Disenchanted: High Expectations

chocolate chipI can’t eat a homemade chocolate chip cookie without craving watered down tropical punch Kool-Aid to go with it. Weird, I know. Cookies and Kool-Aid are actually time traveling devices that transport me back to 90 degree mornings outside on the front walkway of the church during the best week of my summer, Vacation Bible School. Every summer, at our small Lutheran church, the halls were transformed and the cookies were baked. I loved our little church. I went every single Sunday, well almost. I had a God-mother who took her title very seriously and expected us to show up, me with my panty hose and patent leather shoes. Church was a place where I belonged, even though most of the time I was the only kid in my class. My teacher still showed up every week, to teach, just me. I wasn’t ever combined with another class or made to feel like I wasn’t important enough to be taught.

vbs

After Sunday school I would walk over to the church building, where the women were scattered about in the kitchen, making coffee and serving cookies. The men were picking up chairs or standing waiting on their women. I would sit next to my grandmother, waiting for her to dig out a piece of gum for me, always making too much noise and gaining disapproving looks from everyone around. She would simply roll her eyes and make all the noise she wanted, even during prayer. I made sure to memorize all of the liturgies and “sayings’. I would flip through the hymnals and pretend that I could sing, and that I knew them all. I don’t ever remember saying that I didn’t want to go, or that I was ready to leave.

I loved church.

I still love church.

Church was such a safe place for me, away from the realities of my somewhat dysfunctional and painful life. Somehow, a midst all of it, Jesus found me there in that church . I was in Christmas plays, and read from the Bible on Sunday mornings. We went to banquets and dinners and celebrated holidays and grieved the dead.

Best friends were made at church, and those friends, somehow became family. Life happened at my little Lutheran church on the corner of that aging neighborhood. I found eternity at church, ministry was planted in my heart at that small church, the love of Christ became real there through people and family and experiences.

There is a part of me that feels like this is the intended definition, and maybe what I still search for. Or maybe it’s just a really great childhood memory that I relentless try to recreate. Whatever it is, it’s something. And I keep looking for it.  The countless churches I’ve tried and prayed about it and sought after all were missing it.  Even though ‘COMMUNITY’ was in the name of most of the churches, community is what lacked most. I give high fives to those that try to create and imitate, but it just can’t be forced.  It just can’t be programmed or designed or modeled.

That little church growing up really understood genuine love and concern.

Most churches miss that…

Our society misses that…

How do we fix it?! Ironically, the church is where it must start.

What is your favorite church community memory?  What are some things you see working in the church?

IMG_6607

Disenchanted: My Journey to Find Church

online dating

The best place to start is online. Google-ing and researching. Checking backgrounds and bios and music preferences. Before you even plan the date, you can find out with just a few clicks whether or not it’s even worth your time.

Some results prove to be misleading, with fancy words and fantastic photos. But then you show up and it’s a whole different scenario, nothing like you expected. All of those hours online can backfire on you. You build that day up in your head, with great expectations because of all you see on this website or that blog, only to be completely underwhelmed an hour later.

It’s all worth it. If you find “the one”. The one that connects with you and provides a sense of comfort and makes you feel loved. The one that makes you want to be a better person. After years of searching, I’m not sure there is just ONE, like that one soul mate that is meant just for you. Like in anything, don’t we have to sacrifice one for the other? Aren’t there just some non-negotiables and some things that you just let slide? I mean, if the music isn’t your rhythm, does it really matter in the grand scheme of things?

Sounds like a finding a boyfriend, husband, girlfriend, wife…

It kinda is.

Afterall, we are Jesus’ bride, aren’t we?

My two year search for a church was painful, and discouraging, and in the end, gave me a new perspective of the church as a whole. I spent many months resenting the Americanized definition of a place of worship. At times I even just refused to go. I have endured criticism and been accused of being “judgmental” (Christians love to use this word). Overall I have been heartbroken at what I have found the church to become.

church

My journey, although painful and frustrating, has given me a new perspective of people and brokenness and more than ever our need for a Savior. I am still convinced that the church is the place that has the potential to save the world, I’m just not sure every pastor believes the same. Oh, they may say they believe it, but their churches, with the programs and the glitz and all the other stuff that gets in the way prove to be the absolute opposite of what I believe the church was designed to be.

I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong…but who knows I might actually be right.

Join me over the next few weeks as I share with you how searching for a church for my family and I has changed me, grown me and given me a new perspective of Jesus.

IMG_6607

 

Why Cliques Don’t Disappear After High School

cluelessI hated high school. Dude, did I hate it. So much,  that the moment I discovered I could drop out, get my GED and go straight to college, I ran as fast as I could to sign up. I was an emotional mess and high school was daunting for me. My school educated approximately 3,600 students, 980 of which were in my future graduating class. I hated  feeling lost, I wasn’t challenged in my studies, and spent most of my time utterly confused.

What was hardest on me was the cliques. I was tall, awkward and to say I lacked confidence is a severe understatement. I constantly compared myself to other girls, tried my hardest to find my place, but I only found myself even more misplaced. The girls were ruthless, and loved only those who loved them. Those girls who were my friends in middle school found other places and spaces and boyfriends and activities. I simply roamed the halls, skipped classes, and felt alone.

Ironically, one of my favorite no-brainer movies is Mean Girls. It’s a story of a girl who moves to public education aftspartaner being homeschooled by her missionary parents in Africa. She discovers the hatred & the treachery of the realities of the clique. Oh and then there is Clueless…and of course our favorite SNL Skit with Will Ferrell….

And then there is the Breakfast Club. The absolute quintessential high school movie about cliques, and how at the end of the day…the end of a day at Saturday detention, we are all pretty much the same. This whole idea of exclusion is a universal struggle among all people. I felt like the poster child.

High school was tough and I thought by escaping the hallways, I would escape what I hated the most about them.  One of my Besties and I have had several conversations in the last few weeks about how our problems follow us no matter which state we attempt to escape to….or which school we try and ditch, or job we quit. I remember my first job in corporate America. I discovered rather quickly that high schoomean girlsl antics don’t go away after high school, they simply follow us. The haunting of the clique just seems to never go away…not even in the church.

It’s interesting to me how the entire ministry of Jesus was centered around abolishing the cliques, destroying the idea of exclusivity and challenging people to open their hearts to the least, the confused, the emotional mess. In the Kingdom of God, everyone has a place and it is one of honor. Yet within the Christian community, I witness these groups of people that sometimes seem impenetrable. The same women attend the same Bible studies, the same recovery people attend their groups. There are those who belong to this small group and those who belong to that volunteer group. And everyone has the same group of people they say hi to every week. We tend to only talk to those select neighbors, and those select friends. Seems we have missed the point completely!

We just don’t have time for everyone.

It’s just so uncomfortable.

We want church to be ours.

We want our evenings to be relaxing.

Three or four friends are enough.

We are afraid.

We are too worried about ourselves.

The reasons, the excuses, the rationale, all of it convince us that the safety of our clique is justified, because we are Christians doing life with other Christians.  It’s convoluted, and it’s not Biblical.

We must love everyone, and we must do it intentionally. We must go out of our way. Jesus went out of His way to love me, to give me a place to belong. After years of feeling alone, and even times now when it seems I have no place, I find a place in Him.  There are so many–lots of people–who need for once to NOT feel as if they are outside of the clique. It has to start with us. When Jesus called us to love others, it wasn’t intended to be from a distance. That command was so that we can love others in a way that make us uncomfortable, that forces us to depend on Him, that requires much of us.

Go to a different Bible Study.

Go outside after dinner and take a walk, and talk to your neighbors.

Invite your co-worker to sit with you at lunch.

Say hello to the lady at the grocery store.

We can never have enough friends.

Have that family over for dinner.

Everyone wants to be included.

Why do we love Facebook? Because anyone and everyone is there. Why do we want our kids to play for the YMCA? Everyone gets to play and everyone gets a trophy, everyone is included.

The cliques won’t disappear, but you can choose to not be a part of them anymore. You can choose to include and accept everyone. You can offer the love of Christ to every. single. person. within your reach. You have absolutely no idea who just might need it…it might be me, it might, in fact, be you.

LG|LP

wpid-Photo-20140930112645.jpg

Why the New Coke Machines Will Be the Death of Us

I walk into a restaurant and see this:

coke machine

and I cringe. I hate this machine. As a coke (a cola) addict, the source and purity of my frosty beverage is of utmost importance. I absolutely HATE the taste of the drinks that come out of this machine. My kids claim there isn’t a difference. They try and convince me that the choices make it cool, they try and persuade me to “just try” the cherry vanilla flavor. It’s all a lie.

I’m assuming those who drank Cokes out of this machine understand my lament:

vintage coke machine

We can ALL agree that a Coke out of a bottle is golden, even royal. We can taste the difference, I can taste the difference.And I’m sending this out as a PSA to save yourselves from the destruction of the American Institution of convenience and the right to choices and do not conform or utter a word about how the new Coke machines “aren’t that bad.”  BLASPHEMY.

This is typical of our society and even our lives. We allow slow, seemingly insignificant changes to seep into our worlds. We shrug, we even taste the difference, but we convince ourselves that it isn’t horrible so it must be good. Sins, lies, behaviors, small interruptions that frustrate us but not enough to actually do anything about it.

Marriages, slowly fading, with lack of connection, sitting on opposite ends of the couch on Facebook.

Parents, writing off that their kid is just a teenager and all teenagers spend all their time in their bedrooms, refusing to step into their world because, well, their favorite episode is on.

Friendships, clouded by tinges of jealousy that obviously are justified because you are such a good person and do such good things, and it’s all just not fair.

Work, church, neighbors–we make allowances for tiny white lies, changes in ourselves and others, and then before you know it, Coke isn’t using real cane sugar anymore and no one notices. We are told, we are warned, we see the difference in packaging, but we choose to ignore.

I have learned that we do have a lot of choices, according to the new coke machine, 100+, yes PLUS. But having more options doesn’t mean that we are any more equipped to make the right choice, nor does it ensure that we will focus on the choices that matter.

The only assurance we have is rooted in a relationship with Christ. One that clearly spells out that we have a choice this day of life or death, blessing or curse. It doesn’t matter what we drink with our burger and fries, or which machine it comes out of. What matters are things of eternal value, and we are daily to examine our choices, to fill the cracks and choose life, found only in Him. Like choosing what to eat 3 times a day, it’s a moment by moment decision, and one that will last eternally longer than this trendy new Coke machine.

Where in your life have you allowed tiny things to seep in, things that seem like they aren’t a big deal, but eventually will numb you to the truth that you are swimming in sin ??? Comment and Share.

LG|LP

wpid-Photo-20140911134513.jpg

P.S. Head over and LIKE my FB page, there are pics of pizza, rantings about things that are just crazy and maybe a bit of encouragement.

How To Build Relationship with Kids to Change the Faith of Families.

I live in a large, interconnected neighborhood. In order to save money on school bus service, schools tend to be plopped down right in the middle or our community. At the end of the day bell, the streets are flooded with kids. First elementary school, then half an hour later the middle-schoolers.

Tons of kids, even more families, just waiting for us–the church.

ms

That’s all I saw that day, a bunch of teenagers who needed Jesus. I wondered how many of them went to church. I wondered how many of these kids who went to church ever invited other kids. I thought of how Christians are pulling their kids out of schools, pulling Jesus out of schools, and I was saddened at the thought. (But that’s a post for another time.)

When  I lived in Florida, one day I drove into our gated community at the same time the bus was dropping kids off. I counted them. Fifteen. There were 15 kids, and I knew their stories. I could have invited them to church, but they wouldn’t have come. Instead, I brought church to them. The first week I ordered pizza, twelve kids showed up to eat the free food and hear about Jesus. The next week we grew, and the next and the next. There were nights I had 40 kids piled on top of each other in my living room, just dying to hear, dying for community, dying for connection.

I find that kids, including teens are willing to take responsibility for their own faith apart from their parents. We need to find ways to connect with kids even if parents aren’t willing to come to church. In fact, we can change the entire trajectory of faith in Jesus in families through kids and their faith. It isn’t going to happen with a single event, or with flyers on doorknobs. People need real connection, real relationship and that takes time.

Here are some ways to minister to families through kids:

1. SCHOOL INVOLVEMENT: whether you are in PTA, or just show up to a class party, getting to know kids and begin building friendship with them is a great start.

2. OUTSIDE TIME: When you see a group of kids outside, or you have a park near your house, get off your couch and go play some basketball.  One of the things I try and do as much as possible is walk to pick up my 4th grader. I talk to his classmates, give fist bumps and high fives. Sometimes I even end up with groups of kids around me as we walk and talk together. Not only am I getting to know them,  most of these kids are going home alone and I can offer a sense of security for their walk home.

3. GAMES: Go to local highschool or middle school games and get to know kids names and start conversations with parents.

4. BLOCK PARTY: throw a block party with hot dogs and juice boxes in your front yard. Have a few games out or a football. It’s a great way to get to know the kids in your hood.

And I wish I didn’t have to say this, but have some boundaries when hanging out with kids. Don’t friend them on Facebook, or ever be alone with any of them. As you begin to build friendships, make sure other kids and adults are around as you spend time with them.

The reality is, not every child or family will come to church with just an invite, but we can always bring Jesus to them, through our kindness and acts of love, and showing them how much we care.

What are some ways you have or you can start building relationships with kids in your neighborhood? Comment and  share your ideas. 

And LIKE my FACEBOOK PAGE somewhere over there —-> for daily updates, encouragement and crazy talk!

LG|LP

wpid-Photo-20140911134513.jpg