Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Church Signs

You've seen them. Church signs that make you say, uhm..., or what? or just shake your head. I've seen a lot of church signs in my day and most of the time I just move on with life and try not give to much thought to them. Some signs go for the corny or cheesy sayings, some try to be thought provoking, some try to convict and point to the truth, and some simply try to be informational.

Now, I love volunteering at church and have since I was a young girl but can honestly say that I would never want the job of church sign maker-uper (?). I try to be gracious towards the people who come up with the quotes and scriptures that they believe others need to hear and think about. Though I often find myself disagreeing with the methodology which they are using to provoke thought in others in order to reach them I rarely have serious theological issues with what is posted. That is until I saw the sign I saw this week.

I was amazed that such a short phrase could evoke such head spinning thoughts for me but it did just that. I am trying to be gracious towards the person who put it up and I am trying to understand why it was allowed to stay up but nonetheless I wanted to be on record at just how much this has no reflection on who I believe God is. Are you ready?

The sign read as follows: "Don't make me come down there. - God"

Wow. Let it sink in a minute or two and see if you can come up with why this sign would bother me so much.

Now that you have thought about it I will give a few reasons (though there are so many) that the sign bothered me enough to blog about it.

1.) He already did. It is a foundational teaching of the Christian church that God became man and dwelt among His people. Jesus was born the Messiah, GOD WITH US!

2.) As Christians we are supposed to desire with hope and expectancy the second coming, so yes, I do want Him to come down here.

3.) If I try to think about why the writer of this sign thought it was cute I guess I can see that they were trying to tap into all the parents who have either said, wanted to say or will say these exact words. The problem I have with this is that God in NO WAY can be compared to any human parent EVER. God is not sitting in heaven waiting for us to mess up, He does not want to instill in us an unhealthy fear of behaving perfectly nor does He leave us to our own devices to figure it all and and hope for the best. God is unlike any person we know and therefore cannot be compared to anyone or anything.

Obviously blogs are a wonderful place to share personal opinions so if you disagree with me that is ok you don't have to read my opinions. My goal with this post was not to be divisive or sarcastic but to help people who have serious issues with God being compared to a Father throughout the Bible to not misunderstand what that means. God is unlike any father we have ever known and I want what we as Christians to reflect His love and grace towards His children. Yes, He is holy and perfect, but He loves and forgives without conditions.

Feel free to share your thoughts on this as well.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The journey of friendship (part 2)

Jumping right in. In her book, So Long, Insecurity, Beth Moore asks the question, "Where on earth did we come up with the idea that we have to subtract value from ourselves in order to give credit to someone else?" I think that is a very valid question but in regards to my journey of friendship the road I took through most of my life was just the opposite; where on earth did I come up with the idea that in order to place value on myself I had to subtract it from someone else? I did NOT learn the answer to this question in High School and basically entered college and my young professional life believing that though there were people who could and did do this I needn't be one of them because I just didn't need friends. I knew that gossip and devaluing others was wrong but didn't get in that trap nearly as much because I didn't have anyone to do it with nor did I need anyone for anything.

Lisa Whelchel says in her book that she was "adept at appearing transparent without being vulnerable." That is how I survived being in relationships, bible studies, small groups and ministry without absolutely starving for friendship. I have never had a difficult time sharing where I am at spiritually, what God is teaching me, how I am flawed, where I am stuck or where I am walking in victory. I know and own my own junk (as far as I am aware of it) and have never really struggled to appear transparent but at the same time I never really sought to fill the need for others in my life.

After Lydia was born we were in a small group with 4 other couples and I can barely describe just how much we all needed each other at that time in our lives. I finally had some friends. It felt nice and we had so much fun. For the first time in my life I had a couple women I could call up to go to a late movie or to the mall or just to hang out with. It was refreshing and brand new to me. I felt accepted and loved for being me and that was a great thing. I had never known that in my life regarding friendships and I couldn't get enough of it. Yet I still did not pursue much depth of need beyond the fun, laughing sharing and downright freedom of it all. I would say that I did not risk vulnerability at that point out of habit, fear and perfectionism.

Friendship is risky business and though I have always been pretty good at transparency, vulnerability is a whole other story. As a perfectionist and a control freak friendship terrifies me because I will never be able to do it perfectly. I tend to get caught in 2 different traps. 1. I choose to keep it at transparent and do not pursue vulnerability because that admits I have needs, expectations, wants and desires that may not be able to be met. 2. I risk vulnerability, inevitably screw it up and then live in regret and fear which makes me withdraw. Number 2 has most vividly shown up in family relationships because we are, for lack of a better phrase, stuck with each other. When I am vulnerable and real that means I will unintentionally (or even worse, intentionally) mess up, hurt someone and then have to move forward, learn from my mistakes and keep going. The only problem is that I don't know how to move forward. I have yet to learn how to show change because I don't choose to be vulnerable or risk again for fear of messing up again.

So, where does that leave me on my journey? Still learning and moving forward. About a year and a half ago I took a relational risk by attending a small group women's Bible study at my church about being in accountability relationships. I was so excited about the opportunity to be in a large group of women who were interested in the same thing I so longed for, deep and meaningful relationships. The study was 4 weeks long and during that time we were asked to pray about who God might be leading us to speak with about pursuing a relationship with. In my desperation for friendship at that point I felt that I could hit it off with just about any woman there and so when it ended I just kinda waited. To say I wasn't crushed when not a single person called or contacted me would be a lie. I knew there were other women there who didn't know many people and with whom I felt some connection with but still, nothing. I chose not to let that stop me and I contacted the person God had most laid on my heart only to find she was meeting with someone else. I am sure I got off the phone, had a good cry and resolved to retreat back into my shell and not risk anything again. In God's grace, it eventually worked out and God really has purposed for us to meet regularly and I am learning sooooo much from this relationship and am so glad that I took what felt like such a huge risk.

I decided once again in January of this year to take further relational risks and approach a few people about my need for relationships. Some have been reciprocated, some have not. However, I have discovered this so far in my adult relationships. Not all relationships are the same. Over the past 5 years I have had relationships that have a natural chemistry, mutual benefit and enrich all aspects of my life. These kind of relationships will know my daily goings on and will laugh at the silliness of this thing called life. When that kind of relationship collides with the next it is even better. I also have a need for some relationships that have a different purpose, those where I know and can be known. I want to know someones heart and I want them to know mine. These type of relationships sometimes take more effort because, though I don't believe they are always forced, they may not be as natural or fun. They are harder to carve out precious time for but I believe necessary to do so. I now recognize my desire to know the people that my husband and I minister with at a deeper level. I desire to have them know my heart, my passions, my hopes and dreams and my gifts, not so that we can be best friends and hang out all the time but so that we can better serve God, our church and our community together. Friendship for me is about sharing vision and vulnerability together and it is the word "together" that has taken me 30 years to recognize.

Chances are that if you have read this far you are either already part of my journey or I really want you to be. I want to know you and I want to be known. There may not be much hope for me to learn all the social skills of friendship that one learns in childhood but I believe I can learn to listen rather than talk, to offer comfort rather than spout off answers (both of which are very hard for me) to love rather than fix. I know God can do all these things and I don't want my own fear to hold me back from trying. Blessings friends!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The journey of friendship

Friendship has never been easy for me. I've just never understood it nor has it come naturally to me. This is a bit odd because my sister is probably the living embodiment of what it means to be a fierce friend. You would think I would have picked up some tips along the way and maybe I have but I am still floundering in actually learning how to make, keep and be a real friend.

I have been doing a lot of really good reading and am pleasantly surprised at just how far ahead I am on my proposed summer reading list. I am more than halfway through the books I wanted to read this summer so I have been adding to my pile. One book in particular was on the bottom of my pile but I bumped it to the top yesterday and I am so glad I did. Friendship for Grownups by Lisa Whelchel. All I had known about her as a writer up to this point was Creative Correction which only gives a limited perspective into the parts of her life that she wants you to see. The perfect storm of Emma taking a long nap, Lydia being very content to play alone and an unexpected evening off when Justin got home allowed me to finish the book in one afternoon/evening.

I could so relate to some of the things Lisa spoke about in her book. You see, I never learned much about friendship in elementary school as I was never popular or particularly well liked. I find it completely foreign when people remark that they still have friendships that exist from childhood. Jr. High was not much better and what I learned about friendship in High School I wish I could somehow unlearn. High School contained all the right basis for what could and maybe should have been a great experience with friendship but really just turned out to be a failed experience into what friendship should be.

My earliest memories of friendship were of befriending the outcasts and the people who were different. That continued through Jr. High. High School however provided a different experience because I had a group of friends that had relatively the same schedule and of course being in band and choir solidified who I would hang out with. I don't know that I struggled anymore than any other high school student with my identity and finding out who I was. I mean sure I tired on a few different hats to see what worked best and where I fit in most but in the end I was content to just be me rather than constantly change who I was. On the other hand, the actual practice of friendship in my life at this point was devastating. I have said many times that the only thing I learned about friendship in high school was that it wasn't necessary and that it wasn't safe. The group of friends that I had made it common practice to gossip about the people who were not there at the time. We didn't gossip about other people in the school, only the people who we were "friends" with and who were absent at that moment. From these lessons in friendship I learned that I don't need anyone, I can only depend on myself and friendship is not safe.

I operated on these assumptions for quite a long time. I was dating Justin when I went to college so I missed many opportunities to learn about friendship out of sheer busyness and knowledge that I was going to be married at a young age. To let you know how bad a friend I was, I can't even remember my college roommates last names. Of the three that I had I can only recollect 1 name. That is what I call pitiful.

So, where does that bring me now? Well, if high school, college and early adulthood didn't force me to recognize my need for friends having kids sure did. When I had Lydia and began to stay home I recognized just how much I needed other people to rely on but learning about friendship from the age 25 on has been a difficult journey. More of my journey to come in another post. It is the wee hours of the morning and I must go back to bed.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Summer Reading list

I like TV. Sometimes I wish I didn't but at the end of the day I like to wind down by watching a show or two. I only have few that I follow regularly but can watch something just about every night. I like to read too but often don't take the time to read as much as I want so summer is always a great time for me to spend more time reading. Here is my current reading list:

Parenting Beyond Your Capacity - Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwhof
Boredom Busters - Barbara Vogelgesang
Making Children Mind without Losing Yours - Kevin Leman
Friendship for Grown-ups - Lisa Whelchel
So Long, Insecurity - Beth Moore
The Eden Diet - Rita Hancock
Discipline of Grace - Jerry Bridges
The Joy of Fearing God - Jerry Bridges

I have several others I am sure I am missing and would gladly take suggestions. Here's to a great reading summer!