Saturday, November 1, 2008


Today I spent 45 minutes having my ego stroked. It only took a moment to whisk that all away, turning an otherwise stimulating coffee shop conversation into a metaphysical slap in the face, with these five words-"I used to be you." What I hate about those words is the arrogance behind them. Here I am intently listening to someone's list of big questions for god, all the while posturing as a wise, loving, deep listener. That is who I like to portray myself as. That is who I try to be. I figure I'm working my way into this person's top favorite people, and building up to a climactic moment when I breath out some brilliantly insightful observation about life and god and suffering that they haven't considered yet. But she's not been baring her soul, waiting for me to wow her with a modern, updated, better than ever insight on Christianity that proves that we two are the brilliant minds who really understand Christ and his work-instead, she's been taunting me. It turns out that, in her own words, she used to be me.
Me, the one who still knows God as a loving father, a king worth serving, a God who intimately cares about the biggest and smallest matters of the human condition. The God who waits for us to ask, impassioned to intervene in supernatural ways we could not even ask or think.
She used to be on fire. She used to be hot hot hot for Jesus.
She used to be me.
(Implication being that I too may soon realize that most Christians are probably fooling them selves into believing in God's intervention, slapping God's name on every good thing that randomly happens, and tritely explaining away tragedy, loss, and his bad judgment calls like letting a 5 year old's mother die of cancer.)

I feel so insulted. Mostly it's my pride that's been hurt. Here I am thinking that people see me as some source of wisdom and connection to God, and in fact I'm being condescended to, pitied maybe, and pegged as the same old blind faith believer who simply hasn't seen through the veneer of human religious indoctrination that assumes as Christians, we have the corner on truth and spirituality.

This person expressed a belief that Jesus is not interacting in our lives like we'd like to think. She knows personally a Buddhist who has been healed from terminal cancer through the power of sans-Jesus meditation and prayer. She says healing is possible through the power of faith in Jesus, self, or a witch doctor- that faith heals, and not just for Christians.
She also shared a frustrating meeting in which a whole community of believers prayed for a woman's healing from cancer, and...nothing happened. People who had faith, and tons of it.
So why wasn't the woman healed? Could the Buddhist's faith have been stronger than a room full of believing Christians? What about the absolute faith African's have in their witch doctors?
She said that you can find the miraculous if you look for it, and expect it, and you don't have to be a Christian to do it. Maybe she's right. Wouldn't that mean that the roomful of believers did not have enough faith for the cancer stricken woman? Jesus said that "it has been given to the poor to be rich in faith." Maybe as Americans we are just too handicapped by our wealth to have enough faith for the job, at least most of the time. Jesus certainly said some things that would support that. I don't think that means he doesn't want to intervene.

My friend confessed she just doesn't really see God at work in her life. She thinks many things she once attributed to the intervention of God were simply random, or brought on by the power of expectant faith operating with or without Jesus, according to her account of Buddhists and others. I asked her what she would like to see God do, to show himself in her life. I asked her to list the top three things she'd like to see God accomplish, even if they are impossible, and we'd pray and ask God to do them in the next three weeks. (A good friend and mentor, Steve Sjogren told me he does that all the time with people he meets in line in Starbucks, and that he's not had God let him down yet.) She hemmed and hawed. She said she couldn't think of three things. I asked her what she had to loose. If you want to see God work in your life, one place to start is to ask. That's what I would do.

Is that where the conversation shifted? I feel like that line of questioning is what precipitated her comment that pained me so. When I suggested biting the bullet, crapping or getting off the pot, being hot or cold, did I offended my friend? She is convinced that God isn't who we think he is, that many Christians are buffoons, but that she isn't willing to put that to the test. She doesn't want to totally loose her faith or anything. I am ready to risk looking like a fool and asking God to show himself in her life...but she isn't. I have so much confidence in what I see God doing in my life every single day, that I am willing to ask him to do something big and dramatic in the life of a doubting friend, though I risk looking like an idiot if nothing happens. But she'd rather write my confidence in God off as a fad she once jonsed on too. She used to be me. I guess that automatically invalidates me. But maybe she's just chicken. Perhaps I am naive. Or maybe she's just had it too good for too long, and has forgotten what it feels like to need God's help so badly that even when he says 'no,' there is a spiritual proximity that his love and presence bring in suffering that teaches and mends and enlightens. Oh how I'd hate to miss the exhilaration of his 'yes'! There is nothing like when it God comes through for me. There is no pride like pride in Him. Totally free from guilt, self doubt and selfish ambition, being proud of what my God has done is the bulwark of the richest part of my life.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Not Sure

One funny thing about being the pastor's wife is that you have to be friends with everybody.
You don't get to choose your friends.
Isn't that strange? Everyone else gets to pick their friends.
In our church community we encourage natural, genuine friendship, though we expect and challenge everyone to show kindness and interest in others in the body.
But not for me. I'm on duty every day, everywhere I go, constantly "investing" in people's lives, expected to blindly give and give and give to people who don't give back to me, all in hopes of some kind of harvest someday.
What ever happened to me just having some friends?
Why are the rules different for us?
Should they be?
Is this yet another layer in the proverbial onion of the 'Pastors Are Superheroes' American fan club?
Or am I just short on having enough of my own 'superheroes' to invest in me?

not playing by the rules

This week I was accosted in the parking lot after church by an angry 40-something year old male who demanded an explanation for why I hadn't allowed him to take home one of the children's Sunday School toys. I kid you not. I think some people go around looking for a power struggle. After repeatedly explaining that none of the children are allowed to make off with the classroom props, and pointing out that if we adopted a 'take it if you want it' mentality, that soon we'd have bare classrooms, I was at a loss.
Can you tell me why a grown adult can get away with acting so weird?
Is it because people avoid this person? Do other people pretend that this type of behavior is normal? I just don't like it that we have certain people in our sphere that we tolerate, and pretend are OK, who clearly are not.
Who clearly have boundary problems.
Is it so uncomfortable to say "The way you are acting right now is simply not acceptable, not courteous...Do you see anyone else acting as you are?
But no, we must all pass the buck. Smile thinly and hope they go off to bother someone else.
I know even crazy people need to be loved. But isn't love being willing to say to someone who is being openly rude, childish, selfish, demanding, or just plain nuts-'hey! It's not cool to do what you're doing. You've just got to stop it.'
I just don't like being fake.
It feels like certain people are elephants in the room.
But because we're Christians, we'd better be nice and pretend to love them.
The truth is we all breath an inward sigh of relief when they leave.
That can't be right.
Why are some people so much harder to serve, to even like, than others?
Is it because they know people don't like them, so they adopt an obnoxious personality to cover up loneliness and vulnerability? They've given up hope for being seen as people, so they turn into angry manipulative jerks?
God, please change my mind. Help me to see more value in people. I know You're personally proud of each person You've made, but I get lost sometimes in the madness.

Friday, June 20, 2008

the gauntlet

I had a quiet stand off at last night's mid week home fellowship; this is not the first of these-let me explain.
Do you ever sense that someone is throwing down a challenge to your name as a Christian? Demanding that you give them something or do something for them, with a silent threat: 'you call your self a Christian, so you can't deny me this'?
I've had people come up to me at a church service, spit out some financial trouble they are having, and ask me, on the spot, to give them money out of the offering. All the while there is this bossy, demanding vibe that, If we really are Christians, than we can't deny them.
Well, I have news for you all; Church is not an ATM.
You don't work, you don't eat; ever read that one?

Anyway, last night, a person approached me and asked if she could get together with my husband and I for a special meeting, just the three of us.
Curious, I asked what we needed to discuss.
"Oh no...just for us to get to know each other better, one on one," was her reply.
(Folks, I have a new policy....)
"GREAT!" I answered, "You are in just the right place to do that, right now! In fact, between Thursday Nights, Saturday evening prayer and Sundays, you can hang out with us three days a week!"
Well, you could have chipped ICE off of her eyes. The waves of outrage almost blew me back a few feet. Did she really give a crap about getting to know US at ALL? I think not. I smell a power hungry attention hog who believes there is some special ju-ju hanging out with the pastor.
Here's the deal. If you want to demand special one-on-one time with us, my first question is this: are you at worship? Are you at prayer? home fellowship? If the answer to that is yes, than let's make dinner plans.
Otherwise, you just don't understand the mission.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

social graces

After recently having the combined realization that practicing 'sabbath' is still in the Big Ten (up there with not murdering and stuff), AND that we are going to both have seizures if we don't slow down, we've decided to fail to attend our district church meeting this morning in favor of sleeping in.

On another note, I ran into a very very old friend this week while shopping: one of the pastor's daughters from my church growing up. The funny thing is that our conversation was perfectly awkward, and for ONCE, not because of me. She kept stopping mid stream during the perfunctory catch up Q&A to explain that she'd rather not pry. She made reference repeatedly to a book she's read about social graces, which had taught her to avoid such topics of 'do you think you'll have any more children' etc.
The only reason I mention it is that I think that is an awful way to live. If you assume you are constantly offending other people, you must be giving yourself license to take offense at everyone else, too.
If you accept a code that equates even the mildest of prying to offensive behavior, I think you'd end up the most friendless and angry person.
Just a thought.
That level of supposed caution seems at odds with the idea of assuming the best.
Sometimes ignorance is bliss compared to living in a world where everyone is taking things the worst possible way. I used to live like that, but these days I'm tired of being a cynic. It's no way to survive and have a happy life.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Confessions of a New England Pastor's Wife

Here are my thoughts, my stories, my rants and raves.
Contrary to the ideal of my role as a Pastor's wife, I do not know everything, am not close to perfect, and am open to having my mind changed.
My only appeal to you; I measure all that I trust up against the words of the Bible, so if you want to convince me, you'll have to start there.

I'll kick this blog off with this:

I've just read the first 3 commandments in Deuteronomy. Listen to ch5v:12-15(NIV)
"Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, not your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor the alien within your gates so that your manservant and maidservant rest, as do. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt, and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day."

Why is it so hard for me to stop working?
Am I living like a slave? I never noticed God making a point to say "you WERE slaves, so now, live like THIS INSTEAD."
This is New England after all, the frenzied, busy, production capitol of the nation, so to speak. The staunch self reliant boot strap crew who won't even take a free coffee (believe me, I've tried it as a 'random act of kindness' at a few Dunkin Donuts; you'd think I offered them cyanide.)
But here I am, barely taking a Sabbath; sneaking in a few ebay posts here and there, constantly thinking about "production...production...production."
Why is it so hard for me to do nothing? Or just ONE thing, for that matter?
I must LOVE being busy. I must believe it's righteous and worthy and the only way to get things done. But now I'm thinking that I'm living like a Slave.