Lookin’ For Love – How The Church Will Survive Lame-brained politics, part 1

beliefs do not make you a better personWestern Christian churches in general have become too political. That is a good place to start. Some of them (not naming names or denominations here) have turned the sacred table of welcome into their own bully pulpit. They speak things to their congregants that go against all the positive teachings of any legitimate sacred text. And the sad part is that these fools tend to speak the loudest, and get the most attention in the media.

 

If you’re a real Christian, it’s embarrassing.

People who are not religious – and some who are flamingly not religious – point to these vapid talking heads and say “See! There! I told you!” about how a (Christian) spiritual belief is some sort of fantastic illusion, filled with fairy tales and hate and us vs. them. I will not argue the point: if spiritual folks don’t believe like I do then hooray for them. I will still stand for the things I believe in, and continue to act (I hope) as a nice person expressing love toward others. I do this in my own practice as my example – and my expectation – of a heavenly kingdom all around us.

And here I stop going into theological detail; this is not a debate.

What about the painful and embarrassing political stuff that gives “good, decent, church-going people” a bad rap? What to do? The answer is very simple:

The church will go on.

It might not look what “the church” that we visualize now. Christian community began in the catacombs and meeting in secret in folks’ houses. It’s had to go underground to exist in spite of ponderous political regimes. It’s been changed around and burnt out and bombed, and yet it somehow continues.

The same now.

The Church, as serious practicing folks of Western Christian religion know it, will outlive the sputum of hatred coming from some – but not all – pulpits today. Hate can only take you so far: like a fire, once the hatred eliminates everything that’s around it, there’s simply nothing left to hate, and the fire burns itself out.

Love goes on forever because it is a giving-out, and not a taking-away.

Side note: I’m not a huge fan of the Southern Baptists because of some of their beliefs particularly around not being a fully-welcoming church who will take in any soul off the street, allow them in, and feed them the refreshment of scripture.

(My apologies here to the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists who are the bright-shining exception.)

My mother sent me this video as an example of how good a group of people can be without preaching and proselytizing. A story of about how a group of so-called Christians can stand-up, show-up, and show their beliefs at work in the help of others. The “ministry” here is in the doing, and not in the preaching and arguing.

The North Carolina Baptist Men – wheels on the ground:

This is the face of a faith that will long outlast the political bullies.
On the other side of the country, in the Episcopal diocese of Los Angeles a volunteer group across many churches in the area use this easy to formulate project that is not based on going out and “saving the heathen.” Instead it is a means to get up, show up, and display their beliefs (and faith) through action. Laundry Love happens in many locations around the country, organized by many different groups. You won’t see any preaching or converting. You will see “what needs to get done here and now?” action.

Showing some Love in Huntington Beach, CA

These two examples are what the real Christians out there want to see: our faith (and personal beliefs) in action in our communities, all for the benefit of others. Any group that wishes to use the term Christian can not put down down and ridicule and exclude, while at the same time feel as if they are “building up the kingdom of Heaven.” 

They’re tearing it down.

The real Christians simply love. There’s many different flavors and variations of that, but the point of it all is to pay forward that greatest of all love to others.

Keep the faith!
– Amen

 

God’s Clothesline – a caregiver’s prayer

Yesterday was a pretty rough day for me. As I was dressing to head out for a meeting with my personal confessor, I got a text from a dear friend that started out

No candy coating…

…and went on to explain some tough news that was not candy coated, that was gloves-off, here’s the facts as we know right now.

Some days and with some friends and caregivers we need that: don’t hemm and haww around the thing, just say it: get it out in the air so that we can start working on whatever it is we need to do to move to the next step in our adventure of life.

My friend is a medical person and I know all the $5 Doctor words from my own experience, so we were able to spend a half hour or so in Grown Up Mode (urgh!) doing a brain dump of facts and ideas.

And me asking questions.

I prefaced my hard medical questions by saying, I’m just throwing out some factual stuff here, I’m not trying some sort of Make A Deal With God plea. I also apologized for being so religious in my first reaction. It’s my job. And I know it so well even through the adventures of Chemo Brain that it’s my go-to.

Being a grown up takes a lot of energy, so I’m glad that my friend and I don’t have to do that for very long, and we can segue from there to a lighter, less dictionary-like conversation. From there, I begged off and rushed over to Chapel Hill to the church and my previously-scheduled meeting. We spent two lovely and inspiring hours together just talking – a lot of catching up, and a lot of talk about meditation, prayer, and grace. And it was a conversation that I needed to have in the middle of that day.

While I was (barely) driving home in the pm rush around the two cities, a single line of a prayer started noddling around in my head. I kept repeating the thought so I’d not forget it by the time I got home, and there, I parked the car, pulled up a notepad, and finished composing the prayer.

It was such a beautiful sunny day, and we have a family of bunnies in our yard this year (who knew! in the middle of our urban sort of city we are a haven for cottontail rabbits!) So the end of the prayer came out much more pleasant than the beginning.

It reads a bit like some of the low-key psalms, about what it feels like to be a care giver at the end of a long day. It asks The Maker to “make us right again” for the next day, in the way that only the creator of our universe can. This prayer is for those days you are just tired, spiritually exhausted, and feel totally wrung out, yet you know that tomorrow, you’ll get up and do it all again.

Keep the faith!

 

 

—– God’s Clothesline – A Prayer —–

Lord,

Today I’m just a wrung-out rag.
Dunked in the dirty water, squeezed out
and left in a lump
to get dry and hard,
molded in the shape in which I was dropped.

Lord,

You control
the clouds and the air,
the seas and the land,
the darkness and the light.

Pick me up from my dirty, soggy lump,
lay me out flat across your great clothesline,
send the sunshine and the breeze
so that I’m cleaned white as snow
in your gentle, sunny day.

Clean me and make me fresh so that I may be used again,
always for Your Name’s sake.

 – Amen