Rainbows, Boring Days, and Women’s Roles in Church

I am feeling particularly healthy after last night’s sad tale of a meal. Today I ate a pint of blueberries and a bag of low-sodium almonds. And, I had a Starbucks tea with only a little sugar, and a little lemonade. I feel a Blizzard coming on after such a healthy day.

It was a rather uneventful day. I went to church. It was boring. But, I’ve already noted my thoughts on church, so I won’t get too far into that now. We’ll just leave it with boring. And no women served in any position AT ALL.  I was going to leave that comment out of this post, but well, here I go. So, what’s up with that? I mean what century are we in? Listen, I’m not all about women being pastors, mainly because I never felt called to be one. So, in typical Cinthia fashion, if it doesn’t affect me then I just can’t get interested.

But, come on. I mean a church full of suits running the show? There were no women greeters, no women taking up the offering, no women handing out the programs, nothing. I have to admit I got out my Windows phone out, and checked my hair dresser’s facebook status to see if she is headed back to work anytime soon. She just had a baby, and I am dying over here. Turns out she was in church having her little one baptized. I am thinking my hair was not on her mind.

Then I ran through my Twitter feed to see if anything interesting was going there. There wasn’t. Then, I decided that I was sitting in church, I should listen. But, I got distracted by the lady in front of me whose hair really looked good, and I considered texting Anna about my hair. Scoff if you like, but Anna would have understood and likely responded back if she had not been dealing with a toddler and an infant in church. And, probably tons of family who came for the baptism. See why she’s my hairstylist? She gets it.

And, if you’ve made it this far into this post, then congratulations, because really, how random can you get? This is why I love blogging. Nobody would publish this mind-numbing diatribe, but here it is posted on the internet for all the world to read.

So, onto the whole women in the pulpit thing. I realize that Scripture does not sway too much in the direction of women preachers, and I am a Scripture girl, but I also know that several people I respect (Anne Graham Lotz) and my friend, Karen, who is now a pastor, have studied the Scriptures and determined that Scripture supports women in that role. So, I’m going with them on this one. And, I like seeing women in leadership roles at church. It makes me happy. All those men in gray, drab suits put me to sleep. They look like they belong in the mafia.

I felt like I was ten years old again watching the men in my home church pass along the offering plates, open the doors at the end of the service, shake hands all around and generally run things. I didn’t like it at age 10, and I don’t like it now. It isn’t because I have an issue with men. I don’t. I just prefer to see church all mixed up. Women, children, men, people of all persuasions and race. Church should be a big rainbow of people, not men in gray suits. At least, that is my version of happy church.  I like it when we’re all worshiping together equally. This place felt like a man’s club that allowed the women in for this one day out of the week and we best behave while there. I found myself whispering to the other women.

I really do believe that every denomination has it a bit right, and every denomination has it a bit wrong. The church I attended today, I believe, has it a bit wrong on the issue of women in church roles. They did, however, nail the music.

And, in the spirit of oneness–no names regarding which church it is.

Abraham’s Journey to Home (and mine)

English: Abraham Goes to the Land of Canaan (G...

English: Abraham Goes to the Land of Canaan (Gen. 12:1-6) Русский: Авраам переселяется в землю Ханаанскую (Быт. 12:1-6) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Scripture, Abraham was told by God to pack up and start moving. But God did not tell him where. Instead, God told Abraham to go to “the place I will show you.” Abraham didn’t argue, although he did camp out at one place for awhile before he really started moving along on his journey. But, eventually he started walking (let that soak in) in earnest toward the “place God would show him.”

I never envied Abraham that trip. There are plenty of people I’d like to be in Scripture. The Woman at the Well comes to mind. The servants who watched the water turn to wine before their very eyes at the wedding (Jesus’ first miracle). Priscilla is intriguing. Philip, mainly because he literally got to space/time travel. But Abraham just seems old and tired to me when he begins his trek and like, he really would have been okay hanging out near the pyramids of home and simply enjoying retirement. That is exactly how I feel. Old. Tired. Ready for Retirement.

My biggest fear right now is that I will not be able to work as hard as I do for as long as I’m probably going to need too. My livelihood depends on me working. Period. From month to month, if I am not employed we don’t eat or have a roof over our heads. It is humbling.

So, while I wonder where home for me is, I am acutely aware that it might always be someone else’s home, i.e. a place that I rent.

I spent some time with a financial planner after my divorce, and we discussed whether he thought I’d ever purchase a home or not. He was very matter-of-fact about the whole thing when I mentioned the money I’d “throw away in rent.” He said, “How is it throwing money away? You need a home, and yet you can’t purchase one because you don’t make enough money. This isn’t about money management, its about staying out of the cold and the rain.”

Sometimes, a good reminder of the most basic sort is in order. It allows you to re- frame your thinking and begin to have a paradigm shift.  Abraham lived in the City of Ur of the Chaldeans. Reportedly, the place was very developed for its time. Houses had indoor plumbing and running water. There were markets and fresh produce. He had all the comforts of home. Then God said, pack it up, we’re moving, and Abraham finished out his years in a tent in the land of Canaan. Canaan would become the Israel of the Old Testament, and Abraham’s descendants would live in the land as their own.

So, sometimes the plan is less about the immediate and more about the eternal, as in Abraham’s case. It wasn’t about providing Abraham with a home. It was about bringing forth a Savior (Jesus) through a group of people whom God would build through the lineage of Abraham.

In my own trek, I am not living in a tent, but a nice rented home. Every night I thank God for putting a roof over mine and my son’s head. For paying the electric bill. For paying the internet, because my son needs it for college. For buying the groceries. For heat. For plumbing. For air conditioning. For cleanliness. For good landlords who treat us with respect.

Oh, there is a paradigm shift happening. From a home of 20+ plus years where the comforts of home were simply taken for granted, to a very real awareness of what a good thing hot water is.This type of consciousness is necessary if I am to discover my new home. I must first start to think of home differently.

Abraham followed God to unknown places, but in reading his story again, I do not see Abraham (or Sarah for that matter) all that focused on, where’s home? They seem more intent on where is the Savior (who would come through their child)? It makes me wonder if my focus is in the right place. Is it a home I am searching for, or a Savior?

I Was Lazarus Tonight (and for once I had nothing to say)

Tonight I went to a Bible Study where I played Lazarus. It is a Bible Study that bases it premise on the fact that 95% of communication is non-verbal, and is played out through the roles, positions and places we all assume within the circles that form our daily lives. Of course, playing a dead guy was an easy role. I got to lie on a pillow on the floor with my eyes closed, while those who played Mary and Martha or Thomas had to act out their parts.

Only acting is not the right word. This isn’t acting but literally stepping into someone else’s life and attempting to feel what they may have felt. It is a flannel board with real people. Everyone is participating in telling the story that is read out of Scripture. It is quite interesting, and I found that for the first time, I had no questions.

What I mean is, I always have questions. I’ll explain.

Lazarus has always appealed to me because well, what was it like to be dead? He is the only person who ever lived who could answer that question because this guy was dead-as-a-doornail type of dead. This was dead for four days dead. This was buried and in the tomb dead. None of this near-death experience. The man was D.E.A.D. dead. Then he was completely alive. So, yeah. I have got some questions for this guy. So, I figured, when it came my time to “talk” for Lazarus, I’d have a lot to say.

I did not.

What I came away with was pretty simple. Jesus is life. Remember Ponce de Leon looking for the fountain of youth (and we think we’re stuck on youth)? Well, it is sort of like that. Everyone is always looking for life, real life, real I FEEL ALIVE life. I think Lazarus felt more alive than he’d ever felt after they unraveled the grave clothes off him. I think food tasted awesome. Sleep must have been so sweet. Grass was way greener. The sky bluer. Life got very big and very real and he stopped being a robot while living it because he was DEAD, and now he was ALIVE. I mean, geez louise, that is big stuff.

I’ve heard it said that it is easier for God to raise the physically dead than the spiritually dead because of our pride, our sin and our desire to be God ourselves. We’d rather raise ourselves, thank you. But Lazarus could not will himself out of that tomb. He could not unwrap the grave clothes. He couldn’t wash the stink of four days of dead off himself. He could only lay there in death and wait. Wait for the words, “Lazarus, come out of the tomb,” spoken by Jesus. Jesus speaks life because he is the source of all life. He created it, gives it, takes it away, gives it back.

I am often asked why Jesus the only “Way”. Why can’t there be lots of ways? Because there is only one source of life, and it is him. Who else calls dead people out of tombs? Who else, after three days in a tomb himself, unwraps his own grave clothes, and walks out of his own tomb?  Once dead now totally alive. And, he needed no one to stand outside his tomb and command him to walk out. Why? Because he is life and he laid his life down for us. Then when the time came, he picked it back up again. Because he is God. Because he is life.

Going Minimal, Ready for Wherever God Sends Me (I think, I hope)

I decided on the minimalist approach to my blog design, because that is my life now. Minimal. I’m in transition, and so I travel light.

After spending 20+ years building a life for a family, which meant buying furniture, Christmas decorations (and Thanksgiving, Easter, July 4th decorations…) and outdoor furniture and grills for family cookouts, and suitcases for family vacations, and on and on, I now hear God saying to my spirit, “Keep it light.”

Moving from South Turkey Creek, where I lived over 20 years, was an eye-opener. Not a new one, really. I’ve often wondered if we Americans have too much stuff, but to be the living example of it while emptying out my things from South Turkey Creek was sobering. Why on earth did I have all of that? Was it really necessary? Who knows? I probably thought it would make our home more home and our family more family.

Now, the things in my home would fit into one moving truck, and not the 18 wheeler kind. It is rather refreshing, and I contemplate if I will keep it this way or eventually replace what was left behind with more of the same. Again, who knows?

I don’t hear God suggesting it. In fact, he seems to be saying just the opposite. While others are asking me when I plan to start dating again (as if all I have to do is to accomplish that is stick my head out the door and holler for a man), if I’ve decided where I am going to live (as in permanently), and will I always manage a flower market (after all, it is a blue collar job), I feel God saying I want you ready. Ready for what? I don’t know. But now, I am in a position to go wherever He needs me too, without hindrance of man, house or job. It is pretty exciting.

I’ve always wanted to be used by God for something BIG. I’m probably not even supposed to write that as the Christian motto is often about finding contentment in the least of circumstances. But, there it is. I don’t mean Beth Moore kind of big. I mean small actions that lead to big reactions. I mean everyday things that impact eternity. Like telling someone Jesus loves them and for the first time they believe it. Or quite literally giving someone a cup of water who is thirsty.

I am still looking for a home, but I am beginning to understand that my new home may not look a thing like the last with its cherry paneling, big stone walls and cathedral ceilings. Perhaps it will be a hut in a remote place, or a palace on a cliff, or a brick rancher on a street corner. Wherever it is, I am ready.

When Are you Going to Follow Jesus and Get Your Life Straightened Out?

Before I fell headlong for Jesus and became a Christian, I was not a calm woman. I did a bunch of ridiculous (and dangerous) stuff. I also had completely stupid ideas about life, which I won’t bore you with.

During this darling phase of my life there was one particular woman who drove me bonkers. Every time she saw me (a lot) she asked, “When are you going to start following Jesus and get your life straightened out?” She was relentless, and because she was my mom’s friend, I couldn’t find it in myself to tell her to bug off. I may have been an immoral hellion, but I was still a Southern girl with Southern manners. And by the way, her question is a particularly Baptist (and Southern) one.

Christians are always harping on you to get your life straightened out and of course, they have the answer for how to do that (and no, I don’t mean Jesus). Stop doing this. Stop doing that. Stop. Stop. Stop. Law. Law. Law. They care more about propriety than they do Jesus most of the time. She wanted me to get my life straightened out foremost and first of all.  There were several people rooting for that change of direction, including myself.

Its like my anxiety attacks. I’m told, “Well, just stop them. Just stay calm.”  Loved ones assume I have some measure of control and if I wanted to I could just quit the panic attack mid-stream. Like here I am refusing to stop a panic attack because feeling like I’ve got the stomach flu while having a heart attack is so much fun. Who would want to stop that?

Turns out I am quite literal. So, one day I piped up and said, “Which one of those do you want me to do? Follow Jesus or straighten out my life?”

I’ll give her props. She was dead honest. She said, “Well, I’m supposed to say follow Jesus, or both, or something like that, but really I’m just so sick of watching you make an idiot out of yourself that I want you to straighten out your life.”

Geez. And, I was worried about my Southern manners.

But then she dropped her guard and said, “But sweetie, if you never get yourself tidied up, you still need Jesus.” Truer words never spoken.

I am a bit tidier today–well, a lot actually–although I still have a lot of really insane ideas about life, but I did need Jesus. Not to straighten up my life, although he has helped me do that because I really couldn’t do it myself, but to be my friend, my confident, my comforter, my help and my Savior. Yes, my life needed all sorts of help, but my soul needed more. I needed someone to stand in my place before God and say, “She’s mine.”

Because ultimately her question was spot on. If I could not straighten out my life (and I could not) then how would I ever stand before a perfect, holy God? But, Jesus can. He can stand before God in all His perfection, and say, “She’s mine.” And that is good enough for God. So, by following Jesus I am given his righteousness. Which is Grace. Grace. Grace.

Why I Don’t Like Church But Go Anyway

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

I’m a Christian girl but I am taking a hiatus from church membership presently. When one is looking for a home the search invades all aspects of life including church. Or at least, it serves as a pretty good excuse for not going, and just hip-hopping from one church to the other, or doing the on-line internet thing, keeping one ear tuned to the sermon if it proves to be a good one. Like listening to the Christian radio station while driving. Not too terribly involved, but if something pops up, you listen.

Although, if I am honest, I was never much of a church girl. I am always a Jesus girl and I am not shy about it. I adore him. But church? Or Jesus’ Bride, as Scripture calls it? Well, I just never got into the groove of it. I find it boring. For several reasons.

1. I could never get anyone to simply ANSWER my questions. I now know that they likely didn’t know the answer, and that truly some of my questions were a bit on the bizarre side. (Did Jesus have any of Mary’s DNA? How did that work?)

2. I always found the songs a bit dull, and adding rock bands, worship leaders and disco lighting did not change my mind.

3. The sermons never spoke to anything I was dealing with (and it is all about me, right?).

4. They don’t let you raise your hand during a sermon to get clarification on a point, which literally puts me over the edge because my need to know is insanely obsessive  But, if they let me, they’d have to let everyone, and then we’d never get out of there, which is a common complaint anyway without the Q&A at the end.

5. Prepare to so roll your eyes at this one: I simply can never think of a thing to wear. In my defense, I spend Mon-Sat in Carharts covered in dirt, so it is hard to drag out something suitable and fashionable–something I won’t be tugging at during the service–and feel like I look good. I have spent the whole hour and a half completely self-conscious about my dress. I am the female version of Shallow Hal over here.

6. And, lastly the old favorite: church is full of hypocrites. Oh, don’t groan. It is. And, on my best days I am able to acknowledge that I am the worst of the lot. But, when I am feeling sorry for myself and don’t want to go, I can always throw that one around.

Still, with all that, I have spent most of my life going to church. And, all of my adult family life. I was very glad that my kids loved our family church. The fact that they loved it was enough of a reason for me to go every Sunday, but I also made good friends there, and found a niche teaching Bible Study (one sure fire way to answer those questions, study Scripture!). And, I do believe I will find another church, and get involved and do the church thing again, just not yet.

While figuring out where I want to live, work, spend the rest of my limited days on earth (you get past 50 and suddenly time gets very limited), or even where I have the option to do all that–there are some realities to be considered–I don’t feel the need to figure the whole church thing out just yet. Which is a bit refreshing and a bit of a relief. One thing at a time.

But, here’s my point. I do still go to church, maybe not the same one every Sunday or even the right one (gasp, been going to the very left wing Episcopal church lately), but I do show up in my unfashionable and uncomfortable dress, and I leave happy. I leave very happy because being in God’s house with God’s people whether I like the music, or the sermon, or the people, is refreshment to a world weary soul, and we are all world weary. It is exactly what is needed after a long week of work and another one ahead of me. It is God’s Word incarnate, present in that place despite the tedium and boredom and lack of snappy songs. Being in the presence of God isn’t limited to a church, of course, but it is a sure-fire way to ensure it.

When the people of God ask the Spirit of God to be among them, He is. And, that is invaluable. Boring sermons, lackluster songs and horribly out of style dresses not withstanding.