Sunday, July 27, 2014

Scott Zingerman



Next up to talk about churchies is Scottie. Scott is my best friend from college and a little schnookems. You may know him by his eyebrows. I met him in the cafeteria at school and had a big ole crush on him, but that marinated into tenacious friendship. He was my family in college. We asked questions about God, both dated and subsequently broke up with people, complained about roommates, he taught me how to wakeboard and I spent four years trying to prove I was cool. We grew up together. In a few weeks Scott is moving to the Ivory Coast for a year to be a teacher at a partner school of the one he works for in Tulsa. This guy, the one whose name is synonymous with adventure, is walking with such fervent faith into this knowing God to be big. I admire him fiercely and I am so grateful that we was willing to let me share his thoughts. 




// What do you see as being God's purpose behind the creation of church? //

I see God’s purpose in the creation of church as being a healthy way for people to interact and live together. We are social creatures and need social interaction. The church gives us a place where we can come and spend time with like-minded people. It is a place where Christians can encourage and guide each other in their pursuit of knowing Jesus and in following the commands that God gives in His word, the Bible. Church is not only designed to be a place of spiritual unity, but also a place where physical needs can be met. The church was given the responsibility in the New Testament to take care of those in need. This includes the poor, widows, orphans, and anyone going through a hard time and in physical need. The church was given this responsibility so that Christ’s love may be demonstrated in a broken and hurting world.

// Do you feel as if you are a part of something that falls within the purpose you described above? //

All the churches I have ever attended have definitely striven to achieve this purpose.

// Are you involved with an organized church body? //

I have been going to the church my parents attend since returning from college but have not fully engaged in the church because I am leaving for Africa in August to teach for a year.

// How do you find community in your life? //

In my life, I find community with the friends I spend time with. These friendships are very important to me as they help me process and get different perspectives on things from people I can be vulnerable with and whom I greatly care about and respect.

// What problems/hardships have you felt in your church experiences? //

The biggest problems I see in my experience at church are unrealistic expectations of people in the church. We must remember that we are all sinners in need of a Savior and remember to give each other grace.

// What do you think could be improved about the American church? // 

One thing that I and many other Americans struggle with is our consumerism mentality with church. We have the tendency to view church as a product and attend the one that gives us the most of what we want. Instead, we need to realize that no church is perfect, make a commitment to one, and devote ourselves to making it better.

// What is the one thing you would tell someone who isn't a Christian about church? //

I would encourage someone who isn't a Christian to try out a church but remember that we are all imperfect people striving to get closer to Christ and love one another.

To end, I'm using this as an excused to post one a montage of pictures from freshman year of college. Please enjoy the horrible quality and sweatpants....it was college and we apparently thought it fun to look homeless.








Saturday, July 12, 2014

Movie Night 101

So I bought a projector. And last night commenced the first of hopefully many movie nights in the future. And like any good match up between me and a good idea, there were kinks. Well. One kink. But we'll get to that.

First, let me walk you through the other important factors necessary for a successful movie night.

Chipsters. This Jackson Family Classic surmise summer. Homemade chocolate chip cookies with a big ole scoop of ice cream and ugly-slapped together in a plastic baggie until the two unionize and become a frozen delight.



A white sheet. Which I didn't have, so I rushed to the land of tchotchkes, Walmart, to grab that.

Duct tape. Because really, who needs to be classy and hang the sheet from your house with something reasonable, like clothes pins?

Blankets and peelows (also known as pillows). Now don't skimp here. This is of vital importance to the feature. Without this staple piece, there could be potential havoc wrought by twigs and bugs trying to claim territory. But we must defeat them first, smothering them with cozy accoutrements. Once victory has been assured, move along to the next detail.

The film. Now when it came to picking the correct film, two things were considered. Notoriety and funness. I wanted a movie most people had seen, or at least heard of, but wasn't something they had to be extremely focused on since it was a group thing. Naturally, the Goonies was the only choice.

Finally, and most obviously, you'll need a projector. I bought mine for $65 on eBay a few weeks back. It's a tiny little guy, but he worked fabulously for my purposes.

You put all this together you and you get this.



But don't forget. The kink.

You see that adorable mint green Anthropologie speaker above? Yes, the tiny thing on the table. Turns out it works much better for background music at the pool than projecting Sloth's voice belting, "HEY YOU GUUUUUYS" at a humanistic volume.

The final result of the evening ended up being much more.....intimate, then the original set up. Subtitles were displayed and heads were systematically laid closely to our mint green baby. He tried so hard, the little speaker, but it was like trying to make Wonder Bread into a beautiful sourdough. It's just not in his DNA.

I am the Film Phoenix though, movie nights are going to rise from the ashes and come back with a vengeance.

Truly though, what's most important is that the Chipsters were excellent. And for me, that's enough.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Tyler St. Louis

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Meet Tyler. Our friendship began in line at a Starbucks. He introduced himself as "Sweet Lou" and I thought he was lying about his name, the rest, as they say, is history. Now he gets mad at me for thinking too much and I get mad at him for liking Justin Bieber....it's a beautiful friendship. Tyler was gracious enough to go first, by virtue of being the first to return their answers. Really though, he's the best and below are the 7 questions I asked him about church and his straight answers






//  What do you see as being God's purpose/reason behind the creation of church?  //

Loaded question eh? If I had to guess, because as a man trying to figure out why an infinite God would do anything is almost laughable, I would guess that God created the church to draw people closer to Himself through community. I believe in a triune God, and by this community is in and of itself part of who God is. A perfectly eternal being in three parts constantly acting as one. So as I said, my guess would be that the church was created to be a place where people live in a community that tries to exemplify the same community that is God and in doing so draws closer to God. As this community grows closer to God it would display the character of who God is to the world. With this God could reveal himself through the community, allowing someone who believes in God or even someone that may not to feel welcomed, encouraged, and loved in a broken world.

//  Do you feel as if you are a part of something that falls within the purpose you described above?  //

Yes

//  Are you involved with an organized church body?  //
Yes

//  Where/how do you find community in your life?  //

I find community in my life among my friends and family. I find that the community that I enjoy the most though is the community of friends and family that are apart of the church. I think this is because generally they all want more for another than themselves. This is encouraging.

//  What problems/hardships have you felt in your church experiences?  //

The problems or hardships I have with the church? I guess I first have to examine myself. As a member of the church I would be a part of any problem or hardship I had with it. I guess a current hardship I have is when church bodies try to set standards or rules that people of the church must live up to or follow. I believe this can be helpful for some but may not be helpful for everyone. There are certain things a church should exemplify and try and uphold but when rules or standards start to be put in place their is generally a consequence for no upholding a rule or standard. This consequence can then cause people to live out those rules or standards but more so out of fear and fear is something that the people of God shouldn't be tied to. We are to be free from fear. This fear can also keep people from confessing or being honest about the sin they may have in their life. As the church we should exemplify love, grace, and peace not fear.

//  What do you think could be improved about the American church?  //

Whew. I don't have a clue. Perhaps at the core of any issue I might have with the american church would be a lack of faith in God. If God is as big as we believe Him to be, what if we truly trusted Him to do the things He promised and we did less. Sometimes I feel like we as Americans have the ability to do so much we lose the need for faith. This is both a blessing and a curse.

//  What is the one thing you would tell someone who isn't a Christian about church?  // 

I would tell them to try and find the church outside of a building. To connect with the people of the church outside of a place that may hold the name "church." To get to know those people, because those people are the church, not some building. I would encourage them to ask those people hard questions about their faith and have difficult conversations consistently even if they don't seem to agree. I would also tell them to love that person among those difficult conversations.

So that's Tyler. More to come!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

A Project

The past few weeks, I have been assaulted by inspiration. Inspirations to write, to work, to meet and to generally just invest fully into my life. Thus, I have a hefty list of projects that I am chomping at the bit to pursue. And I'm excited. They're vast and are nonsensically disconnected to one another, but I feel as if i do not hop in, I will miss something grand that God may have for me by being a bit haphazard.

One of those involves this blog. I have found myself in multiple recent conversations with people about church. Asking questions and seeing wonderful beauty from my dear friends and their perspectives. And with their permission and grace, I am going to venture to share some of them here. I have requested these particular people because I trust them and their journeys, I see them living well, and they are people who have affected me in a way that surpasses mere friendship. I welcome the opportunity to introduce them to you if you do not know them.

My hope with this series is one thing and one thing only. To let the common themes of church breathe and for God to speak for Himself through us. I do not expect or hope to find one glaring "right" way of doing things. I pray the beauty of language and journey, emotion and perspective reign through. I pray we are affected by one another in enriching ways.

That's what I have for you to look forward to. A break from me, space to hear very beautiful people's perspectives about a hard tension.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Incomplete Thoughts

I am prefacing this post with the following disclaimer. I am a mess, thus everything that spills out of me on any given day could either be brilliance or nonsense, and will almost inherently be simply incomplete. I can fool myself an others into thinking I am more organized than I am, but truly, to know me is to see my glaring inconsistencies and general disheveled-ness. 

This disclaimer comes because the thoughts I am to pen this morning are fragmented, complicated and underdeveloped. They are still in the larva stage of existence. And they are about communal living. A topic most people have much more figured out and are far enough along in to pursue in amazingly beautiful ways. Basically, all y'all are a lot more wise than I. 

I have lived in Kansas City about a year now. And in that year, I have met, remet, stared at from afar, etc. many people, some to stick, some not. And when facing these people, I have noticed a paradoxical and two-fold fear. 

1) I am not interesting enough for anyone to get to know outside of a casual setting
2) Those who would get to know me outside of that are going to fail me so best not to try at all

Both of these are wrought with insecurity and debilitation. And both have damaged me. Inherently, these two trails of thought when played out together leave me alone, resulting in either an aching for relationship or an arrogant insistence to perpetuate this so not to be incapable of being by myself....all in the name of independence.

However. 

In recent months, I have seen so many errors in this my head is spinning. The first and most glaring fact to be that to be Christian is to love people. While God is the absolute, I AM. We are the feet of that, and for me to extricate my life from others is to extricate from a big part of Himself. To not live amidst other people in a way that goes beyond a hello at Quay ruins us all of the chance to see God be big. My mother, quoting some genius the other night, told me "my life is too small for God to be able to display all of His Goodness. He deserves the room to use other people with other beliefs, goals, dreams, abilities to show me Himself too". And that statement is also good vice versa. 

This is hard for me to broach. I would rather avoid the hurts, the confusion, the hard conversations, the awkward scenario. I am comfortable to say hello and calling that "being known". Although to do so is to live a farce. That is a cancerous view of community that will only serve to decay any semblance of beauty in my life. 

My life right now is broken up into various sects. My work, my home, my social life and my church. My social life and my church integrate the most, but generally the separateness reigns. I'm asking what God would have me do for that. To boldly face those irrationalities and to pursue friendships. Remembering that it is okay to exhaust myself by people sometimes.

I feel able to say this because I have seen it. Though not a participant, I have been a witness to watching people I admire and revere live very beautiful lives rich with people, they are liberal with their love. Being around them is to inhale the rich fragrance of community. Like the earth after a storm, I am stirring beneath a cloud of ineffectual and infectious fears to a way of life much fuller than my own. These are the people I am grateful for. They do not know how their living is changing me, and that's the best kind of living in my mind. 

And regarding my great paradox from above. Though those have been realized in relationships before, they are not the end. So be it if I am not interesting enough for one, what a silly thing to base my value off of anyway. And how foolish of me to not do something because of a fear of failure. Friendships are best when ugly and messy. My favorite people are the ones who have stumbled through and found God in the midst of it. I'd rather be one of them anyway. 

Let me end this with a re-disclaimer. I'm at the beginning here. If you are wiser than me in this, please feel free to help. If you are with me in this, I hope I'm brave enough to go beyond saying hello to you in public. If you are nowhere near being here, I understand. Sometimes I can be a real jerk and it's fair for you to not trust me. Here's to letting us be where we are and loving one another enough to not leave each other in the midst of it all. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Ownership

"If you work for a man, in Heaven's name work for him. If he pays wages that supply you your bread and butter, work for him, speak well of him, think well of him, and stand by him, and stand by the institution he represents.If you must vilify, condemn, and eternally disparage, why, resign your position, and when you are outside, damn to your heart's content. But, I pray you, so long as you are a part of an institution, do not condemn it. Not that you will injure the institution--not that--but when you disparage the concern of which you are a part, you disparage yourself."
A Message for Garcia, Elbert Hubbard

Work assigned me homework to read the book possessing this excerpt.And I'm so glad I did. The initial intention is to consider this for my job, to be loyal to my company, always working for it and with the utmost respect for that which we do and whom we do it for. And over the past few days, it's come back again and again as a Christian ideal. 

I have no thought of this in the realm of "working" for God whatsoever. The Christian ideal that has plagued me is that of ownership. Of having such stake, inheritance, and need for it, that you would find yourself doing nothing other than speaking well of it and working for its benefit. I think this trickles down from a home base of God Himself into every other area of life; as is everything I suppose, because life is not without God.

If I am a Christian, then I better be a good one. I better seek God with fervor, a single mindedness forcing me to see His loves as my loves. His people, His church, His disciplines as good and necessary. I am the worst culprit of being critical and refusing the thing all together. I've a nasty habit of going half the distance and stopping there. Recognizing the problem and never seeking the solution. Seeing a need, but not actively meeting it. I think we are all guilty of it, Americans are consumers of Christianity, we're consumers of everything.

And why wouldn't we be? Everything is tangible, food, clothing, excess, interests. I can portray an active interest in something yet never have done the thing and people could see me as an expert. How sad I am when I see this in myself. Although, this consumerism is but a symptom of the problem. Is not the real problem that I am attempting to posture myself in such a way for my benefit? It's the danger, dare I say it, in Theology. What help is knowledge for the dying man? He needs what the knowledge teaches can save. 

My mother has recently begun to teach me to garden. I love this for many reasons. It's a treat to be able to share an interest with my mother, something she has such a greater knowledge in that I can only but reap the benefit of sharing. The action of gardening is innately slow. It requires patience and tenacity and attention. A wonderful balance of painstaking detail and general vision. It's an interest that is equal parts about the process as the result and I find that simply wonderful. In learning to garden, I have found myself impatient with my lack of knowledge. I'm around gardens often, I like flowers, I understand all of the components, however without actually digging a hole, planting seeds and letting the thing grow, I will never actually be a gardener.

Kevin Cawley spoke this morning about behavior being the derivative of origin. I can not decide my origin by my behavior, it is a result. And is that not the same implication of what Hubbard says? If one is going to be a Christian, the speaking of God certainly does not dictate the ownership by Him, but it certainly affects the interpretation of it by others. People can see me however they want to, but my intentions in my actions, that is what is going to actually change me. If I am living begottenly (I decree this a word), then my behavior will carry the scent of that. It will incur the slowness of doubt and trouble, not looking to the pain as the result of my faith but of something that my faith can triumph, though it take time. Being a child of God means that I am in it for the long haul and to remind myself, I best speak of it often and speak of it well. To do otherwise doesn't hinder God, it hinders me. 

The Christian faith is completely familial. Built upon a foundation of being for one another and for our differences. C.S. Lewis says, "When you find yourself turning your children, or pupils, or even your neighbours, into people exactly like yourself, remember that God probably never meant them to be that." We were always intended to be compatible, not similar. And in that, we should root for one another. Rooting for another by asking questions, learning, sharing, arguing, depending. We root for one another in the faith by letting tensions be tense and letting God sanctify us in the differences. 

This trickling is just beginning in my  mind. Manfiesting itself in a hundred ways I would love to write out, but for my benefit and your own, I am done for now. But let this be the whole of it, if we're going to be Christians, let's be them. All the way. With the hard and easy, the joyful and the painstaking, the fights and the camaraderie. Let us speak kindly of one another and of God, despite the callousness and bitter infractions we may have had. Let us confront one another in the humblest of ways, checking three times over that we do it for each other and not out of selfish ambition or conceit. Let us be for God and for each other. 


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Most Well

Yesterday I finished re-reading my favorite book, A Severe Mercy. It's probably my 4th or 5th time through since 2012. And every time I read it, I find myself alit with new thoughts and encouraged by reminders from previous times through. 

The end of the book is the main character sharing his wife's death as "a severe mercy". He's conveying this all to C.S. Lewis and he continues in remembrance that "all will be most well".

How refreshing that thought is to me. For some reason the past two weeks have been wearisome. Full of failures and aloneness. The foreboding sense that I'm not going to be taken care of and I'm always going to have to do it myself. It has been disparaging. 

And then I'm reminded that all will be most well. Compound that with this reminder from Henri Nouwen via Ash Parsons' Instagram:

"real like takes place in the here and now. God is a God of the present. God is always in the moment, be that moment hard or easy, joyful or painful....God is not someone who was or will be, but the One who is, and who is for me in the present moment. That's why Jesus came to wipe away the burden of the past and the worries for the future. He wants us to discover God right where we are, here and now."

Like a deep breath of cool air in my lungs, I relax into the God of the present. Because not only is He in the hard and easy moments, he is in the complicated moments. The moments when my mind is reeling, the moments when fear grips me so strongly and I'm believing that I am unhelpable. The moments when that customer is yelling at me and I feel I am going to single-handedly be responsible for the demise of my company. The moment when I am the most sure I am the one woman in world no one will want.

These moments are the tricky ones, where I have to faithfully request to be reminded that all will be most well. That this moment too, is not so far reaching as to be used for His fullest life for me. Recesses and crannies that I believe are so far from the light that I will never be healed. But these are also the places that He reminds me fervently of Joy. Of great hope that lies outside of my ability to examine my faults correctly and reshape them into alliance with His will. My Joy lies in His substance. 

I find no where to go but to press in here. Digging in to how the Gospel matters to Corporate America. Inspecting what I am misvaluing in myself in others and overvaluing in my perception of relationships. Asking to see most clearly His here-ness, knowing that that is what makes things the most well. Solutions are temporary and volatile, His availability is my constancy. 

So may the open-ended questions continue. May the brash clanging about of my life be shifted into a quiet mimicking of His humility and peace. May we all find His present-ness to be what makes all things most well.