Tag Archives: church

safe spaces

(I don’t usually write so personally in this blog, by that I mean I don’t start out to share my heart, what I am feeling. I have a venue for that kind of journaling stuff. But, I’m going to break with that tradition and do otherwise. Maybe it is time I showed a little more of myself.)

I have read some great posts and had some very insulating interaction in the last few days.

 

Things (holy) are swirling all inside of me. I feel the need to work through them here, to unload them and unwrap some of them, if I might.

I just learned that most of my family is going to sight the guns. Gun season (this is Alabama) starts next weekend, their trip gives me a few precious hours before Edge tonight, sweet uninterrupted hours. So I ‘m taking time to ask “What’s at the center of all this swirling mass?”

As I stepped out of the bathroom, to the laundry room, too much information? safe spaces popped into my head.

Now that is a kettle of fish….Remember, Jesus said the Kingdom nets up all kinds. I haven’t always dwelled in the safest of spaces, Kingdom wise. But then again, I’ve known some incredibly safe spaces, too.

Right now, there are  few hidey holes in my life. There are so few spaces to let my breath and real words out fully, truthfully. There are so few spaces that it is okay to ask questions, good ones, truth seeking, God seeking questions. It scares me a little, okay a lot, my not having those spaces. I can crack up, I’ve done it before.

Not that there aren’t safe spaces for me. There are, if I am willing to drive a few 5 or 10 hours, there are some safe couches and guest rooms where I and the real me are always welcome to drop by and stay long as I will. But that is pretty hard to pull off now a days, with this job and family and all.

Don’t get me wrong, there are enough pockets of such oxygen for me here, enough to survive, but honestly, not to flourish. My closest, as in I can be honest and real and scared –  friends are few and younger than I, numerically. Too many of them are boys/men, so little to no emotional help for me there. I KNOW not to go anywhere near there. And the safest places that I know are full of 16 -17 year olds, incredible, so far ahead of my sixteen year old self kids, but kids nonetheless. So not a real safe space for me…them, yes, but not really for me.

Oh, I did the women’s ministry thing for a while. The things I want/need to talk about don’t   interest or freak the heck out of even the most mature of these women. Trust me I’ve tried with all manner of strategies. Cutting edge theological ramblings and geopolitical shifts, culture war and post modern context and focus are not big topics in suburban Alabama.         (They were normal in my neck of the woods, back in Athens.) I need/want people to talk to who give a rip about some of the things I care passionately about as well. I want, am I a so very  unsatisfied child? I sound so. I want people who will read things with me and talk to me about what they read. I want challenge and a place to say, “I don’t get this” or  “Why?” And I want relationships who will answer when appropriate, “Honey, I don’t know either.”

And I miss couch time, to talk or listen or just be – together with a friend(s), laughing or its close cousin, crying. I so miss a space to cry with somebody, who won’t get bent out of shape or who won’t try to pray my grappling, struggling away…but who will just be there with me in it.

Oh,  I still cry, often… over all kinds of things: the good, the bad and oh so ugly. But, it’s been so long since I have been in a space safe enough- to just cry about what and for however long necessary with somebody who gets me.

I know what a luxury I am describing. I know it is not my right or reward. I know what I seek costs and how costly all that is. I know.

But every year, though I keep it secret as my wish, it’s all I want, all I ever really ask for.

When I was twenty, I was the richest person on the planet.

This sounds pretty needy. I pride myself on not ever appearing so, though I am as needy as the next person.

Something has stirred this up. It’s finding people in Blogland who care about the things I do, who are asking similar questions, coming to similar conclusions and who sometimes just feel the need to share with somebody who cares enough to read, what is going on inside of them.

That’s why I love Blogland. It has become in a way, a safe space for me.

Sometimes it even is like being twenty again.


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my next life

Everything that I am reading, coming across online, and sensing is that God is preparing me for my next life…

Not my life eternal in heaven ( whatever that may be), but what all these years have been preparing me to do. Sometimes, I have flashes. Sometimes, my safe suburban world is more than I can stand. Sometimes, my soul craves more…more satisfaction, more danger, more importance, more relationship, more risk, more shared suffering, more LIFE.

Sometimes, I cannot pacify it with necessities and normality.

That gives me hope, hope that life is not over for me.

I have fewer years to rear my children than I have fingers, only 6 until my baby graduates from high school.  I have no real attachments: no land, no beloved homestead, no business, no parent as yet unable to care for themselves.

I am 44. My grandmother whose body, build and health I share was 101 when she died. I may well have another life before me.

People say, “Life starts at 50.”

50: it is the year of  jubilee.

So let it be.

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Creed

I read an article today about the necessity of creed in the spiritual formation of young people. The host of the blog in which the article was relayed did not believe that youth were truly capable of digesting creed. I tend to disagree. Creed for me, growing up Methodist, was the first thing I really got, in my gut, got. Creed is not specific doctrine derived from specific views and orientations of scriptural thought, but generalities of beliefs which bring both unity to the Church and help dot a line of community about us.

Creed is uniquely beautiful, as much poetry as prose. It is stark and yet subtle. It is clear, but it leaves room for many opinions and impressions of just Who God might be. I miss creed spoken together, affirmed aloud amongst the brethren.

KOREAN CREED

Minister:

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is the one true Church, apostolic and universal, whose holy faith let us now declare:

Minister and People:

We believe in the one God, maker and ruler of all things, Father of all men, the source of all goodness and beauty, all truth and love.

We believe in Jesus Christ, God manifest in the flesh, our teacher, example, and Redeemer, the Savior of the world.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, God present with us for guidance, for comfort, and for strength.

We believe in the forgiveness of sins, in the life of love and prayer, and in grace equal to every need.

We believe in the Word of God contained in the Old and New Testaments as the sufficient rule both of faith and of practice.

We believe in the Church as the fellowship for worship and for service of all who are united to the living Lord.

We believe in the kingdom of God as the divine rule in human society, and in the brotherhood of man under the fatherhood of God.

We believe in the final triumph of righteousness, and in the life everlasting.

Amen.

Amen, indeed.

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a tent

We were talking about tents last night at the pre-mission trip meeting. Seems we are to be sleeping in one in the jungle – yes, that is jungle not some Alabama pine thicket. I am trying not to think about what else might be sharing our little corner of the planet. So, I guess tents have been on the mind a bit.

Now, I do like to camp, in decent weather mind you, it’s just that I have never camped in decent weather. It is always cold, cold and often blowing a little rain when I have paid my fare for a turn in the old tent. It will likely be 100+ degrees at night in good Ol’ Costa Rica, and 110 % humidity as well. So yeah, I’ve been day dreaming about the tent.

Well, tonight during worship, which was very incredible, during probably my favorite song lyrically, “With Everything,” I saw this tent. I had been asking God for a framework, a “What is this trip about?” paradigm. I saw a tent on the ground, not yet put together. It was a covering. It covered the earth.

“Okay, God? A tent on the ground. What good is that?”

“They are the tent poles.”

“What?”

“The young people you are taking, they are the tent poles. You are to help them see that on this trip. Tent poles make a covering a dwelling, where I come in and abide. They are not living to get people covered, checked off as under my covering, “okay,” if you will. Where they will stake their lives, I will dwell.”

I sense these works of Life. Works, life works where Life flows, dwells in and amongst. And I see these young people, representatives of the many I am blessed to walk alongside, living lives of good work with Christ.

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We are getting it.

What I write about I don’t lose. I wish there were a way to encapsulate the weekend, to describe the atmosphere that we shared. It so seemed like we were in a pocket of God’s discernible presence the whole time. It didn’t matter what we were doing: whether we were awash in worship, hiking hillsides, feasting on favorite fare, diving down to murky depths, resting, talking, really talking to one another, playing and squealing in delight, or just being near.

We came into something, the thing that makes it all, all, worthwhile. We’ve come upon it. We can be -ourselves- our real selves – with one another. Everyone kept saying Friday night how good it was to be there, together. We aren’t afraid of tears anymore, we let them flow. We aren’t afraid to talk; we talk from our hearts. We aren’t afraid to love each other, to let each other know so. We are becoming unafraid. Love, the love of God that drives out all fear, is driving it from us.

I was sitting on the floor at Jerm’s watching for a moment. We had come back together from all over the property and were piled around the living room. And I saw it. The blessing, what Pastor Jay talked about the next morning, was flowing between us. Yes, the night before (Friday) the presence of God was enveloping… there was this safety, this sense of security that strengthened and steadied everyone. Everyone seemed so secure that they could be real (whatever that needed to be moment to moment)  with others around. Saturday, when we were singing, standing near and singing together around the piano, something began to shift in us, it wasn’t each of us there to worship, there was an “us” established. And it followed us to the park and up the hillsides on our fruitless quests, that were really about something more than any log book. We didn’t get aggravated, even under the physical and mental stress.  We made it fun, we enjoyed each other, now so much more aware of just who we travelled beside.

I think it is sinking into the kids, especially the Edgers, how very blessed we are to be in this, together.

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Young Harris UMC

Now a days we build churches that are functional and sleek and have good traffic flow. Back when I was little that was not so true. Our church sanctuary was the typical white box with the high steeple.  The “Sunday School Building,” however, was a converted ante-bellum mansion with a modern classroom wing that ran across to the sanctuary. The children’s classes were held in the old building. My kindergarten class was in this huge room that once served as a ballroom. The room had twenty-foot ceilings, beautiful trim work and  fourteen foot many paned windows. Standing in the sill, my head barely reached the second set of panes…there were probably six sets. It was a surreal feeling standing in those windows looking out on another world…the property of the church was basically a city block which had once been the domain of the home. Huge oak trees were spread across the green grassed square, fingers barely touching. Squirrels ran between them along the trees’ long arms. The front porch of the house was wide and breezy, the rails filigreed ironwork. The front door was massive and oak. I can so vividly remember the feel of the big brass handle in my little hand. The glorious inner stairway came to an end right at the doorway of my kindergarten classroom. It was a long twisted number that I must have slid down hundreds of times, regardless of the little old ladies’ warnings about falling and dresses. I never fell. Can’t be so sure about the immodesty. The majority of the church members were definitely Blue-Hairs. About the only middle-aged folks at Young Harris were the sons or daughters of the old members. We didn’t have many youth, but those who came were faithful and faithfully shepherded by a family with a heart for young people. We, the children, fared better. We were doted on and spoiled by most all of the old people. There were always surprises pulled from purses and sticks of chewing gum that appeared from the coat pockets of the old men. The church calendar was nothing like my church’s today. There was the Fall Bazaar and the Christmas Social and the Spring BBQ and a series of senior citizen trips that carted away most of the membership. Most events centered on food more than spiritual formation, but the fare that they brought was always homemade and always their very best recipe and as such made every gathering a spiritual one. When Laura and I grew older my family changed its membership to the local suburban Methodist church. It had a well-organized youth program for its many young people. There were lots of good things about changing to Tuckston UMC. My mind and spirit flourished in the new environ, but my heart never cleaved from Young Harris. Of course, I married at Young Harris. It was perfect for weddings, the gorgeous grounds, the staircases and windows and beautiful porch. They didn’t have many weddings with their demographics and all so the ladies went all out. There were beautiful homegrown arranged flowers in every room of the great house and of course in the sanctuary compliments of Nana’s Sunday School friends.

When Nana died we sent her off from Young Harris. It was spring. I dressed my girls in bright green and white dotted dresses. We took pictures in the great windows and took a turn down “Nana’s banister.” Finally released, Trent, tied and smartly shod, rambled all over the houses’  tree  guarded domain with the five girl cousins tumbling behind. When we had finished hugging necks and hearing sweet tales about Sara, my Nana, we gathered the great-grandchildren at the large cast iron bell now anchored  in the churchyard. The bell once hung in the steeple; now new electric chimes graced that space. The bell had been spotted by the great grands on visits before. When Nana died and we told them we were going to Nana’s church for the funeral, their first question was,”Can we ring the bell?”  Young Harris didn’t ring out the age of a member at her passing anymore as a matter of practice. But no one took issue with the great grandchildren’s request. They each held the pull and heaved…three long peals rang her home. I have been in Alabama nearly twenty years. When I die, I want to go home. I want my kids to take pictures of their children in the great windows, to let them romp about grass under the canopy of the majestic trees and ring that bell as long as they like.

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brotherly kindness…

I think my son and his friend  saw the power of brotherly kindness tonight: the power it has to protect and preserve their sisters in the Lord from settling for less.

We had this enlightening moment. Another Mama and I had been talking with them. My son is very blessed to have incredible young women in his life who tolerate his boyish annoyance and who love him back. He and Jesse had this conversation in my car coming home. “You know,” they began, “Our brotherly love kind of keeps the creeps from getting to them doesn’t it?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“It sort of fills in the places of doubt and the weak places for girls, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah, that’s exactly what the brotherly protection Pastor Jeremy was talking about does,” I explained.

“They know we love them too much to try to date them don’t they?”

“Yeah, they do. They know you would never want to mess up anything that God is going to do.”

“God is going to send them awesome husbands, isn’t He?”

“Yes, He is.”  Yes... I whispered under my breath again, very awesome men like you.

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