Ragamuffin Faith and Patchwork Theology

I was baptized as an infant at a traditional Christian Reformed Church.

Then we switched to a contemporary one

But it wasn’t my Dad’s favorite so he and my sister went Baptist for a while.

Then we all found a Christian Reformed Church we liked and it stuck

But I struck out on my own after high school and was baptized (again…) as an Adult at Mars Hill Bible Church.

Then I found my Best Friend, and she’s Roman Catholic.

After that I fell in love with this Methodist guy I met on the internet.

And we went to a non-denominational seminary before moving to Oklahoma where we joined an evangelical non-denominational church that did altar calls.

This is where my own children were dedicated as infants.

Now it looks like I’m going to be a Methodist Pastor’s wife, or maybe I already am one, they don’t give you an official certificate or anything.

After perusing my impressive list of denominational switching, can you tell where I’ve landed?  Yeah, me either.  I’ve tried a lot of different denominations and congregations and I’ve come to one extremely important conclusion.

The name on the sign doesn’t matter.  

I’m not a methodist, and I’m not CRC, and I’m not Baptist.  I’m just… a child of God.  I have no idea how to classify it and I’m really not all that worried about it.

But, I did’t always feel this way. For a long time in my late teens and early twenties I thought that all these distinctions mattered.  A lot.

I had huge political and theological ideas and a lot of energy to expend on debating them.

I was prepared to go to war and convert the world to my self-proclaimed “right way” of believing.  Which was so post modern and flexible, it had no labels, it was organic… how could anyone else possible do anything differently?

I was determined to convince everyone that my “no-labels” labeling was the right labeling system.

If I couldn’t sway them I walked away wondering how sad it must live in their overly labeled religious world.

I threw around theological slang like it was my job.

Reformed! post-modern! Non denominational!  Progressive! contemporary!

These labels (or lack thereof because again I was SO post-modern) mattered to me greatly and I expended a lot of energy on it all.

And then my Dad died, suddenly and all my family and all my people gathered in my parent’s house and we watched as they took his body to the funeral home.

My world truly and utterly fell apart that day and as we sat in that house, Baptists, Roman Catholics, Non-Denominal, Reformed and Christian Reformed people all grieved the very same man with a line of questioning that transcended denominational boundaries.

Because who cares about trans or consubstantiation when you’re just trying to remember that the blood of Christ will set everything right someday?

And infant versus adult baptism seems laughably trivial when you’re just trying to hang on to the belief that God is good and on your team… when somehow he allowed the glue of your family to leave through the portal of an unexpected heart attack?

I can pinpoint that day to the beginning of the end for my theological battling.  Because on that day it was simply back to basics, trying to hold onto the most simple truth and hope.

the old church nestled in the woods.

That God loves me
He is somehow still here
And somehow ….. still good

I’ve learned that religious and denominational distinctions evaporate in the face of the grieving, questioning thirst of real life. Continue reading

Church People

We’re almost always late to church, and someone is always missing a shoe / shoes.  We may or may not have remembered to bring Caedmon’s pacifier and there is a good chance that Kel or I got a touch hostile in the getting ready process.

This is largely to do with the fact that even after 18 months, it’s still a production getting everyone out the door for a scheduled event.

As we drive I’m usually putting on my mascara and lip gloss as I check the clock and field car seat drama.

By the time we get to church both kids have likely taken off their shoes, so we re-shoe the children and schlep them into church, diaper bag in tow.

A lot of weeks we’re so late that miss worship entirely, which I hate.  Eventually I settle into into my seat glance around at the faces surrounding me.

Some weeks,  I feel like the only mess in the room.  On a good week I cry in worship as I scribble down thoughts of God and life on my talk notes or on offering envelopes.  On a bad week I try to find the darkest corner of the church where I can have all the God without any of the community wondering why my eyes are all puffy.

Without fail I marvel at all of us seeking God, sometimes finding and sometimes missing him.  Here we are, church full of God’s human people: some barely holding on, some rejoicing and some hiding behind a facade.

We come to church in different seasons, some of us grieving, some rejoicing, some of us on fire, some jaded and burnt out.  Still we come, we bring it all to the altar, we take, eat and remember that although we will change and flip seasons, our God remains stable and faithful.

We don’t stay where we are forever, you know.  If this Sunday you found yourself with no makeup and puffy eyes, wondering if you should have showed up at all

Know this:  He will not leave you here, a wound given to God will be healed and used for glory.

Everyone, and I mean everyone has weeks where they crawl into church on fumes and plop down in desperation, waiting to be filled with God.  Longing to swap out their hurt for his healing.

There are no pretty perfect people of God, we are all his people stumbling to see and to be the light.

So this week if you cried through worship, take heart, this is just a season.  It will pass.

And this week if you saw someone cry in worship who wasn’t you, I hope you were filled with mercy, that you took compassion and prayed.  I hope that you offered a shoulder, a coffee date, a listening ear.

May we always remember that just because it wasn’t our week to cry, doesn’t mean that we haven’t wept through sermons and it doesn’t mean that we won’t.  It only means that we are in a different season.

Oh church people, may see the needy in our midst and uplift, support and intervene.

May we be the church more than we look like it.

Depression ≠ no faith

Image by graphicshunt.com/images/depression

I’m going to try to write about a frustration, a double standard and a serious personal issue all in one post, less than 1,000 words. So bear with me.

If you’re not brand spanking new to my blog you know that my mother took her life last year after a 30 year battle with depression and anxiety. Well I haven’t shared much about this but depression is a battle I’ve fought in my life too. I’ve been medicated and I was committed once, about 15 years ago. Today I’m pretty healthy, I have my ups and downs, my moods, but sometimes I feel blue, thick, heavy, and I worry.

I don’t have the same diagnosis as she did, my depression is a tad more situational and much less clinical. But I am her daughter, and I have inherited a piece of her struggle.

I’m not saying that I spend a lot of time fretting that I’ll share her fate, but I would be lying if I said it doesn’t cross my mind sometimes, especially when I find myself feeling gray and hopeless. But doing that to my children, my family, oh God forbid, God FORBID.

It’s not always easy to be a Christian with depression, because there are still some people in the church that really don’t understand. And sometimes those people have hurt me with their lack of knowledge. When I’ve tried to talk about my struggle in church world I’ve been told:

1) Not to confess or talk about it, that doing so would give the devil a foothold.
2) To pray it out, that increased faith would get rid of it and that time in the word will give me strength and cheer me up about God’s faithfulness.
3) That taking medication for it invalidates God’s power to heal me.

My friend recently wrote me and said: “All I know is the more a depressed person hears that it’s their own fault, the more depressed they become. It’s like when parents say, “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.” It just makes the child cry harder. “

Now, don’t get me wrong, there is some depression that is spiritual and situational (it’s in the bible – Job and David to be specific) and then there is some that is chemical and genetic. The second kind can be inherited and recurrent, it’s the sort that can relapse and will leave a person always on their guard when the blues set in.

You have to understand depression before you speak into it, otherwise your words may have the exact opposite effect than what you’re going for. It’s simpler to understand cancer, we know that there’s a tumor and that a doctor can throw chemo at it.

But depression can’t be seen on a screen or radiated away. It takes patience, medication, and a tenacious resolve to climb out of the pit. And the cruelest thing of all is that it can rob you of almost everything you need to fight it. You need to exercise but you can barely get through the work day awake. You need to eat well but the ability to cook is beyond you. You need to work aggressively through counseling but it’s so much easier not to talk about it. It’s an evil thing depression, straight evil.

I may have recurrent and genetic depression, I may not, I’m not entirely sure yet. However, I pray that everyone in the church begins to understand that my depression doesn’t make my faith any less strong than your eczema, diabetes or whatever genetic disease you’ve inherited.

If you lost a parent to breast cancer or liver failure, no one would ever fault you for being on your guard against those diseases. If you expressed concerns that you might share in your parents fate, people would understand and encourage testing. If you found out you had cancer or needed dialysis no one would ever insinuate that this happened because of your lack of faith.

But people with a family history of depression don’t always get that same courtesy. I can tell you first hand that I’ve been told that my faith will deliver me from any of my mother’s problems with depression. Yet depression can be genetic, so what gives? There’s a double standard here, it’s understandable to inherit genetic cancer, but genetic depression might indicate a weak relationship with God.

We have to put a stop to this, it’s not the love of Christ, it’s… disease-ism? (like racism but with illnesses)

I’m not writing this to hurt anyone’s feelings. If you’ve said something out of your lack of knowledge, I give you ample grace because I believe your intent was lovely. Depression isn’t one of those things that you learn about until you have to, until it’s happening to you or around you. But as a church, a BIG C Church, we need to understand that some forms of depression are chemical and very real and difficult to understand and diagnose.

The brain, the mind, is in many ways the final frontier of the medical community. Less than 100 years ago people with mental illness were cast out, committed or worse, given lobotomies or had part of their brain removed. So, to say the least, we’ve improved.

I have prayed over this post, it’s not been easy to write, but on my heart I feel a call to bring light to those with deep faith, who still struggle with depression. My brothers, my sisters, if you are fighting along side me, you are brave, never stop fighting, never stop running, confessing and climbing. Just because depression is real and clinical doesn’t mean God won’t bring healing. It only means that if he doesn’t, our faith is still justified.

I hope I’ve brought a light, I hope I’ve encouraged truth.

And all the people said, amen?

The church that saved my life

 

Three and a half years ago a newly pregnant Leanne moved to the small town of Ada, OK sight unseen.  As I unloaded boxes of towels and dishes into our “new” kitchen, which featured an oven with Lamborghini doors, I was full of thoughts of “What have I done?!”

I knew no one in town and no one knew me.  I had no job and nothing to do, I was pregnant and set up to raise my child far from anyone who could show me how.   Kel’s ministry is supported by 10 churches, and so we knew that our new home church would have to be found within this group.  Two days after I moved to town I stepped through the doors of H2O church, on the corner of main street, for the first time.

I had no idea at that day but this church would become my lifeline and the reason I have been able to survive and thrive as an Oklahoma transplant.

At first I was nitpicky, wow, I used to be such shameful a church critic.  The teaching was video and they did an altar call at the end of the service.  I’d never attended an altar call church and I wasn’t sure how I felt about it, but my options were limited so I decided to dig in and make it work for me.  I started networking as a survival skill and soon had an invitation to a lifegroup that evening.

I stepped into this church that day focused on all that it could do to serve me.  I stood there today three years later reflecting of my knee jerk critiques and started to well up with tears.  I am so thankful that God was able to grow my shallow heart and teach me that church isn’t about meeting my needs, but providing a home and a support for my totally unique call to serve in God’s kingdom.  It has little do with with a building, teaching methods or worship styles and everything to do with a community of people being renewed and restored by a faithful and gracious God and then taking that love out the front doors with them to share with the world.

This church, these beautiful people I do life with have stepped in and saved me again and again.  They were the first on the scene when my daughter was born, overwhelming me with excitement as I drifted out of C-section recovery.  They were on my doorstep with a basket of road trip snacks as we set out for Michigan hours after my Mother’s death.  And they were by far the most vocal about encouraging me to follow the call to write and to share my story.

In this church my college ideas of what church should be have changed from what how church works to what we the church does.

So, Tiffany, Zac, Callie, Hannah, Brian, Joely, Jason, Cari, Kent, Jenae’, Amy, Scottie, Lauri, Ally, Dawn, Duty Girls, Gary, Lanita, Christy, Tyson and everyone else who calls our church home: Thank you for saving my life, for being Jesus to me as we grow to be more like him together.  If I am ever called away from Ada, a piece of my heart will always be in our church because I feel so forever woven into the fabric of our church.

If you’ve been hurt by church, too picky, overly critical or just plain aloof, my prayer for you is that you can heal and return to the body.  Come be the church with us, you don’t have to live in our town, the church is everywhere because Christ is alive in all of us.