Thursday, December 31, 2009

Last post of 2009

Goodbye 2009.

Hello 2010.

No resolutions.

I went out with my friends last night. Christine, Doug, Rader, and I went out and had pizza then went back to Dougs place and watched Ernest commercials. Dougs grandfather died yesterday.

When it started getting late, Doug went to bed, Rader left and Christine and I drove back to ger place and played Mario on her wii for a few hours. Then we picked Rachel up and went to the Blue Chip Casino Las Vegas Lounge.  Wednesday is karaoke night. I had a blast, and I didn't even drink.  I usually dont drink.  I dont see the point. Most alcohol taste awful to me.

When we left it was snowing outside (still) and I started packing a snowball to throw at Christine and I claimed that I was a good girl.  Three guys were walking past and one of them says "yeah right, you know every girl says that is really a freak in bed." to which I replied, "yeah well, you'll never know."

After we dropped Rachel off at home we went back to Christines place, played mario a little more and went to sleep.

And here I am. Life is grand. I get to hang out with Ruth and Christine tomorrow night and I'm super excited about that. I haven't seen Ruth in forever.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas, Church, and a lonely old man...

You know how I relieve awkward situations?  I state the obvious and draw attention to it.  It actually relieves the tension. There's no point in living with an elephant in the room. You can't confront a problem if you don't face it. Conflict avoidance is a terrible way to work things out.  It's too bad that most of the time my initial desire is to ignore the tension and pretend it doesn't exist. 

That was just on my mind, now for the real post... the cliche Christmas post that everyone is posting around these times.

Christmas was good. I made it home before noon on Christmas Eve, finished my Christmas shopping, and went to the Christmas party at my cousins house. Then Christmas day my family got up, had breakfast, and opened gifts.  Every year I find myself unhappy at that point. My family gets me great gifts, like this year, I got a GPS thing, two new tires for my car, pajamas, and a few other small things. See, really good gifts. But like so many others before me, I sit here and think about what the point of it is.

My parents feels bad when they can't shower us with 15 gifts on Christmas (so they feel bad every Christmas). I find each year that i don't really want anything else. Most of the time I feel like I have everything I am ever going to need.

What I really wanted on Christmas was to see the people I haven't seen in the past five months. I know that they were all busy celebrating with their families, so they couldn't see me... and that's when I started thinking about all this.

Christmas isn't about gifts and parties or even people really.  It's a celebration of the incarnation of our Lord and King, Jesus Christ. Of His birth... In that we celebrate with family and friends, and serve people around us... or we claim that we do it in the Spirit of His name. Do we really though? We includes me. 

I know that I have made a few posts that question and rag on Church and Spiritual matters, but please don't think I am angry or even dis-illusioned with the Church. I have frustration that I experience because of what I see, but I love the Church.

On another note...
A few days ago, my new tour partner, Katey, and I were in South Dakota at a Dairy Queen when we met this older man who gave us Christmas cards. He wanted someone to talk to, so we talked with him for a little while, and learned about him.  I never found out his name, but his birthday was around Dec. 15 and he spent it alone.  He also spent Thanksgiving alone, and he might have spent Christmas alone.  I don't know if he did. I hope not.  He told us that he would spend Christmas alone if his brother and sister in law couldn't come get him.

I felt really bad for him because its awful to feel lonely, to feel like you don't matter to anyone.  What was really sad to me is that this man was not sitting and sulking about his problems and saying "woe is me", nor was he asking for money or food or donations. He was out there at Dairy Queen making an effort, trying to talk to people and handing out Christmas cards.  People simply weren't responding to him. Maybe it was because he was Native American, or perhaps because he was visibly blind in one eye. He might have looked scary to people.  But my heart cried for him because he was lonely.  I ended up giving him a postcard with my address on it so he could write to me if he wanted. I hope he does.  I can't wait to write back to him.

I started thinking about ministry and how a lot of ministry is focused around the poor, needy, hungry... and providing for their physical needs. Give them food, give them lodging, give them money, give them clothes, get them a job, teach them to fish... how many of these people only wanted to feel that they were loved and cared for and not just a charity case for some Christian who hasn't given their tithe yet?  How many of them are lonely and want sometone to sit with them for a while?

Sometimes it's so much easier to just give people things and not try to connect with them on a personal level, but human kind as a whole is deeply and instinctually relational. We need interaction and we need to know that we are more than a number, statistic, or charity case.  My prayer goes out to this man, and to all the lonely people. May you find that you are love.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Church is a Whore

I've been thinking a lot about my experiences in regards to church this semester and what I wrote in my last  entry about visiting churches being only comparable to visiting a prostitute.  It dawned on my that there are several times in Scripture, particularly the Old Testament where the nation of Israel was called a prostitute chasing after her lovers and turning her back on God.
I read through some of those scriptures and I just felt like that was "church", a prostitute, turning her back on God, chasing after her lovers, and failing to point people to God.

As I've travelled and visited many churches I have felt very much like an outsider.  Too many times I was able to slip in unnoticed and leave the same way. I suspect part of the that was my tour partners desire, but it always bothered me. I can only think of two churches during the time that I didn't feel like I was getting a "quickie." One was in the state of Washington and the other was in Wyoming. Don't misunderstand me though, there were a few churches where the message challenged and inspired me.

However, I've also found that it was true that a lot of churches failed to point me to God, or they preached things that I believe are contradictory to Scripture.

The "Health and Wealth" gospel seems to be pretty big in California. If you want to refute that one just read the book of Job.  Jesus also warns those who choose to give their lives to Him in the gospels that in this world there will be troubles and that no servant is greater than his master. If Jesus suffered, we will too. I do believe that God does want to bless us and give us health and riches, but I also believe there is an enemy who uses those things to turn us away from God.

It also seems like money is a huge deal to a lot of churches. I think more than anything, this bother me the most.  Why should it bother me that a church has a Star Bucks in it?  Well, I have yet to see a church with a starbucks, but I do see a lot of churches where they have coffee bars and set ups just like a star bucks and they charge for it. But not only do you get a coffee bar that you have to pay for the items you buy, you are not allowed to take anything into the sanctuary with you.

I walked into a church where my tour partner was told she couldn't bring her coffee in (a coffee that had a lid and was sealed), and I just wanted to say with sarcasm dripping from me: "Gee it's good to know that you are more concerned about the welfare of your carpets than about ministering to people".  While it may be a generally good thing to want to take care of the things God has blessed you with, why does it matter if someone spills coffee and you have a stain on your once pristine and shining carpet or on your new pews?  Who are you trying to impress??? People with money? Where does your heart belong church?

Its odd to me because the church I belong to at home has a coffee bar and it's free (and you can take it into the sanctuary!).  It's contents are provided through donations and volunteers who keep everything filled up. It's the body taking care of the body. But it's also more than that, it's the church saying to the community that we welcome them and love them and want to point them to the Father.

I know that churches are not perfect, nor are the people in them, but some of the things I;ve been seeing just seem ridiculous to me.

Get it together Churches!  Turn your hearts back to God! And for those churches whose hearts belong to God, keep going and dont lose heart!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

It's been an interesting experience, being on the road in the Northwest for the past four months.  My tour ended in November, just before Thanksgiving so I've spent the past few weeks at the home base working on the Local/Northern California tour. I've had the opportunity to work with a few new people, and it's been a lot of fun, but also very challenging. My most recent partner and I have a very different worldview and I find myself holding back from speaking often in order to prevent arguments, especially when it comes to issues of money, hardships, and mercy. I am so ready to go home for break.

As I have been working with different people, I've noticed one thing that they have in common. The idea of sharing what you have and do seems foreign to them.  I never ask for anything from them, I just offer what I have and expect nothing back. Or sometimes I will simply do things for them, like washing their dishes when I wash mine. I explained once that it was for the sake of the Kingdom of God that I consider nothing to be my own.  But I've made people upset. I don't understand why.

Anyway, on Saturday I am flying to South Dakota to finish the week with my partner for next semester. Then home on the 24th.  I am very ready to be home. I miss home.  The closer it gets the more empty being here feels.

Although I know that working for Camfel is ministry. It is ministry to my partner(s), to the schools, to the students, to the hotels, restaurants, stores, people I meet in everyday is living ministry, and I love that... but right now, I really miss being at home. I miss Project Valpo's and Youth Ministry, and children ministry, and Bridge Builders, and Sunday morning worship, and I miss it so incredibly much that being here right now feels empty. I think what I miss is being involved in church more than once a week and more than just for hearing a message.

I feel like that is what church has been these past few months... all about hearing a message and going on my way. I don't like it. I would compare it to visiting a prostitute, it's a meaningless fling that makes me feel good for a while, but in the end doesn't really do anything for me.  I want something more intimate. Church isn't about hearing a message. It's not a quicky. Church is a family of believers who care about eachother and are involved in the different growth processes of people in the church and throughout the community... and so much more. I miss that.