Thy Kingdom Come: to love a stranger

to love a stranger

Sometimes when you stop writing, it is hard to begin again. It’s physics. Just me, as a former engineer, I oughta know.

An object at rest will remain at rest unless acted upon by an external force.

I’ve been an object at rest. However contrary to that first rule, which also says that a body in motion will stay in motion at a constant speed, I did not use my blogging momentum to keep going and finish the race of the church series. I allowed myself to stop. I still aim to finish.

The world is loud and noisy…

  • Men, women, and children are being killed by evil men in Iraq.
  • There’s war in Israel.
  • Depression has claimed the life of the beloved American actor, Robin Williams.
  • People broke out in a social media war about depression and suicide.
  • At the same time, Michael Brown was getting gunned down in Missouri, and media was largely silent for the first few days.

In light of all that is happening, speaking about church seems silly. As I have reflected about all the events, I began to wonder if adding my voice to the noise was really worthwhile or important. It’s funny how when you start to slow down, God sends messengers to remind you to keep going – a force enacted on the object if you will.

  • People killing innocents is a church issue.
  • Religious wars are a church issue.
  • Knowing that people who have depression and mental illness feel like outcasts is a church issue.
  • Knowing that they become hopeless is a church issue.
  • Racism and white privilege is a church issue.

Jesus died so these things would end. If I am in Christ, I want to see an end to these things too, and I do.

  • Is not the church a place of safety and refuge where we value life?
  • Is not the church a place where we accept all people? those who are sick and those who suffer for long-term illnesses?
  • Is not the church a place of hope where we can struggle together in our weaknesses?
  • Is not the church a place where we accept all people? of every nation, tribe, and color?

If not, then why not?

  • Why do the depressed feel lost in church?
  • If there is no racism, then why is there still a “black quarters” in many small southern towns? like my hometown?
  • If there is no white privilege, then why is my church and surrounding neighborhood, a middle class area, predominantly white?
  • Why when I take a look at Birmingham, why do I find our city still segregated by race via our neighborhoods?
  • Why is it that the poorest areas of my city are predominantly black?
  • Why is it that they continue to war against one another, killing each other?
  • Why is it so hard for the black man to get ahead?
  • Praise Jesus, my church has hired a black man to be on staff, but why do we have just one on staff, when we are in a city that is mostly black?
  • Why, O Church, are we not bringing healing to those who need it most?

Meanwhile, I am studying kingdom hospitality, and it is hitting me in the face that we have it all wrong. To be hospitable is to love a stranger. I keep thinking about how Jesus ate with the unexpected, the sinners, the outcasts, and about how he befriended these. He loved them, accepted them, and provided for them. His message of truth was easier to accept because these outcasts were known by Him. God does not want us to reach the least of these from a distance. Like Jesus, He wants us to get dirty. This means we need to be friends with people who are not like us. Not just people who think like we do or have beliefs like we do or have the same hobbies as we do or whose children are involved in the same activities as ours. No. It takes intentional effort to befriend those who are not the same as you and me.

The news headlines prove that we must be talking about the church, and the church must be addressing these issues. All throughout the Bible, God commands the Israelites to care for the outcast, to be hospitable to the alien.

The church cannot be a Pharisaical place of comfort for the rich man to set up shop, building his kingdoms and buildings, while the rest of the world goes to hell in a handbasket.

In the Jesus economy, outsiders were most welcome. Is our comfort and the cushiness of our buildings really important? What if the glammed up image drove the outsiders and outcasts away? What if holding church in a fine location actually hindered the ones we were trying to reach? What if, and I believe it is not, it is not really about our buildings anyway?

What if the church actually acted like a body even outside of a building? What if this body befriended and fed the broken? What if we gave hope to the hopeless? What if we actually stopped caring if it was safe for us or our children to be in certain neighborhoods and started living as if God is as powerful as He is?

As believers we have to speak up and make sure we fight against the evils that wage war on religious freedom. Jesus has already won the victory – don’t we see? He’s given us all the tools we need to fight religious battles.

We need to actively pursue the outcast – the depressed, the hopeless, the homosexual, those with special needs, those who are a different race than me, those who are tattooed, those who have pink hair, the foster kids, the orphans, and the list is long. Because who among us has not been an outcast for one reason or another?

When we keep having white friends and living in white neighborhoods and going to buildings with white church members and friending mostly Christians and making sure we all look the same, we’ve lost our way. This is in life and online – cause I don’t see my facebook groups being multicolored either. Lest you think I am preaching heavy at you, I am preaching to myself. I fall so short.

Until we begin to see how desperately we need Christ and how desperately the world outside of our spheres need Christ, nothing changes. Without Christ, I am just a clanging symbol and empty gong, and my words are meaningless, because without Christ, I cannot love.

When I go to the library, I see what I hope the church will one day be – a church that looks like the coat of many colors, with many-colored faces. I know I will see this church in heaven some day, but for now, it is my job to fight for her on earth. “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.” As the church, do we not offer more of what the world needs than the local library?

Now, it is time for me to make some new friends. What about you?

Image Credit: Purple Sherbet Photography

Blog Hopping – answering questions about writing

My friend, Amy, asked me to participate in this blog hop. We met first online via my friend, Rebekah, who I will introduce to you below. Amy attends and ministers in a country church in my hometown. I love that we have Cordova in common. Then we were together in a incourage writer’s group online, and she helped critique and better some of my words. Recently, we met in person as she joined the bible study that I am hosting at my house. You can read her thoughts about jumping into bible study with me here. I have loved getting to know her and was excited to participate in a blog hop, which is about fun and relationships – what blogging is all about.

As part of the blog hop, everyone who participates is to answer the following four questions, so here I go.

1. What am I writing or working on?

Three things:

1. I have been working on the Reforming Church series. I have enjoyed working on it because I have been able to discern a felt need for the series and because I write it solely based on the overflow of what the Spirit leads me to say and write, which is in some ways different than in other pieces I write.

2. I am also beginning to work on a series about hospitality, as I will be leading a hospitality mentoring group at church soon.

3. I guess about a year or year and a half ago, I signed up for Jeff Goin’s Tribe Writers course, and I never made it past module 1. :) So slowly and surely, I am attempting to work through the course, which prompts me to create pieces that I might not otherwise write.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I write about faith intersecting life, which is not uncommon for faith bloggers to do. When I moved from my old blog, which was a mommy blog, I did so because it became increasingly about my faith, and the writing became more devotional. I write about my kids, but I also respect my kids’ privacy, and so choose intentionally not to write about all their stuff on here. So this blog was born in a way, as a place to write without limits. For a few months, I wrote anonymously about my own childhood stories. It is hard to write authentically and honestly about your stories when they affect others, and your family may disagree with your thoughts. I tried that and then began writing about the grace I was experiencing, and this blog became devoted to grace. Over the past 3 years I’ve been writing in this space, I suppose I have worked on improving as a writer, and the topics change. It is all still in the lens of grace, but I am not sure what my genre is. I suppose it is bloggy memoir in many ways, with a bent toward using stories to help others. I am still learning how to write as all writers always are. So sometimes I explore the craft of writing here, the artfulness of writing, etc. Mostly my work is different because it is written by me, through my experiences, my voice, my thoughts, my beliefs.

In regards to the Reforming Church series, my work is different than say what Amber Haines did or what Rebekah Gilbert is doing because I am writing to those in the church – who on some level feel like they belong but who have been wounded. I think Amber and Rebekah write more for those who feel they don’t belong – the underground church. As of yet, their pieces are more gritty. I think as the series has progressed, I see that I am writing to a specific group of people here in Birmingham, but hope that it reaches anyone who would visit and be thoughtful about the state of church today. In no way would I condemn church. I love it too much, but I do feel change is needed. I don’t know that my pieces will be gritty as I finish, but I’d like to write grittier on occasion.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Imagine with me for a minute, a person who is mute, unable to speak, but has plenty to say. The only way they communicate is by writing a few words down on paper. I really began writing because I was emotionally mute. I wrote about the muck and mire because I’ve been there. Writing, itself, is a form of grace for me. I have learned that I cannot live without it. It is soul oxygen. So first of all, I write to give freedom to myself. Second of all, I write to give freedom to others. I write to set captives free – including me. This is my most authentic way to communicate, and while I’ve learned not to have expectations about who read, it stings to realize those close to me are not interested in the depth of who I am in my writing. However, writing has taught me how not to be mute and to speak up vocally and authentically in person as well.

4. How does my writing process work?

First of all, I live. I make observations. I people watch. I think. I do a whole lot of each one of those. That is first. Then, the thoughts must be given rest, and so I write. Writing helps me to realize why I am bothered, or what I think about my thoughts, or why I am thinking about whatever I am thinking about.

Next, I listen. I listen to others, I listen to myself. I listen to the Spirit. Sometimes I write in response to needs and to answer the call of the Spirit.

My writing is not the best it could be because I often write spontaneously with little editing. Did I just tell you that? oops.

In regard to my last post, “Reforming Church: selling us,” I wrote a rough draft first. I reread it a few days later; I let my husband read it. It was unfinished – just a skeleton of words. Much needed to be added to make it a body. I left it alone for weeks. One because I was addressing leaders. During those weeks, I thought about it some more and researched and listened to the Spirit. Then I was ready to begin the final process, and I adding a great deal more, but it was now in an order that did not flow properly. I printed out my work each day I worked on it, and made red mark edits and additions. The Tribe Writers class helped that piece to speak with authority because I learned to cut out all of the wishy washy language like, “I think,” “it’s a fine line,” etc. I would do all I could to make it better, and then set it aside each day. Then the next day I would look at it again with fresh eyes and read it aloud doing the same thing as the day before until it was finally finished. I used these editing strategies given by Denise Hughes. So overall, I spent more time on that piece than any other, and it was the most well received. I should be taking care of my audience and my editing more often.

So, with that let me introduce you to some other bloggers and writers I know.

1. Rebekah Gilbert – A New Song to Sing

Rebekah Gilbert is a writer and singer/songwriter. She loves to compose words and music that tell stories that speak to the soul. She is on a spiritual journey of finding beauty in the messiness of grace. Rebekah lives in Alabaster, AL, with her husband and three girls and blogs at http://www.anewsongtosing.com.

Rebekah’s family moved to the small town I grew up in during her senior year, and so for a year, we were in the same church her dad pastored. We didn’t really know each other then, but we connected when we joined fb through our love of writing words.

2. Mary Boswell – The Calm in His Presence

Mary is a wife of 15 years, mom to 2 beautiful children and daughter of her Heavenly Father. She and her husband Jeff seek to honor God in their marriage & raising their children. Through each twist & turn life has thrown them during their marriage they have learned more about God’s immeasurable Love and Grace. With two young kids Mary’s days are anything but quiet. Mary writes at her blog The Calm of His Presence where she shares what God is teaching her during the quiet & sometimes not so quiet moments of her day. So, won’t you take some time out of your busy, hectic day and join Mary as she sits in the Calm of God’s Presence at www.thecalmofhispresence.com.

Mary and I met at Allume last year, and I am so glad I did, because we ate practically all of our meals together. She was a God-send when I was a small fish in a big blog conference pond. She made everything about Allume more comfortable for introverted me.

3. David Dollar – Clouds in My Coffee

David Dollar is a husband and father who loves 90s nostalgia, Billy Joel, Hootie & the Blowfish, early Jennifer Knapp, audiobooks and writing.  In addition to his blogsite, he also co-hosts a movie podcast called The Deucecast, as well as helps people as a professional Disney Travel Planner.  He follows Christ, loves his family and studies pop culture, praying regularly for a dcTalk reunion.   Follow him on Twitter at @davedollar and follow his Disney page on Facebook at facebook.com/disneyonadollar.

David and I attend the same church here in Birmingham, and within our little body, I suppose we are known as the bloggers. David has been a great encourager of my writing. He is currently helping Daniel and I plan a trip to Disney.

Reforming church: selling us

This church stuff is a weighty topic, thus the reason it has taken me much longer than anticipated to write this – not as though I don’t love weighty topics, but I want you to hang out with me because this post is going to need some “‘splaining to do” said in my very best […]

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On Speaking Life

on speaking life

I know this woman. Every time I am with her it is like I am in a torrential downpour of negativity. There is no dam to stop her flow of words and thoughts. They come at a rate of hurricane status, and never once do her words slow to ask me how I am or […]

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Happy Harper Home Journal 1: on stillness and quiet

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It is quiet. My kids are up, but the only sound I hear is the fan blowing in my bedroom and my fingers clicking the keys, and the occasional pause, as I pause to reflect on what to say and to type. Summer is over half over here. I begin to mourn a bit for […]

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How to Give when everything says Give Up

Widow's Mite

I will be back next week with Reforming Church, but since this week is VBS, I will give you a glimpse of that. *****  The good church girl is not supposed to say that next thing I am going to say: I dread the week of VBS. Oh I remember how when I was a […]

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FMF: Release

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“Release” Come softly Come swiftly weary or afraid Dear Child of Zion– Release burdens at my feet. You are mine, loved, adored. I created you. I release you from the oppressed, the chains, the doubts and fears. Fall softly, tenderly, into my arms– your forever home. My release gives wings to fly. Fly big. Fly […]

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On Silliness, Family Life, and HSP vulnerability

Annabelle

My granny always called me her sunshine. That made me feel special, and I miss that. I miss my granny and my daddy and all my loved ones that I hope are in Heaven. Tonight I was just wanting to write something else, something less serious than church and reform, and be creative and have […]

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Reforming church: selling leaders

Not only do we sell ourselves, but we sell out our leaders. There are several ways this happens. We are all in this together. Regular pew dwellers like me and leaders have sold themselves and so we perpetuate cycles of sin and decay. In the leadership, this looks like this: we only look for charismatic, […]

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Thank you

Were it not for the Lord, I would cease writing my series on the church. Oh yes I would. Although almost every bit of it was written before I started it, it is not fun to send out into the world a message no one wants to hear or to receive unsubscription notices in my […]

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