Sunday, August 26, 2012

Running My Own Unique Race-Part 4

I didn't know this was going to be a special week.  I didn't know this was going to be a turning point in the last five months of my life.  I hesitate to tell you all the things that happened this week because it may sound like bragging.  This week was so full of confirmation, not a typical week but a week that represents the last 14 or so years of living on the West Side.  I give God all the glory for what happened and how he has used me during this time.

1.  The week started with a word of encouragement from Jackie during a small group meeting.  She asked about Arts Camp and I told her about a mom and her son who are coming over soon to do mosaics.  She thought it was great that I was being open to God.

2.  That comment so lifted me up that a day or two later when I was walking to get some free bread from TOW, instead of just saying "hi" to two neighbors I had never spoken to, I asked them if they wanted some bread, too.  They said yes and I was able to tell them I had heard about the free bread on Facebook via S.W.A.N.  A networking moment.

3.  While at TOW I told Cecibel I was taking extra bread for neighbors.  In our conversation she reminded me how we met (at the library) and how I ended up at her house (passing out tomatoes given to me by close friends who farm).  She was very kind in her remembrances.

4.  While walking home from work I ignored while texting a person who I thought was trying to panhandle me.  Actually I said no without hardly looking up.  Turns out he was blind and wanting directions.  So I walked him home and we had the most wonderful talk.  More in person if you are curious. 

5.  Because I had to detour off of Gold I wound up on the corner of National and Fulton.  Who should be there but Pat and Kelly.   She and Pat and I made a plan to get together for mosaics and lunch.

6. Kelly went on and on about a Y membership I was able to acquire for her for free.

7.  I met Sandra (the noisiest of the noisy neighbors I complain about) at the library.  I was able to give her some great service and now she is waving to me when I go to and fro. 

8.  Finished up a flyer for a Create Night.  

9.  Found out a friend was depressed and offered to come over and walk her dog with her. 

10.  Went over to visit a friend who has macular degeneration. 

11.  While helping a person on a computer at work I realized I knew her from about a decade ago. She remembered me and said I helped her after her first hand surgery.

12.  Shout out on a video from an atheist friend about being winsome (my word) in talking with her.

All these things felt like a message from God.  It's OK that I don't walk the streets getting to know my neighbors.  It is OK that I don't want to go to Family Feast or Picnics in the park.  I am being used.  All I need to do is be me and don't worry about how I'm feeling about what I'm not doing.  These things count as love even if I don't feel loving or want to do what others feel called to do.

It goes back to what Jackie said she and Luke have been talking about.  Do we need to look for people to "neighbor" or be open to what the Spirit is doing in our lives?  I think God gave me the answer for me in this wonderful week of events.  

I've been thinking about writing a vision and mission statement for over a decade and I was easily able to pen them after reflecting on this week.  Another gift from God.

Vision Statement:
Help People Become Whole

Mission Statement:
I will fulfill this vision by keeping the eyes of my eyes open to what God is placing before me, by stepping into the lives of people as guided by the Holy Spirit, and by welcoming others to share in my life. 

The Last Five Months-Part 3

During Lent I was reading Mindful Jewish Living Compassionate Life.  I was loving it and getting so much out of it.  In fact, until this past week that was the last time I actually felt "good".  Ok, minus going on the cruise with my brother which was GREAT!!!!

In early April I was at work reading some business book where the author was talking about "privilege".  It so jumped out at me that the word "white" wasn't in front of it I posted on Facebook how stunned I was and how sick I am about all the white privilege talk.  A flurry of comments happened some coming against me and then others going against them.  It faded off the radar pretty quickly, until a few weeks later someone posted an article or two supporting the concept of white privilege.  An old friend posted counter arguments and the volley lasted quite a long time.  A friend of a friend posted on my wall what I considered a diatribe against what she thought I was saying.  One friend who I look up to even posted that she thought Facebook was for sharing pictures.  Truly I felt slapped.  Especially when all I was saying was I am sick of hearing about white privilege.  I do not think speaking of the advantages white people have had in terms of "privilege" advances the conversation.  Words are significant.  Why can't we speak in a way that doesn't put people on the defensive.  That is all.  I know I haven't had to jump through certain hoops black people have.  I know that.  And I am committed to not being the kind of person that creates those kinds of obstacles.  So get off of me.  I do want to give a shout out to a friend who did engage me in some private Facebook messaging, along with my atheist friend who wanted to hear my point of view even though she disagrees.  Thank you.

So I have tried very hard to move on from this.  At the same time being chastised publicly by my mother about not attending her sisters funeral, being told by her that I am not compassionate, having to deal with my feelings about my daughter and the direction I see her kids heading, being told by another family member that their marital status is none of my business, watching my sister try to stay afloat in a sea of unhealthy people, seeing my other sisters physical health rapidly deteriorating and not being able to do anything about it from 1000+ miles away and of course all those wonderings going on that I mentioned at the end of my last post.

Living on the West Side of Grand Rapids and Servants Church-Part 2

We arrive on the West Side of Grand Rapids to Servants Community Church via The Other Way's Helen TerMaat.  We settle in our current location because the house was beautiful and we couldn't afford to move closer to the zoo.  In our thoughts we felt we could be used here.  After all, we had pasts that were similar in some ways to our neighbors.  We wouldn't be judgmental or critical because we had been there.  And now we were changed by Jesus so we had something to offer.  New Life.  Or so we thought.

I'm sure others will disagree about our perceptions (because remember the first paragraph of my last blog-people's ideas and realities are byproducts of their background, reading, churching, etc.) but we were flabbergasted at the lack of emphasis on repentance.  How can we offer New Life when people sinning obviously were at the church and no one cared.  Don and I were saved out of some very sinful behaviors and there was no way people could be in good standing with God and doing what we came out of.  

There was a big emphasis on love and reaching out to our neighbors but over the years we realized that we were critical even though we thought we wouldn't be.  Almost a quarter century had passed since we had been converted so we really could not relate to our neighbors.  Don could more than I could because he was raised in a poor area but I was raised around money - though my family was on the poor side of the affluent tracks.  

I spend much of the next decade feeling unloving.  I was asked twice what I was even doing in this neighborhood.  My church's primary non-Sunday ministry is a meal to our neighbors that I have absolutely no interest in going to yet I want to support the church's mission.  I step away from my schizophrenic brother at this time, increasing my feelings of being unloving.  I bristle during prayer requests at church for loved ones in jail "unjustly".  I am frustrated by people who have a problem with the system taking away their kids when most of the time I am thinking they should have never even had them and if I were Queen of the Mountain they wouldn't have.  All these and many many other thoughts can make one feel like a pretty lousy Christian specimen.

As I look back over this past decade I do see that I have become more caring.  I don't bristle much any more.  I am more accepting of people.  I have developed my listening skills and my open-mindedness to unorthodoxy has helped me be open to  liberal thinking.  I'm actually in the middle now and hope to be here forever.  So I have done some changing over the years.  But I still don't want to go to the mid-week meals and I really can't wrap my mind around saying and maybe even believing that all ways of behaving in life are equal and that it isn't our job to better people.  I still have a hard time knowing that my liberal friends have not moved closer to my points of view, yet I have changed toward so many of  their positions.

In spite of the fact that we cannot teach or be elders at our church because of our unorthodox beliefs, God has used us and continues to use us in significant ways on the West Side.  It has been a painful journey of learning with great joy mingled in.   Right now we are in a wondering stage.  Should we take our long held beliefs about the Body of Christ into a home church environment where the litmus test for leadership is not orthodoxy?  Or should we continue at Servants where we seem to be on the cusp of stepping into a new emphasis that we have 30 years experience in?

As per the last blog, this is the condensed version from my perspective.

My Race Begins-Part 1

The way we walk out our Christian walk has everything to do with our backgrounds, what we've read, who we've churched with, our perceptions of what God wants us to do, and probably a handful of other things.

I was raised Roman Catholic, but my protestant Grandmother and Aunt instilled in me a questioning spirit toward what I was being taught.  I think that was terrific as it caused me not to swallow everything that I was fed.

I accepted Christ at  age 17 and my life changed in a few ways but not really in a significant way for about a half dozen more years.  By then I had been exposed to the T.U.L.I.P.  and pretty much became a card carrying Calvinist.

At this time I met and married Don, another member of the Calvinist party.  Yes, we were serious members.  I was excited about my faith and tried to convert many people.  I had the truth and I wanted others to have it, too.  I was not shy about it.  I'm sure I turned a lot of people off.  I read my Bible, prayed, went to church and did the basic Christian things.  And I was a Christian.  During the raising children years I was a Dobsonite and Oprahite, devouring their opinions and insights.  I was also doing a lot of my own reading,  in the same vein of thought with some mystics thrown in.

Our parenting was very conservative as were our politics.  We home schooled many years.  But our spirituality was far from the norm.  We read people who opposed the traditional way of doing church, opposed the holidays and even opposed Christian Orthodoxy.  We were open to this because of our Catholic background.  If we had been fed a lot of crap when we were kids, fed Arminianism as baby believers,  we were not about to let that happen as we matured in the faith.  We wanted the Truth, we prayed for the Truth, we pursued Truth.  When you do that you end up with a hodgepodge of beliefs.  

So we have this unusual Christianity within a conservative political mindset.  I have just described to you my life ages 8 to 44, obviously the Cliff Note version.  Hopefully I have provided enough background for, as Paul Harvey used to say,  "the rest of the story".