Monthly Archives: June 2013

Francis Schaeffer and the ABC Prayer

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It starts very young. You’re in pre-k, maybe, and it’s the last day of VBS. You’re wearing a bright blue shirt with a cartoon whale on it, and they’re up at the front of the choir room talking about Hell. They’re talking about forever. When you’re twenty two years old, you will still remember this moment as the first time you encountered the idea of forever. It’s absolutely and petrifyingly scary. And now the lady who does everything for the children in the church is up there as the good cop. She’s telling you that if you say this prayer, if you mean it, you don’t have to go to hell forever. She’s singing a song about how it’s as easy as ABC. She’s handing out cards with the prayer on it, and telling you to make sure you tell your friends. You’re afraid, and you just know you’ve gotta say it. You’ve gotta make sure this hell thing doesn’t happen to you. You say the words, and you cry a little. The lady believes you because you’re crying and she thinks you really mean it. You think you really mean it. You’ll keep maybe two memories of that year you were three, almost four (a week before you were four).

The next thing you’ll start stressing about is baptism. You’ll hear them saying it at the altar call every Sunday. You’ll think to yourself, I think I already did that prayer thing, I must need to be baptized. Your parents will (wisely) put you off it as long as possible. Your memories will start to blur, and you’ll never be for sure when the prayer ‘took’. You won’t have a number or a story with lights and voices. They’ll tell you every so often about your testimony. They’ll tell you that you need a moment. A point in time that you crossed into the light. You will begin to panic.

The first Sunday at a new church, when you’re eleven, you’ll hear a sermon from someone willing to admit he doesn’t have a number or a moment. You will exhale and listen as he talks about how he knows there must have been a moment, because he finds himself eagerly pursuing Jesus. Whatever he meant to say, you hear this: if I live well enough, then I won’t have to question this anymore. I’ll know because I’m so good.

You’re chasing that for so long. You’re going to all the youth group events and doing all the camps and mission trips. You’re superChristian, and no one would dare to question your ‘moment’. Privately you question it. Privately you despair because you know what a mess you are. You know that a true Christian wouldn’t feel these things. So you pray that prayer every day. Every day. While you’re doing everything all day, you’ll write in your journal. In a few years these entries will make you cry with sympathy for the broken heart who wrote them.

You’ll get cynical and angry, because you’ll start to realize that the prayer was a lie and the works were a lie. That it was at once too easy and too hard. You’ll meet Jesus in the pages of an essay by Yoder, and you’ll know in that instant that He never wanted you to doubt or try to prove yourself. The frustration will linger, because you’ll want so badly to tell the church that they’re doing it so wrong. At one point, at a church Halloween carnival, you will throw away a thick stack of tracts you’re supposed to be giving out to families and children as they leave. You’ll keep the light up necklaces to give them, but you’ll destroy the tracts because you have to do something.

And then you’ll read Francis Schaeffer. A friend will recommend The God Who is There  and you’ll scoff even as you’re realizing that the title has settled onto your soul. You’ll feel compelled to read it, and there on page 18 you’ll read about Jaspers and how he talked about ‘final experiences’ as the ultimate good, but believed them to be inexplicable. Schaeffer will say of his followers

 “in their struggles there is a horror of great darkness. Though they may be people of great sincerity, this does not of itself make them able to communicate to others their experience. Nor can the individual verbalize to himself what has happened. Tomorrow morning they may say, ‘Yesterday I had an experience.’ The day after they still say, ‘I had and experience.’ A month and a year later they are hanging on grimly to their only hope of significance and certainty of being by repeating ‘I know I had and experience.’ The horror of this situation is due to their putting their hope in a nonrational, nonlogical, noncommunicable experience”

You’ll wonder when he visited the churches you went to. You’ll wonder where he found your journal. He will say “but then I go on to say to them, ‘Yes I have had a final experience, but it can be verbalized, and it is of a nature than can be rationally discussed.’ Then I talk of my personal relationship with the personal God who is there.” The ‘moment’? That was never you. It was Jesus, and it’s over. It is finished. And it’s real. You won’t be angry anymore, you’ll just be sad. You’ll want to hug the people who are trying so hard. To tell them that their relationship with God is real because God is powerful, not because they are. You’ll feel free.

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when life is like pt and chacos

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I freaked out on Friday. Just a little. Me and the OKC crew went camping with a new church we’ve been visiting, and there is a certain amount of scary associated with spending two days and nights with twenty total strangers. About thirty minutes before we left I panicked a little and decided that I didn’t want to go. I could just sit and talk to old friends and just kind of…carry on.

I didn’t make that choice. I went and it was fun. There was some awkward and some awesome. Most notably: my Chacos have passed to the other side. The soles split and the straps are breaking and the sole is peeling away. So I called the Chaco people because you always hear about this warranty.

I expected it to be too good to be true. But talking to the lady she asked me “How did you break them?” I told her hiking up a mountain and she said “As long as they broke while you were using them normally we will fix them free”.

Which is like softball. My coach was absolutely terrifying at times, and she loved push ups SO MUCH. Every error during practice or a game…100 push ups. It was brutal. The only exception was a ‘hustle error’. If you made a mistake going full speed and leaving it all out there you could get away with a lot more. The trick was to be going hard.

Which is like physical therapy. When a muscle or something gets hurt from activity it’s pretty straightforward. You work it back out. You don’t let it just sit and be injured, you get it moving. You engage the hurt part. Atrophy is harder to fight, because the muscle has to learn what to do before you can do it. The hardest though? When someone has this fear of an activity. Subconsciously they are guarding against that movement, trying to stay safe. So you have to break that reflex. You have to expose the hurt area before you can make it better.

Which is kind of like life. You get hurt. People hurt you and things get hard and sometimes you lose so much. I got angry. I got angry and I burned bridges. I didn’t ever want to come back here. I’m discovering all these defenses I’ve put up against getting hurt. Even going to a church event, something as familiar as camping became close to impossible. What if these people are the wrong kind of Christian? What if they stamp out the faith I managed to piece back together?

Which is like rebuilding the relationships I tore apart. How do you look someone in the eye and tell them “I was wrong, I’m sorry, and I love you”? How do you rebuild on a charred foundation? What if I get hurt again and there’s no Waco to run away and hide?

You get into it. You stretch the parts that are hurting. You break the reflexes that are trying to keep you safe (really they’re just keeping you from healing). You work the parts that don’t work so well. You go hard, knowing that if you make an error it’s better to make it going full speed. You put the Chacos on and tear up the trails again. Because warranty.

You’re a new creation.

Not just once.

Every day.

Jesus wasn’t all about safe. He was a little bit more into danger and pushing the limits and being brave. That’s how you get to the hard places. Jesus was vulnerable. Jesus let the instinct to protect himself go. Jesus is standing there asking us to follow Him.

Standing there. And I remember that yes. I will end up hurt. I will break in new places and old places because it’s a call to die. Not just once, but every day. I die every day and I am being made new every day. And in the weak, hurting places He is strong. (Paul would say that He uses the weak things to show His strength). I’m okay with being that.

On a more practical note: my chacos are headed to the chacospital and all will be well. My anger and  cynicism might take a little longer, but I’m going after it hard. That means new and familiar conversations with new and familiar faces.

Link

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIQYq4svYwU

*I got messiahcosted yesterday (that’s Sam’s term…blame him). I was going to blog about that, and about how we teach younger Christians especially a brand of faith that doesn’t always leave them swimming in discernment. But then I thought about myself. I realized I’m too guarded. I don’t want to try to generalize or put down things just because they’ve caused problems in my story. Also this song changed my mind a little.*

It’s June and I’m fifteen. it’s sticky and I’m in a packed room at church camp that is swimming in emotion. I’m promising God anything, because I feel high. I feel everything. I’ve been taught that God is a warmness in your chest and nausea in your stomach and lightness in your head and pounding in your heart. I feel that in this moment. I write down half crazed thoughts. I will tell strangers about Jesus and prophesy and do anything. This is better than drugs (this is very much like drugs). I’m on fire.

Six years later I’m in Bricktown. Lauren and Jen and Nate have left already, but I had to come back because I’m sick and I don’t want to throw up in my car. I was planning on throwing up in the bathroom at Sonic, but Sonic is closed, so I end up doubled over the corner of the fountain. I know. And suddenly this on fire teenage girl is praying over me (we are calling it a messiahcost). She’s praying for sobriety and I’m cynical and mad, but I’m not drunk. I flip her off and head back to my car. I’m thinking about how much more mature I am (or not, I mean I did flip her off). On another level I’m wondering if I love Jesus less because I’m no longer “on fire”. I would never pray over a stranger like that. Ever (once, in June when I was fifteen, I would have).

It’s my junior year of college, in January, and I’m resetting the presets on my radio. One by one I click off the Jesus stations and replace them. I swing by Walmart and buy a new Bible, one that doesn’t have all my old notes. I’m starting over with tears dried on my face. I’ve shouted, cried, and been broken today. I’ve left Oklahoma City in a flurry of pain and frustration and emotion until I thought I would break. So I’m sealing it off. I’m deciding that I don’t want to chase these emotions anymore. I don’t want to let how I feel control how I relate to God. I’m done with cheesy Jesus-ness.

It’s my senior year at Baylor. I’m in my car on the side of I-35. I have all of those Jesus feelings—stomach, head, throat, sweating…all of it. But it’s also different. I’m crying but it’s different. I’m reading Colossians 2:20 over and over. I’m thinking about how it would look tattooed on my foot. I’m holding on by a thumbnail (by the rational parts of my faith. By the parts that know the science for these feelings: amydala, hypothalamus, visceral neurons…). I’m fighting the emotions that lift me so high and bring me so desperately low. “I thought we were done with this…Why is this happening” Out of nowhere.

It’s my first summer after college and I’m sitting on my floor, legs crossed, thinking about how embarrassing it was to throw up downtown. I’m wondering if it’s okay to not feel so much about God. To sit thoughtfully in worship sometimes. To reason before I assume. To ignore the pull on my stomach sometimes. I’m listening to “Skeleton Bones” because it’s logical. Cadaver anatomy and this song go together. They make sense. It’s logical. I click on a related link and I find this. This “Death in His Grave” video. And at *that moment* (watch the video and you will know) it all comes back. The moment manipulated to make me feel something. I feel the cynicism catch in my brain, but there’s something deeper than that.

I want to celebrate Jesus. He’s alive. My soul wants to rejoice in that, not just know it or believe it. I want to feel it. I do feel it. That’s not everything. Maybe it’s not anything. But it’s dark and I’m alone, and I let myself sing along in a joyous way. I let go, just for a second. “Nevertheless I live”. It’s an abundant life.

I’m not the girl who prays over strangers or at restaurants. I don’t judge a worship experience by a biological response. I’m all kinds of emotional, sure. But I’m learning control. I’m learning that my faith moves me. Physically. That it’s a life to live. A life with emotions other than anger. I may always be a little cynical. It’s a defensive mechanism, a little. It’s a response because I’ve been naive too often. But sometimes my soul just needs to sing. I promise not to messiahcost you.

Truth Knowledge is My Love Language

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On Friday I became ‘official’ with some friends here. The rule we decided on was that once you’ve hung out outside of class and off campus you qualify for official friendship. That should be a good thing, yeah? But then at lunch I quoted How I Met Your Mother and got blank stares. Later, talking to a friend from a new church I quoted Shane Claiborne. Crickets. So I tried Propaganda. Now it’s getting awkward.

Don’t get me wrong. I like having friends. But there are two kinds of lonely, I think. The first kind is what I did for awhile. The kind where you’re going to Starbucks and just sitting because you will go crazy without background noise. When you can go all day without seeing a familiar face. I’m coming out of that kind of lonely. I have some friends, I have some people I recognize, I do some social things. But I’m starting to feel the second kind of lonely.

I’m waiting to be known. I’m waiting for a group of people who will allow me ranting about the flaws of the church to pass as Bible study (I really loved that MC). I’m waiting for people who decide that maybe Jesus was serious. Who realize that maybe He meant at least most of the things that He said. I’m waiting for people to understand that it makes me exhausted when people care more about their dog than the homeless man on the corner. That think loving your enemies and turning the other cheek probably precludes killing them, and that Jeremiah 29:11 almost never means what we want it to mean. At the very least I’m waiting for people who understand that I feel strongly about this stuff.

For now I have friends I can text with cynical outbursts and I have the promise of visiting Waco again in a couple of weeks. I think I need the reminder that I didn’t get this way alone. My opinions and values were shaped by my community (because I definitely didn’t develop them here) and that means two things:

1) there are people out there who get it. They just aren’t in my zip code right now

2) I’m going to change here. Not that I’m unhappy with the way I feel about things now, but it would be really stupid to assume that I won’t learn things here that shape me. That will involve building relationships and being known.

so yay truth knowledge. And thank you, for being the people who have seen the worst of me and (for the most part) thought the best of me. You are keeping me going right now.

evolution

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hey:)

I played volleyball today on a team called, so unfortunately, the crusaders. There was quiet judgment against the team who brought beer to the game and vocal judgment when I said something about evolution. Here is what I wanted to say “well I guess some of us have evolved more than others”. I didn’t say anything. Because I’m evolving. Sorry, but I’m proud of that joke. This is not a post about my theories on science, creationism and God. Sorry.

On the topic of evolving I had a thought about hugs. I think I dislike them for the same reason I dislike fake, obligatory compliments and weird small talk…I want you to be real. I want you to know me. Maybe hugs feel kind of cheesy and forced sometimes. Maybe I want you to know me well enough to know that. Maybe I’m testing you. But if we see each other and it’s been awhile, or we say goodbye and it’s hard…you can hug me. And maybe you should. You’ve earned it, and you mean it, and I trust you (if you’re reading this and I don’t know you that well, go ahead. reading this gets you some brownie points). Like I said…evolution.

I’m trying. I’m really and concretely trying. I walk to class every morning and force myself to keep my phone in my pocket, because Criner and Boggus have both told us that the great commission begins with a phrase best translated “as you go”. So I’m going slowly. I’m walking and running and walking dogs through my neighborhood. I’m being present with my neighbors and with my family. I’m playing volleyball and watching weird tv and running 5ks (partially anyway) because God has called me here. I’m meeting some neighbors, I’m starting to recognize some faces. I drove Deborah around and was surprised to feel sort of invested. This is my neighborhood. These are my people. I’m concretely trying (most days).

I’m in school. I’m cutting up bodies and memorizing muscles for what feels like the millionth time. I’m being nerdy about the rotator cuff. I’m thinking about how I could use this. I’m excited, somewhere in the place that excitement used to be. “can these dry bones live?” maybe (“Sovereign Lord, you alone know”). That passage looks different when you’re looking into the faces (and axillary regions) of eight cadavers.

I’m not looking for Jamal (yes, we named him. What?) to stand up and dance or anything. But I am seeing life in places I thought I had to kill. I’m seeing my Woodway family start to look like a family. Like people who try, and who fall back on one another. I love you guys. But I’m also seeing life in places that I haven’t before.

I found a church.It may be my church. I found a place where the people seem genuine and have beards that make me nostalgic and go camping and wear chacos. I met an old friend who found a God in this space, and somehow that makes it seem like home. I found a pastor who walks through the Bible verse by verse and people who seem to love their crooked neighbors with their crooked hearts (apologies to Auden). I don’t want to look anymore. I don’t want to cast around searching for something perfect. I want to go camping with this group of people. I want to let a family form around me. I want this to work.

I’m evolving. I’m not the hypercritical, list making, stressed out girl who tried to make Waco work four years ago. She did alright in spite of herself, but I’ve learned some stuff. Maybe I will shock the world and become a runner (probably not. I hate that part) or a volleyball star (I mean probably), or a crusader (but stop me if it gets to that point, please). Yes. Things are going objectively well at this moment.

 

life update icm email style

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“what’s going on in your life?” That’s the question we all text each other when we try to catch up (as an aside catching up is weird and awkward). I usually respond kind of flippantly about dead bodies and things of that nature. That’s a big, broad question. I’m also pretty low on philosophical thoughts today, So I thought I might incorporate a poorly punctuated list since listing things is one of my best things.

1. I had to leave a Bible study because for various reasons I was nearly in tears and stressing out. So that’s…normal…? This roughly translates to the fact that I’m still looking for a church.

2. I have the sassiest lab group ever. They’re great.

3. All it does here anymore is rain. So much rain.

4. I ran yesterday. On purpose. With my sister-in-law the triathlete. #thatwentwell

5. Here is what happens a lot in my family: reality television. spoiler alert: I don’t think it’s as real as the name would lead you to believe

6. I didn’t wear chacos AT ALL yesterday. Today my feet hurt. (possibly more related to item 4)

7. I wake up at 6:00 AM right now. Buy stock in five hour energy, y’all.

8. Sam and Caroline came to OKC last Sunday. Deborah is coming this weekend. These are two of the best things ever. #you’renext

9. My anatomy professor spent twenty minutes today talking about World War II and the Marine Corps. #notaboutanatomy

10. My proudest thing all week was creating a pulley system to keep our cadaver’s arm abducted. It’s okay to call me a nerd.

All is more or less well. Cheers to that.

-jen