disillusioned

Google Search: Hipster Church, Louisville, College Kids

I can’t pinpoint the day when church made me want to run screaming, but it did. For many years. There are reasons that I won’t elaborate on, but it has to do growing up in a performance-based church with a legalistic upbringing and little experience of God’s grace, as well as some deep church wounds that were difficult to heal.

And even though for a time I couldn’t walk into a church, or stand to listen to people talk ‘Christianese’ at me, or sometimes even listen to others pray,

I still longed for community, I longed to be a part of the body of Christ that loved one another.

I just didn’t see a lot of it. And I became very cynical, so that even the genuine and grace-filled people in my life became tainted in my mind with the pain from my church wounds. My faith, at least in terms of ‘organized religion’, had been deconstructed. I wanted no part of any of it. And I know that countless others feel that way, too. I hear others talk about it all the time. Believers are disillusioned, and non-believers feel that their judgements of believers are confirmed as they see some of them behave in ways that are anything but loving. (A post I wrote a year ago, “Why Church Breaks My Heart“, was my most popular blog post to date.)

But my heart still clung to Jesus, even though my face was turned from his people.

I was (and still am) so disgusted by the beliefs and actions of many who claim to love Jesus. But I slowly learned that the church is messy, and that it’s just not going to always be beautiful messy as I had hoped. Sometimes it is even ugly messy. And what was I going to do about that? Stay away forever, or jump in and get my hands dirty?

To be honest, I still don’t know that answer to that question. But my wounds are healing to the point that I can talk about my God once again. I can listen to people pray without cringing. I can listen to people talk about their faith without judging them and doubting their sincerity.

It was quite the ugly place to be.

I feel like I can once again have hope for God’s people, for his Church. I have found other people of faith who are open and exploring social justice issues and are trying to  truly discern what it means to Love One Another as opposed to just towing a certain political line. We don’t always agree, but we can agree to disagree and listen to each other. And once again I can believe that Love Wins.

We had found a church in Portland, Or that we thought would be our church home – they were involved in helping the homeless, improving race relations, serving refugees.

And then we moved from the Pacific NW to Louisville, Kentucky –

the middle of the Bible belt, the heart of Southern Baptists, which sometimes represents the very type of ‘Christian’ that I had been trying to distance myself from. How could we ever find a church home? Did we even want to? We weren’t even sure that we were going to stay in Louisville, so was it even worth trying to find a place?

I talked to people about their churches, at work and in my neighborhood. We live in Clifton, a close-knit neighborhood, and I really hoped to find a church close to home. Like within walking distance. We tried a few, but they didn’t seem like a good fit. I attended a book study with women from a local mega-church, which was okay for a small group, but I really wanted to steer away from the mega-church mentality. I started googling the terms that were important to me: missional, social justice, homeless ministry, addiction support. One thing I was also hoping for was a church that was integrated – not just a bunch of white people. This is a very diverse city, but the churches we had attended were not diverse.

It is fortunate that most churches now have their services online, so you can ‘try out’ a church by listening to their podcast before attending. That won’t tell you everything, but it’s a start. My husband and I really have a heart for college kids, and I liked the Portland church’s vibe, so I googled

“Hipster church, Louisville, college kids”

Yes, seriously.

I scrolled past the extra-large churches and came up with a couple of names. (Honestly, I’m not sure how I found the names, because if I google it again, I don’t come up with the same results). I listened to their sermons, and one of the pastors, Matt Ness, did not make me want to run screaming. So we decided to try that church.

The Avenue Church started about five years ago as a ministry to University of Louisville students. They hold services in space in the middle of an office building/small business center. We walked into the small room with less than 100 people, where we saw a stage with a background of pallets, blue lights, and a pole in the center of the room. I was intimidated at the small size of the group, and I might have left, but Craig said “Let’s stay”. During the welcome time (and can I just say – WHY do churches still do that? but I digress) the pastor introduced himself and told us a little about the church. They recently decided to merge with the church that meets in the same space directly after them – a church called The Soul Center. This church is predominantly black, and the two pastors and congregations had decided to combine the two and become an integrated faith community.

How cool is that?

The two churches are forming a new church together, which will be called One Church. And it is just in the beginning stages – the first official combined service was to be in a few weeks (which will be this coming Sunday, December 6). AND they are involved in helping the community. They support an organization called the Family Scholar House, which helps single parents attending college. The Family Scholar House states their mission is “to end the cycle of poverty and transform our community by empowering families and youth to succeed in education and achieve life-long self-sufficiency”. AND they are involved in an organization called Eyes That See, which works with women in Ethiopia who desire to leave the sex industry.

From what I’ve seen, there are a lot of college kids and families. Not a lot of us ‘mature’ couples (yikes) but maybe we can offer something to this newly formed church. For the first time in a long while, I am excited about attending a church, being part of a church body, and finding a church community.

I’ll keep you posted on how it goes . . .

 

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This ONE Thing is the Secret of Life

I love this scene from the 1991 film, City Slickers. Billy Crystal plays Mitch, a man whose marriage is stale and his job is unfulfilling – he’s in the middle of a midlife crisis – so he goes on a cattle drive with his also dissatisfied friends and his wife tells him to “Go find your smile”. As he is contemplating life, he gets advice from a crusty old cowboy named Curly, played by Jack Palance.

Curly: You know what the secret of life is?

Mitch: No, what?

Curly: (holds up his leather gloved hand and points his index finger) This.

Mitch: Your finger?

Curly: One thing, just one thing.

Mitch: That’s great, but what’s the one thing?

Curly: That’s what you’ve got to figure out.

 

What gives our lives meaning is a going to be different for each individual. Each one of us has a different dream, a unique calling, an individual passion and set of gifts. We have our own set of life experiences and circumstances that have shaped who we are and who we might become. We must figure out for ourselves what gives our life deeper meaning.

In his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning”, Viktor Frankl talks about the importance of finding the ‘why’ that gives our lives deeper meaning. His book recounts his experience during the WWII as a prisoner in a concentration camp. He states that as the men in the camp defined a deeper meaning for their lives, their suffering became purposeful. Those who had lost their faith in the future were doomed to mental and physical decay. He describes a difference in prisoners who felt that their life had some type of meaning, and a difference in their attitude and ultimately, their survival. As they looked at what life expected from them, rather than what they expected from life, their life took on a deeper meaning. For one man there was a child whom he deeply loved, and he knew would be waiting for him in another country. Another man was a scientist who had written works that could not be finished by anyone except him. Frankl explains

“We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We need to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—hourly and daily. Our answer must consist not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answers to its problems and to fulfill the task which it constantly sets for each individual.

These tasks, and therefore the meaning of life, differ from man to man, and from moment to moment. . .  No man and no destiny can be compared with any other may or any other destiny. (It) is unique and different for each individual.

A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the “why” for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any “how”. “

Figuring out the ‘why’ is another piece of the puzzle in finding your dream. But you must answer this for yourself. No one can tell you life’s meaning, or label you with a purpose or calling, or tell you what your dream is or should be. YOU are the one who must figure out THIS ONE THING, that which differs ‘from man to man, moment to moment’.

What is your ONE THING?

You can find 10 questions that might help by clicking here. If you haven’t read the rest of this series “Dare to Dream – Finding Your Dream (Again) a list of previous posts right here . And please follow this blog and our Facebook page so that you can get the rest of this #write31days series!

 

When You’re Sick of Yourself

Day 2:For the month of October, I’ve joined over 1600 other writers in a 31 Day writing challenge. You can read more about it and see the participating blogs at write31days.com  Here is the starting page for 31 Days of My Search for Balance: Body, Mind, and Soul. From there you can find all of my October posts.  

For many people, times of growth and change arise from a difficult circumstance – trauma, loss of a loved one, a broken relationship such as a divorce, or a failure such as loss of a job. These circumstances can stop us in our tracks.

Other times, it sneaks up on us. Slowly, over time, discontent creeps in. It can look many different ways.

looking out window

Your dream job has become a chore.

Your relationship, which you were sure would bring you joy, feels empty.

You finally reached your goal, only to find it is not as fulfilling as you had hoped.

People you loved and trusted have disappointed you.

Life isn’t what you had imagined it would be.

You are not living the story you thought you would.

So where do we go from here? We can focus on outside circumstances, we can focus on other people and how they have failed us, but then what? If you’re really honest, focusing on circumstances and other people are the easy road. We have no control, it’s not our fault, and we have no responsibility. We can remain victims. We can be mere survivors. 

How do we become warriors? What would it look like if we were brave? What if we were honest? What if we looked beyond other people and beyond outside circumstances, and looked within?

When you are finally sick of yourself – that is the starting point of change.

When you are just not comfortable in your skin any longer, when your tools for dealing with life seem dull and useless . . . then YOU ARE READY TO GROW AND CHANGE. You are ready to live a better story.

Everyone, if you’re honest, comes to this point in their life – often more than once, as we grow through different stages. If we didn’t ever feel like this, we would never be motivated to mature, to expand our hearts, to develop as a full human. Think about where you were five years ago, or ten, or twenty. Are you the same person you were then? Do you have the same behaviors? The same beliefs? The same approach to life? We are not built to stay the same. To stay the same would mean we are stale, stagnant. And who wants to be stale, stagnant,and boring?

Existential crisis serves a valuable purpose – to motivate us to move beyond victims or mere survivors, and become strong warriors.

So can we stop pretending that everything is great all of the time? Can we admit that we’re all in this together, and that sometimes it is hard to just be a human on this planet? Can we stop putting on the 24 hour smile, the isn’t-my-life-perfect Facebook posts? I’m not saying that we should all walk around in black and profess our every misery. And I’m not saying that everyone needs to hear every detail of our lives the first time we meet them (unless your heart whispers, “They need to hear this”.)

What I am proposing is that we learn to be strong, brave warriors, marching side by side. We fight alongside one another, we march in the trenches when we need to, we build shelter from the storm, and when one is weary, we carry their gear for a while. It might get dirty, and it’s always going to be messy (because HUMANS) but it will be our beautiful, holy, mess.

Jacopo Bassano - The Good Samaritan - Google Art Project

Jacopo Bassano – The Good Samaritan – Google Art Project

Who’s with me? Let’s live a better story together.

Love, KM

My Briar Patch of Cynicism

Photo credit: Creative Commons

Photo credit: Creative Commons

I can’t trace the exact path that led me into the briar patch, but I can certainly remember some of the stepping-stones. Weariness of a broken world, wounds inflicted by loved ones, and although my heart is always bent toward Jesus, I wanted  to distance myself from a group of people who had become more defined by hateful words than the acts of love and acceptance that should define the word “Christian”.

Photo cred: Ricardo Gutierrez

Photo cred: Ricardo Gutierrez

It was uncomfortable at first, trying to manuever my way through the thorny vines so as not to get stuck. The vines slowly became tangled branches and formed a dense thicket where I could hide. As the branches surrounded around me, I felt protected, safe from predators. And after a while, I began to see a

tragic beauty in my discontentment,

Photo credit: Luis Soares

Photo credit: Luis Soares

and although the dense vegetation blocked out the sun, it also provided shade. I found that it was easier to bed down and rest in the coolness than to try and claw my way out of the thicket. My hard began to harden without the warmth of the sun. My friends who tried to pull me out were sometimes injured by the barbs. Other friends were happy I was in the briar patch, because they were living there, too, and they were glad to have company. A few unfortunate friends were injured by just brushing by, as they got stung by the surrounding nettles – a sting that does not fade quickly. The briar patch became a lonely, cold, isolated place, and I longed for the sun on my face.

So now I am now trying to make my way out of the briar patch – 

I am lifting my head out of the shadows and into the sunlight. I am trying to blaze a trail out of the tangled vines, but the thorns are sharp, and I can assure you, I am not getting out unscathed.

image

 

One of the tools that is helping me to clear the path is an author named Sarah Bessey. She paints a beautiful word picture of playing the music of cynicism like practicing on a piano, and the struggle to learn a new song of  goodness and truth, gentleness and beauty, faithfulness and kindness.  She proclaims, “I won’t desecrate beauty with cynicism any more. I won’t confuse critical thinking with a critical spirit, and I will practice, painfully, over and over, patience and peace until my gentle answers turn away even my own wrath. We’ll practice the ways of Jesus over and over, until the scales fall from our eyes and our ears begin to hear.”  You can read her whole post here. (It is part of my new favorite book, Jesus Feminist, of which she is the author.)

photo credit: Michael Coghlan / Creative Commons

photo credit: Michael Coghlan / Creative Commons

So if you feel stuck in the briars of cynicism – if have been wounded, if you are disillusioned, if you have lost hope, you are not alone. But it’s time to break free – wash off your scrapes, bind your wounds, and cut yourself loose from the tangles. Step out of the dark thicket and into the sunshine. Share your story. Look for rays of hope – women who are telling their stories of love and change, people of faith who are working for social justice, wounded warriors who are ready to walk with you, and help you blaze a new trail.

It’s time, sisters and brothers, it’s time.