Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Death and Resurrection of a Community Story

Christianity in America is a bit like the Disney Land of Religions.  It's easy, fun and has every flavor of ice cream you could like.  If you don't like any of the flavors, you are offered, you can go everywhere else to find your favorite.  After all this is America.

Renovatus was my Disneyland when I first found this church.  A place claiming to be for people like me: Liars, Dreamers, Misfits.  I fit the bill and loved listening to the spunky preacher who had a similar background growing up like I had.  This place claimed to be pentecostal but it was cool…. I had never seen that before and I liked it.  I didn't have to embarrassingly shun what I had grown up in any longer but embrace it.  It felt nice.

I also didn't have to do much work.  Our church in it's prime was like a neat high school, only this time the cool kids were nice and they happily ran everything smoothly for us.  I enjoyed watching them flourish and bragged about them to my friends in other places even though I didn't know any of them personally.  Lets be honest I didn't bring much to the table:  Just a small-town girl who happen to be a college drop out, Hair stylist.  I wasn't really sure who I was, how could I join in with these people that were so sure and comfortable, being themselves.  I was too shy and awkward and couldn't imagine that these people would need me in any sort of way.

And then one day everything was taken from us.  Our amusement park was no longer a happy, happening place but a barren, fragile wasteland and now the only ones left to run the machines were us awkward plan B people who didn't even know if they knew how to run these machines but we could try.  We weren't "the cool" church anymore and all the cool kids happened to find other places to be all at once and we couldn't think of anywhere else to be.  Maybe we missed out on the memo.

We were middle aged, tired, nothing special Attendees but we still had dreams.  Yes, our church used to have waters flowing from every door and now all we had were little seeds of hopes springing up from a dry, cracked land.  In this hard time we started living up to our name.  Had we lied to ourselves thinking that the way of Christ was easy-breezy and about entertainment and blessing or were we more fond of our church culture in America:  a place built on image more than authenticity.  We had always preached our motto but now we were actually forced to live it when all we had were dreams and misfits. And we weren't so pretty as before.

Now I've learned, Christ's way is not an amusing one, but a hard, pruning painful way that in the end bares even more beautiful fruit then we could've dream up ourselves.  I didn't find Christ in those Good Ole Days I found Christ in the ones where I needed to sink or swim.  I needed to be all in or out.  I was forced to look at myself and realize I needed pruning if I were to be of some use to His Kingdom.  Hell, I didn't even really know what the Kingdom was until I found Christ in the wilderness.  I found him in the place I didn't think he existed and to be honest: I really wasn't looking for him.  He found me.

I was happy being a spectator but that wasn't good enough for Christ.  He needed all of me and my faith in community too.  Whether I wanted to be or not I knew it was the best way I would be whole but I also knew it wasn't an easy way.  It's the way of suffering after all.  It's not an amusement park and we could try and make it like that but in the end, Christ will come and tear down all our structures and entertainments and leave us with nothing except naked joy and bread; only we can find from Him and only when were starving.

He forces us to believe in Resurrection. Which sounds easy but very hard. When faced with Resurrection, all our demons come out to play and tell us we're not living in the glory days but we should believe that we are.  It's the intense nights, that there doesn't look like any hope left and all is dead, that Christ shows up to us again. And he comes to the most unexpected and in the most terrifying way: through death.  Death IS the answer and sometimes the only way to go.  And we have to count it all blessing to die whether spiritual or physical for our Lord and Savior.  Believing that is where we are set free.

Renovatus is still standing and I'm really glad I stood by her.  I don't always know what would become of her but I had dreams for her and still do .  She's somehow more beautiful in her limping and imperfectness; I'm finding my imperfections more appealing in her.  Her destruction has somehow transformed into our resurrection and for that I am always thankful for her.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Gardeners and the Guardians.

I wrestle with being burdened down a lot but I am a joyful, loving spirit.  I love making people laugh, feel good about their situations and just encourage them.   I have peace in my life but constantly wrestle with an uneasiness in my walk. Part of that, might be myself, trying to stick to the old ways of doing everything in my nature to please God, realizing I know I can not create that righteousness within myself.  It has to come from God.  I can't earn God's love or favor, it's already given.  Why do I keep trying then?

Jesus says my burden is light and my yoke is easy.  I believe that and as a Christian, have witnessed that in my own testaments of Faith.  As naive as it might sound, I don't worry about a lot of stuff, commonsense tells us to worry about.  I don't worry about safety, I don't really fear people, I don't worry about getting robbed.  I'm not a worrier and all my cares I do cast upon Jesus and I safely believe that he knows what's best for me and I don't have to worry about things, period. I have good intuition and I relie heavily on that.

My uneasiness comes with my desire to right the world.  To be a light.  When things like the Nepal earthquake and the riots in Balitmore (etc.)  happens it strikes a nerve with me.  It pierces my heart and I can't help but plea for these people's hurt.  My burden comes from feeling helpless.  I know prayer works and alleviates some but I want to do something with my HANDS!  I want to build back this humanity that seems so desolute and devoid of God's Love and restore it back to Eden.  I want to believe that I can make a difference.

I think that wrestling is my spirit (or Holy Spirit) and flesh.  My flesh says there's not much you can do but my Spirit is like "Let's do something!!" If theres one thing I've learned from my walk this past year is PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE.  A virtue I lack when all I see is what's in front of me.  Rome wasn't built in a day and neither is the Kingdom of God.  Our hands are small but they can still make a difference.

If there's one thing I like to tell others in the Faith is that building the Kingdom is not subjected to just an afterlife destination, it's an opportunity to partake in the here and now.  When we make Christianity about winning converts (which not many of us are good at anyways) we place Jesus over just a small reigning part of our life instead of over the Whole operation.  Sadly that's what I seen in our American Cultural Christianity and the backlash has been all the ones we've suppressed and ignored for decades having finally started bubbling to the forefront of our society and we can no longer conceal our hidden sins but face them head on.

The places where the gospel we've preached is lagging, are starting to fall away.  The structural systems we've built around ourselves to protect our own egos are collapsing and we have 1 of 2 options:

1.  We can ignore the ones who feel left out, marginalized or oppressed and forgotten.  We can tell them this is a result of their own stupidity and misguidedness.  We can build around us an "escape gospel" that just says this is predicted and this is just a sign of the End times.  We can complain when others don't meet things that are "our" criteria of what a functioning society is suppose to act like.  Let our pride rule our emotions and get on a We Are Right Bandwagon.

2.  We can humbly search our hearts and ask ourselves if we have somehow partaken in making these things happen.  Have we forgotten what someone else different than our shoes feels about our society.  What are they asking of us and can we give it?  If it is them asking to be elevated as equals like you and me, let's give it.  In fact, lets go overboard and put people different than us above us.  Isn't that what our Savior teached and portrayed? Isn't that one of the inaugurations of his Kingdom: to be last?

I'm sorry but I can see straight into the reasons these issues have been brewing and it is our favorite sin that digs our grave for us: Pride.  Pride is sooo evil and almost invisible to see.  It seeps into our hearts to the point that we become obsessed with being right so much so we put that in front of actually helping people and THAT is a distorted gospel if we are not careful with ourselves.  It's a sacred cow that is so infused in our culture that is almost abnormal to not fall in step with.  Culture wars, judgements, religious and political superiority, these are all signs of pride not the Spirit running someone's life. To give our life to Christ is to subject TO him and not our egos (aka flesh).

And I'm no meteorologist but I'm sure the groanings of the Earth and Earthquakes, if not caused are at least enhanced by us not taking care of it, as the Lord commands of his followers.  It still strikes me as odd that this is not a priority to a lot people, Christian or not.   To be a good steward is not just talking about your personal things but being a light to the world means a good steward to the things of the Earth.  If we are truly grateful for all that we've been given then we should realize our need to maintain a good standing with taking care of it.  I'm not perfect but I have become aware of just how I contribute to the pollution and taking slow, small steps (Rome wasn't built in a day, right?) to lessen my carbon foot print.  Why this makes me seem more "Left" or "Liberal" (don't you just love when people try to label you so they can write you off easier and throw your suggestions to the side.  Maybe another sign of someone being ruled by pride?) I don't know.  My politics are of Jesus and he ask for everything in my life to be submitted to him.  And he is the new Adam of the Earth.  He's the New Humanity we are to submit to.

So basically we need to ask what are the echoes of our actions:  Are we Gardeners or Guardians? A Gardener is someone who answers the calling to take up the actions of Christ and to build back the Kingdom of God.  A Guardian is someone who tries to protect the symbolic rituals and hold on the old ways of business to get to Christ.  The law abiders who haven't stepped out on enough faith to live under the new Love laws.  It seems the more abstract the law the more nervous these Guardians get.  Why?  Because the Love laws our Savior commands does just what he intended:  They save us from ourselves.  From our "systems" of "righteousness" that just don't work anymore.  They exclude too many and demand too less of ourselves.  Our need to want to measure our moral muscles just doesn't cut it in the laws of Love.  The non-concrete gives way to a transcendent way of life that will free us from our competitiveness, combativeness, leaving room for us to breathe and become ourselves and to hear his voice.

 Do we try to protect our own lives, rights and systems to benefit us and our comforts or are we being good stewards of EVERYTHING the good Lord has given us.  To me that's a sign of someone possessed by the Fruits of the Spirits.  Someone at least trying to make this world a better place.  I love the analogy of  Mary thinking Jesus was the gardener the first time she seen him after his resurrection.  I think that's shows us how deeply we need to be the New Face of Humanity as Christ himself lives in us.  Jesus takes up the gardening that Adam and Eve failed to do.  Will we do the same?