Thursday, May 29, 2008

I Heart Hyperlinks...

and parenthesis.

That is all.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Wise Words on Church Membership

I love being in the PCA. After the mayhem of being in a congregationalist church for so long (WHY oh WHY does everyone need to vote on what color wallpaper should be in the ladies' room?), I have been quite happy--though I may not have always found it easy--to put myself under the authority of our church leaders and to seek the "peace and purity" of the church local and global.

I've become terribly brainwashed. I like being "reformed," (a neo-Calvinist, even--gasp!) I like having deacons and elders, and ones who answer to a presbytery. We own a copy of Hymns II, prefer the ESV over the NIV, and catch ourselves almost saying "Thanks be to God" when we visit our church back in NM. So there's your caveat. This article was written for a PCA audience, and as such, comes at the subject of church membership from a very specific angle. It does, however, address issues that plague a variety of churches with differing styles of government. And it's written by one of my favorite people. Walter left ChristChurch to plant a church on the Westside, which is so awesome. I heart a church planting (as opposed to mega-church) model... but that's another post.

I really liked the points he made about being stretched by church membership to bond with and love on people whom we don't have a natural link with. What else would I have in common with a 65 year old southern man but a common love for Jesus? And to be perfectly frank, why else would I choose to spend time with someone so different from me other than that Christ has asked it of me? I am reminded of my privilege and obligation to do so by our common membership in a local church body, and it helps that the local church body also has healthy structures and mechanisms to assist me in this pursuit. If left to my own motivations and devices, my natural instinct is not nearly so gracious or willing to take risks.

It's also a natural response to say, "what about caring for those outside of the church?" whether from thoughtful motives or a stubborn desire to disagree. I think that creates a false dichotomy because the two are not mutually exclusive. Rather, one flows naturally from the other. Being stretched in learning to love those that we don't naturally gravitate to results in developing good habits. And especially if this happens in the context of a healthy church that has a heart for service and outreach, loving the "least of these"--as Christ has called us to do--will be a natural result.

I also thought Walter's points about plugging into an imperfect church were well made. As Groucho Marx said, "I wouldn't want to be part of a club that would have me as a member!" I would add, though, to the statement "the reason a church may appear lacking in some area is because you aren’t yet a part of it!" that I'm glad our church isn't a "perfect fit." Otherwise, it is all too easy for me to turn it into an idol. God has helped me see what is non-negotiable and what isn't, and though I wish we had communion every Sunday (for example), there is no denying the communal heart for the city and the world.

In other thoughts, we got to see MPJ on Friday night, and it was lovely (as always). I'll try to write up a review soon. Get ready for his new album, Swallowing the Sea, due out in August! Whoo hoo!

Oh, and I'm not sure which items from my above PCA-isms list are actually PCA specific. Not only are we new to this denomination, but we also have an Anglican pastor and a Southern Baptist worship director...

Monday, May 12, 2008

Keeping the Faith

Jesus didn't promise sunshine and kittehs. Following him means taking up one's cross daily, and in a sin-stricken world at that. Thankfully, there are companions along the way--family, friends, and websites.

What? Did I just say "websites"?

Oh, did I. The past year has been (as my good friend and coworker Tony would say) a "Praise the Lord/ Lord have Mercy" rollercoaster. Ups and downs. We've had the joy of sharing in celebrating a dear sister (both literally and in the family-of-Christ sense) marrying a wonderful brother. The pain of losing of losing our first child. The overwhelming, chance-of-a-lifetime, wonderful trip to Asia to celebrate the Hwangs' wedding once again, to attend another wedding, and to finally meet up with my birth family. The struggles and frustrations and joys and pressures of our jobs and school. The fear of wondering if Dad Garrett had prostate cancer (he doesn't) and the fear of finding out that Dad Crane was in need of a heart transplant (keep reading). Sharing with so many the joys of marriages and births and careers and adoptions and graduations, and sharing with far too many the grief of deaths and illness and depression and abuse and theological despair.

Through it all, we've clung to our faith in Christ Jesus. How, you ask? (Let's pretend you did ask, okay?)

As I said, through websites. Okay, the primary (and easy) answer, is "by grace." By the gracious, constant presence and protection of the triune God. By community and sharing and crying and counseling and medicines (shocking!) and prayer and reading of the Word (sigh... far too little on those last two!) and pursuing spiritual disciplines and sheer stubborn God-given determination.

How else would we have gotten through the past couple of weeks, in which we traveled to four different cities (Denver/Colorado Springs, Raleigh-Durham, DC, and Houston/Galveston); celebrated/mourned on Mother's Day, pushed through what would have been the due date, attended a conference, freaked out/rejoiced in a donor heart becoming available for Dad Crane, celebrated/freaked out about the graduation (and thus departure) of so many fabulous students, and celebrated Mom Garrett's birthday, all in the same two days?

How? (Sorry, I'm getting there!) By a (growing) understanding of our sinfulness and God's holiness, a desire to see redemption...

... and a weird sense of humor. So I present, for your reading/clicking pleasure, sites that help me examine my faith, laugh at my failings, and praise God for loving us all anyway:

The character who does Bible scenes out of Legos (you have to see it to believe it!) appears not to be a Christian, but in some ways, I'd say he appreciates the Bible more than a lot of Christians I know (probably me included). He does have something of an agenda, though, which is evident in some of his interpretations of the passages. And there's some non-G rated stuff... but that's the Bible for you!

I mentioned the classic, sacrelicious Lark News in a previous post. My new, fabulous find (thanks to Tim and others for showing me the way) is all about Stuff Christians Like. Whoo hoo hoo hoo hoo! Wait. I do that. And that. Oh, and I do that, too! Ouch.

I've also stumbled upon the Wittenburg Door. Yes, they know they spelled it wrong. (No, I didn't know.) It's similar to Lark News, so when I find that I haven't procrastinated quite enough for the day, I head there. Particularly fabulous was the... interview... with NT Wright. (And no, I'm not quite sure if the entire thing is made up or not! Sheesh. Must I admit all my ignorance, all in one post? What will I do in further posts? Make sense?)

I also mentioned Snopes in that previous post. Specifically, if I need to feel superior about how intelligent I am (mostly after I go to the other websites and find that I don't get most of the jokes), I visit the Religion page, or the Glurge Gallery.

There are also several good sites (with less satire, more theological discussions, but still a sense of humor) that Team Redd could no doubt direct you to, that I've visited from time to time. When I really want to stretch myself, though, I go to a website for the "satirical church service for the thinking masses." It's basically a comedy routine that mocks the Western Evangelical church stereotype. These folks are not Christians, and I doubt they've ever met a Christian they liked, much less respected. While I could probably never attend a "service" (show), because even my irreverent self would probably get offended and "prove" their point that Christians are fun-haters, the website sure makes me think. About what I take for granted, what I practice and preach, and where I get distracted from Jesus and focus too much on me and "my" church.

And when I really need to get back to basics, I go here. Because I'm oh-so-pious... and a little bit of a tech geek.

Praise the Lord... Lord have Mercy!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

Sigh.

My love to Sam and his family on a difficult day. Our prayers go with you.

My thanks to the women who have nurtured and loved me over the years.

My gratitude to those that have walked this difficult path before me, who have taught me the meaning of gracious strength.

My thanks to those that have loved on our little family over the past months, who rejoice when we rejoice and mourn as we mourn.

My love to my husband for walking this path with me.

We cling to grace and the hope that comes with Christ's resurrection, my friends. This alone sustains us.

Oh, and Pretzel the Bear says hello.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Somehow, I got Old

I may have a Facebook account, but that doesn't negate the fact that I'm old. Plus, I use it for work, which definitely cancels out any cool, young, hipness that I might like to ascribe to myself. Plus, I just used the phrase, "ascribe to myself."

While I'm typing this post, I also have to remember that it will automatically upload to my Facebook page, which is where this all started, anyway. But, I digress. Or more aptly, I regress. Maturity not withstanding.

Anyway.

Kennan always asks me why I click on things that are just going to piss me off when I read them. I don't know. It's like watching a car wreck. I just can't stop myself. So I stumbled upon a group (several, actually) devoted to someone that is not my... favorite... person ever. It was a flashback to my previous frustrations with differences in worship styles.

But this is not a post primarily about my forgiveness and anger issues. Although maybe it should be. This is a post about how old and crochety I am.

"Mehhhh! When I was yerrr age, I had to walk six miles in the snoooow, uphill both waays, jest to get to cherrrch! Mehhhh..." Yup, I'm a fun-hater. Check out the contrast to my grumpy old ways in this comment describing why folks are so fond of said individual:

"Crowd surfing? How many worship leaders do that?"

What? We won't even go into the theological issues. And yes, there was a time when I RAWKED OUT to Christian ska, hardcore, punk, etc. at concerts. I was "in the crowd, all a skankin' and a swimmin'..." (and if you get that reference, you're old, too!). But now, I'm old. I can't even stand up for the entire service because I have bad knees, much less dance. I no longer like music that's loud enough to make windows rattle. I can't stay at church past 9 PM without needing an injection of caffeine. Sitting on hard wooden pews makes my bum ache.

Suffice it to say, I'm OLD now and honestly not too upset about it. Time to take a nap before my 4 PM dinner. Mehhhh!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

How to be Difficult...

... it's worked for me, anyway!

Organize furniture so it is NOT feng shui.

Shoot the cats with the spray bottle.

Not answer the cell phone.

Curse.

Pick fights with Georgia fans.

Change the lyrics to praise songs that are theologically questionable. Sing loudly.

Multi-task.

Continue drinking from a Nalgene bottle.

Hit the snooze button. Several times.

Run 5-15 minutes late. For EVERYTHING.

Talk incessantly about things like ICHC, Stargate, and the cats.

Start reading 5 books at once but never finish any of them.

Take 5 big, heavy books on a trip. Read none of them.

Get weird urges to vacuum at 3 AM.

Support Obama just to spite Clinton.

Keep a blog. Pout if no one reads it. Repeat.