Tag Archives: Religion and Spirituality

Apology from a Recovering Evangelical

waitress “Can I get you anything?” she says with a pleasant smile, warm, but professional.

“I’ve got something for you!” you say, with all the giddy certainty of an As-Seen-On-TV salesman. “GOD has given me a picture of you, and I see… I see…” – pause for dramatic effect – “…YOU standing in a high place. You’re… looking out… over the world, or maybe your own life. This is important. This is a message. What does it mean to you?”

“Um…” Wrinkling her brow. Shifting from one foot to another. The smile firmly fixed in place now.

“Maybe you need to change your viewpoint, so you can see more clearly.” All eyes are on her now, searching, intense, as if, by simply looking, you might unmask her very soul.

“O…Kay…” She’s freaking out now, but far too polite, too Canadian to break. “Refill?”

You sat in the booth behind us at White Spot. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but at least two of you have loud preachy voices and I heard some familiar churchy buzz words sprinkled liberally throughout the discussion. I cringed a little at the tone of your conversation, but I understood…

I came from that world. Although many of my beliefs have evolved, I still visit from time to time. I used to work for one of the most aggressive evangelical organizations in the world. Once upon a time, I was you.

When the pretty server came to your table, you took her hostage. Not with guns or threats, but with words. Loud, preachy, bizarre words. Especially coming from such a large group of young people. You “prophesied” over her. You “spoke God’s encouragement into her life” while she tried to politely back away. You asked intrusive personal questions. You tag-teamed her. It went on and on.

It wasn’t pleasant, seeing it from the outside. I searched my memory for hints that I had ever acted like this. Thankfully, what I came up with wasn’t nearly so obnoxious or odd. But still… embarrassing.

Didn’t you see? The tense smiles, the nervous laughter, the stiff body language… not just hers, but everyone around you. Didn’t you notice? That you were preventing her from doing her job. That there were tables of people waiting impatiently for her attention. That her manager was shooting angry looks her way. Didn’t you care? That she was incredibly uncomfortable. That everyone nearby was also. That the family behind you was falling apart, both littles crying as we waited an extra 20 minutes for both the bill and the ice cream they were promised.

Granted, my personal irritation plays a big part here. With our nice family outing descending into chaos, as Dad hauls one out to the van and I encourage the other to stop crying and hold it, just a few more minutes, until I can pay (she didn’t by the way, but I can’t blame her for this potty training fail). I’d take it on the chin if I knew you’d actually done some good in the world. But all you did was offend and alienate a stranger, and cause a crowd of people to shake their heads and turn up their noses in disgust at “those ridiculous Christians.” You made us all look bad.

The uncharitable part of me assumes that you’re enamoured with the sound of your own voice; that you’re showing off, intentionally or unconsciously. If I give you the benefit of the doubt, then you really did want to encourage her. I remember my own burning desire to truly please God and help others, channelled into the same pushy ethos; strong enough, even, to override polite Canadian reserve.

Whether it was pseudo-spiritual posturing or legitimate reaching out, you didn’t love your neighbour well. As you walked out the restaurant with us, I saw you congratulate each other, certain that you had forced some sort of revelation on that poor girl. I could have shaken you, every one of you.

That’s not what it’s about. You need to REPRESENT. Not just me, though I follow the same God in my own way. Not just your particular brand of Jesus. But the Man himself. The man who said the highest commandment, next to loving God, was to love others.

Love. No agenda. No disrespect. No selfishness.

I hope, at least, that you left a hell of a tip.

So here’s me, a recovering evangelical. I’m sorry for all the ways we make people uncomfortable. I’m sorry if I’ve ever done that to you. We mean well, we really do. Please forgive us.

This is my contribution to the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge: Dialogue

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We Don’t Need Words

worship

He turns his face toward the sun, relishing the heat. He dances in the rain with squeals of excitement. He lays facedown on the rocks, feeling the texture beneath his cheeks. He savours life. He doesn’t need words.

She belts out her very own version of the song. She sings a loud monotone, “YAAAAAAAAAH YAAAAAAYAAAAAYAAAAH!” She shimmies and boogies and wiggles her bum. She makes a joyful noise in church. She doesn’t need words.

She zooms in on details I walk by without thought. She fills up the memory card with hundreds of pictures. She notices the delicate curve of an icicle and the ray of sun on a spider web. She sees art and beauty through her lens. She doesn’t need words.

She feels the melody in her bones. She lets it flow out of her in extensions and jumps and studied movements with french names. She puts music into action. She captures emotions and meaning and spirit through dance. She doesn’t need words.

He chews on complex ideas for years. He contemplates and reads and researches and contemplates some more. He explores theological movements and concepts and arguments in his own mind. He focuses his intellect on understanding. He doesn’t need words.

I watch each of them and am amazed. I roll words and phrases and snippets of insight around in my head. I pull them out and arrange them carefully until something coherent emerges. I tell the stories. And I see You in them. And in me.

I don’t need words to worship, but it doesn’t hurt.

So here’s my Five Minute Friday contribution – WORSHIP.

5minutefridayFeel free to join this “flash mob” writing group here:

http://www.incourage.me/2013/08/a-five-minute-friday-free-write-on-the-word-worship.html


Would You Like Cheese With That?

Yes. Yes I would.

cheeseI’ve always been cheesy kind of gal. And I’m not just talking about hamburgers and pizza.

I savour the warm, gooey embrace of a predictable chick flick, a sappy romance novel and an estrogen-fueled women’s gathering. I’m a fan of baby showers, wedding parties and craft circles. My favourite, however, is a time-honoured church tradition: The Ladies Retreat. With youth group and summer camp in my rear view mirror, this is where I go for a regular dose of silly fun.

A lot has been written online about this phenomenon, and women’s ministry in general, over the past few years. One of the bloggers I love most wrote a piece this past weekend, while I just HAPPENED to be at our church’s bi-annual Ladies Retreat. Her account was funny, honest and mostly positive, in a surprised and begrudging way. Many I’ve read are not nearly so gracious.

I get it. I do. They’ve had bad experiences. I have too. There are judgmental cows. There are sugary sweet phonies. There are women who live to make everyone miserable in the name of God.

As someone who used to organize these events, I have heard every complaint in the book. It’s impossible to please everyone… The die-hard athletes and the girlie crafters. The all-night-gigglers and the crack-of-dawn-whistlers. The girls-who-just-wanna-have-fun and the women-with-deep-thoughts-to-share. The single-and-loving-it-professionals and the babies-are-my-life-wives. Then there’s the food and the location, the uncomfortable beds and finding a speaker who is just the right mix of fun and profound.

There’s a lot that can go wrong. It’s not for everyone. My husband would rather cut off his own thumbs than attend a men’s retreat. It ranks right up there with third degree burns and eating peanut butter for him. Knowing him as I do, this is the right call. Ladies Retreat might not be for you.

But it is for me.

Every time I read the mocking posts or hear the complaints I shrink a little inside. Suddenly I’m back in Jr High and the cool kids are snickering at me. They’re too grown up to play. I wonder if it is childish and wrong.

I wonder if I am.

I’m that dork in the front row, with tears streaming down my face as the speaker shares an emotional anecdote. I’m the belly laugh during the “share an embarrassing story” activity. I’m front of the line for silly games. I’m the introvert who is comforted by schedules and ice-breaker games and name tags. I’m the lady rushing around doing Very Important Work, so I don’t have to mingle so much, but still be part of the group all the same. I’m the one taking a nap and solitary walks during free time, because this is such a luxury. I hear God in the nature and the songs and the words of the women around me.

It’s not perfect and I barely sleep and I always have a few awkward, this-isn’t-working-for-me moments. But I push through, because there’s more good stuff than bad.

I LOVE Ladies Retreat!

So to all those people rolling their eyes and folding their arms: We get it. You’re too cynical and insecure cool for this stuff. That’s your perogative.

With a critical streak a mile wide myself, not to mention a cynical husband, it’s something I understand. There may even be some truth in it. You don’t have to come to the parade, but please, try not to rain on the rest of us.

When I look at the women I admire most, they aren’t the ones on the sidelines. Last weekend I sat beside 80-something year old Gladys. She was gearing up for the Sun Run race the next day. “I take a lot of rests, mind you, dear.” She wore a grass skirt to the tropical dinner and was front and centre, neon pool noodle in hand, for the ball relay. She knows how to laugh at herself and she’s game for anything. I want to be like her when I grow up.

I’m not in Jr. High anymore. I’m learning to embrace my enthusiastically dorky side. It’s not for everyone. But I’m glad I’m me.

I’ll take EXTRA cheese, please!

So here’s me, after a totally awesome Ladies Retreat. Carolyn Arends (one of my FAVOURITE authors) was our funny and insightful speaker – and she remembered me!!! – but I was totally cool about it (sort of). It feeds my soul – the beautiful decorations, the goofy games, the Indian Head Massage (developing a slight girl-crush on Lisa), the worship time, the hanging out with friends, the path by a waterfall, and most of all, no one needing anything from me for a day and a half!

NOTE: My friend Jessica attended this retreat with me. It’s not really her thing, but she’s a good sport like that. She has plenty of good reasons to stay on the sidelines, but she doesn’t, and I respect that a lot. Her post Be Kind to the Cynics is the slap upside the head I needed, a reminder to be more patient and understanding. It had me doing some soul searching today. Not always comfortable and rarely fun, but definitely good for the soul.

I thought about ignoring it. I thought about deleting this post or parts of it. I thought about rewriting. I  thought about chocolate (cause that always helps). In the end, I decided to add this link and hope you will read it too!

cynics


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