options

I read the following on someone else's blog this morning - the options they were presented with after realising that so many sermons were just a preachers personal venting platform and .....
I'm also trying to take Option Two, having dabbled in Option One. Sums up a lot of what's been happening lately....

"Two Options Arose:
1- Stop going to church. Read the books that suit me on faith. Talk with my friends about my faith and hobby of theology, but get away from the organized crap. This is the option that is statistically preferred.
2 - Find a church I could love, despite flaws, and work within the system while fighting my cynicism.
I chose option two. I committed to the church and Christ healed me. I didn’t know how, at the time, but I knew I was being healed. The sermons were good, but it wasn’t that. The Anglican liturgy was new to me and beautiful, and as a student of words this helped, but I think there was something more. The prayers were Trinitarian and theologically based: I could no longer handle all of the prayers that went like this “Lord you are just the best. We just delight in how you just love us.” Grammatical and syntactical problems aside, I did not want to be cynical of my upbringing, and I know that it wasn’t simply a different order of services that was healing me.
I grew up in a church culture that valued the Lord’s Supper and Baptism but seldom discussed it and monthly took the bread and wine. Communion and Baptism were touted as intellectual exercises. I remember once getting a nail in a megachurch service, while a gruesome image of Christ’s passion stared at me from the front. We were told that when we took communion we were to think about how we drove the nails in Christ. I tried my hardest, but inevitably an intellectual exercise ends with more abstract guilt than grace.
I was healed because I learned that the church is a place for healing and brokenness. It is partially a place to engage intellectually, but we are also called to gather physically, to partake from physical elements that God uses to give us grace through faith. One of the five words I remember from three semesters of Greek lets me know that Eucharist is thanksgiving."

Monday, August 27, 2012

European Adventure

Have I mentioned that Viv and I fly to Europe in 10 days?
It's all we've been talking and thinking about since we decided back in January to do it this year, not next time or when we magically have the money just lying around, but grab 2012 with both hands and stop wishing and start doing.

I know it's going to be a time of high expectations, contradictions and some let downs. For example, I cannot wait for the 6th of September to actually arrive, and I am so impatient with the days dragging on and on. And yet I love the anticipation, the delicious knowledge that it's still ahead of us, and almost don't want this waiting to end.

I know it will be the stuff of dreams, and yet the reality will probably never measure up to the wistful portrayals of 'Europe' I've seen in movies and blogs and heard in songs. After all, for me its the exotic, the different, and yet for those who live there, it's just another city with the same problems we all face.

We'll be staying in hostels, cheap hotels and with my extended family all throughout the continent, from Portugal to to France to Italy and Austria. It's been 8 years since I've seen my aunts, uncles and cousins so I am pretty nervous about staying with them without my parents being there - its now just me, and since Viv can't speak Romanian, I'll be the translator and mediator of jokes and questions.

I know I need to lower my expectations, because I don't want to be disappointed with the reality. I am trying to remember that despite seeing the Eiffel Tower, and enjoying croissants and quaint cobblestoned streets, we will still get tired, grumpy, frustrated, annoyed and that its ok for that to happen. I almost feel like because its 'Europe', it must be a magical land where everything is romantic and historic and imbued with significance that one simply cannot experience crappy emotions like that. So I'm doing my best to remind myself to be realistic!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

So much love...

It's ridiculous how much love I have for this man right here in the red hat....and this is just me wanting to shout it from the proverbial rooftops. A wise woman reminded me tonight that we're all on an epic odyssey through this life, and there are some fellow travelers that we couldn't do it without - he is the one who makes the valleys and mountaintops bearable.

Friday, July 27, 2012

What is saving your life right now?

Sarah Bessey over at is asking her readers 'What is saving your life right now?' and I feel like I am in need of a whole lot of saving. I am quite resource-less at the moment, emotionally, spiritually, mentally. Physically I can bench-press more than I did last week, thanks to a new workout plan, but the rest? Oh man.

So I've decided to spill here on my oft-forgotten blog, whose posts probably aren't read by anyone other than a bored friend or random visitor.

So, to Sarah's question;

What is saving my life right now?

Th continued forgiveness of a husband who loves me despite all my flaws and my inability to deal with living with my family while we save for Europe.

Episodes of 'An Idiot Abroad' are saving me right now from going crazy and snapping at anyone and everyone and are taking my mind off the tense minefield that exists in the house at the moment.

Meeting Marcy and Laura and Janice and the ridiculously friendly people at a church nearby, people who ask to have coffee and look at me like they're really seeing me. Asking me questions that really sound like they want to know, they want to understand, they want to hear me.

My dreams of Barcelona and lazy mornings in Paris and gondola rides down the canals of Venice are saving me right now.

Emails to a rare friend, detailing the most mundane and ordinary of things.

The Jesus Prayer is saving me right now.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Neither the beginning, nor the end.....just the middle

It seems I am in the 'middle' of a lot of things all at once. We're in the middle of saving money for our Europe adventure. In the middle of figuring out where we belong in a faith community. In the middle of  our marriage, four years in, many, many more to go. In the middle of our housing situation, living with my parents. In the middle of life, of trying to live it well.

And in the very middle of a mini faith struggle  - so hard to pin down that I cannot lend words to it yet, which serves to confuse me even more. If anything, I can always lend words to what I am experiencing and being without that right now is so hilariously painful.

And yet. A book I'm reading says something about the middle being the time and place where things cannot be routine and habit and I do like that.

Also? Could there be anything more wonderful than receiving a present that so perfectly fits your personality? I am obsessed with my kindle/e-reader. I have thousands of books at my fingertips and I am in heaven.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Here I am

Here I am
Back stuffed
Husband mad
Table broken
Door locked
Sunday blues ahead
There she is
At the airport
Off to Africa
Saving the world
Not a worry or a care
Who's got it better?
Me, married, tied down, job, ordinary arguments and dishes to do
She, single, unfettered, flying off to exotic lands to change the world

Whose life is more significant? I want to say hers is because I'm in self pity mode. Yet underneath my self pity I have to acknowledge that neither is more than the other.
Should we all be married? No. Should we all drop everything and leave it behind for the poor and the naked?
Yes. But there are those who are poor in love and naked in their pain right here who need someone too. And they are often right in the midst of our ordinary lives, among the dishes and appointments, the arguments and Sunday night blues.
The excitement of leaving it all behind, the adventure and adrenaline rush of flying off is so tempting for me. And seems the better, more exciting option.
And yet, I haven't been called to be Jesus' hands and feet just when it is fun. I have to do it also when I am sick of it all and craving what's on the other side of the fence. And I must see the lie for what it is; a deception that says everything BUT what I have right now is better and more fulfilling because I'm here at this moment of my life for a reason.

We cannot all possibly be the young, single, carefree girl flying to Africa to salve and heal and save the needy. But we must all be our true Selves in Him, in what we are living already; whether it be motherhood or singleness or marriage or career or divorce or none of the above. If this right now doesn't matter, then nothing matters. But if this right here, this ordinary life can be caught aflame, then it all matters.
All is grace.

Am I a fool? Does it all matter? Or just the exciting lives others seem to lead?

Tell me what you think - and why we shouldn't fall for the "Everything else is better than what you have" lie.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The seeming insanity of faith

If nothing else he has the integrity to tell us up front he's going to do whatever he wants because he is God. I will tell of the most senseless thing he ever did: He showed up here. Not to do away with evil, but to deliver himself over to evil. Instead of showing up to rescue the victims and give the victimizers a sound whacking, he became a victim himself and let them and the plagues and sicknesses and heartaches all go on as if he'd never showed up at all. That is God, take him or leave him.
To take him or leave him is the essence of faith.
He says to us as he is being executed for being God, staring straight in the face of all our incoherence, dissolution and corruption, "Trust me, I know what I'm doing." Either he does or He doesn’t. And either we do or don't buy the resurrection, his promise that there is a vast and holy integrity to it all and we too will someday be redeemed from all this suffering.
For my money, in the end, even if the gospel is all a fairy tale hope at best or a damned lie at worst, it is still more attractive than the hopeless and ghastly promises the world hands me.
I admit I’m buying it