Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I thought about it so I wrote it

A friend just called, I won't say who cause it's their news not mine to share, but she called to tell me they just found out they're pregnant. She called because she's my friend, but also, she called because she knows we've been trying to get pregnant and she wanted me to hear it from her first.

For them it was a surprise. They already have children and weren't planning anymore anytime soon. I am thrilled for them, obviously, and I'm a little surprised that I'm not sad for me. Of course I would love to be pregnant with a friend, and we all know I have had many friends over the past year become pregnant and my wish has always been to share this experience with a friend, so this would have been great. But I'm happy and that's it. That's where the feelings stop. There isn't anything else there. No regret, no sadness, no frustration, no worry, no jealousy, no self pity. Just happy for them and content with me. I like this place I'm in.

(minus 10 and counting)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Thoughts from others
The culture that surrounds religion

I feel like Disneyfied Christianity is all about magic words and easy solutions to life. If you say this one prayer, you'll know eternal happiness. If you keep the main thing the main thing, you'll find the answer to your problem. If a magic prayer is the only thing you need to find eternal peace, why would anyone NOT say the magic word? - Meredith

I think, like in everything, there are exceptions but if you are asking for a generalization I'd say Christian Culture in America is more of an emotionally driven self help group than a following of Biblical truth. - Summer

What I think would be interesting to know is what percentage of Christians would look at your list and say, "Oh yeah, I was so there, but I'm not anymore." Then you look at their lives and think, "Oh yes you are." - Tucker

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The culture that surrounds religion
To clarify where I'm coming from

If you're reading on FB I'd love for you to take the single click to come over to the blog to finish reading the post and especially if you're interested in commenting so we can all be on the same page as it were. Click the 'view original post' link below. You don't have to sign up for anything, you can comment as an 'anonymous' poster, but please sign your name at the bottom so we can keep the discussion clear and know who's talking to who.

Who I am and where I came from. That's a tall order no matter who you are. But in the comment section of the last post a good point was brought up (thanks Katie). Are all these 'rumors' about big churches or the christian culture in America legit, or are they a bit heightened, or have they been fairytale-d? I know that from the outside looking in, a lot of things christians do seem strange to the non-christian. But in America we have quite the different take on what a christian looks like compared to the rest of the world (or biblical christianity or historical christianity for that matter). Those are the things I'd like to discuss.

The blogs I pointed to in the last post again, are helpful tools. But let's talk less about what everyone else has experienced and more about where I'm coming from, being the author and leading a discussion, I want to be up front about where I've been and where I'm headed. Do not think that everything in my, 'where I grew up' list is bad or wrong or even things I disagree with. I hope that will be established in future posts, as will my 'where I'm headed' list. This is simply, how I grew up and what I was immersed in. In a list, cause lists are the best. You can ask for clarification if necessary.

Where I grew up - off the top of my head
I've included examples when I felt it would help clarify.
(in no particular order, the numbers are just for keeping track or if you have questions).

1. In a christian home, prayer before meals and bedtime, bible stories, my brother and I raised to treat one another as a gift from God and the bible basics throughout our young lives.

2. attending Assembly of God, Foursquare, Calvary Chapel - evangelical, typically charismatic churches.

3. Speaking in tongues or a prayer language. The Wikipedia page defines it as:
Glossolalia or speaking in tongues is the vocalizing of fluent speech-like syllables, often as part of religious practice. Some consider these utterances to be meaningless, others consider them to be a holy language.

4. attending weekly youth group and girls bible studies, years of summer and winter camps, plus various 'youth conventions'

5. on a drama ministry team

6. prayer included - laying hands, speaking in tongues, a prayer chain, casting out demons, raising hands, emotional intercession, kneeling or laying on the ground

7. wore a bracelet with different colored beads each one represented a part of the salvation message to help with witnessing (before wwjd hit the market), and I wore a purity ring

9. at church included - everything from #6 the 'prayer list' and waving flags, emotional worship with hands raised, crying and laughing in the spirit, tent revivals, prophetic speakers

10. spent time as a missionary in Africa, Asia and Australia

11. was a Youth Leader/Camp counselor and led various youth bible studies and home groups

12. I sang on the worship team

13. listened entirely to christian music until I bought my own car at 16 and had a radio

14. didn't watch rated R movies. My first one (and only one for a long time) was Schindler's List.
I watched in when network television aired it un-cut in February of 1997. I had just turned 17 years old. (As I researched when this aired on NBC, I was seriously shocked when I typed the words, I had just turned 17, I could've sworn I was more like 14. Guess this proves my sheltered and naivety once and for all.)

15. The thief in the night movie series about the end times was influential to say the least.

16. I didn't swear, ever. Okay of course I did, but only in moments of passion, not in conversation. And still, I don't think I uttered the F word openly in public until after I turned 18, and it certainly didn't become a part of my vocabulary at all until after I got married at 20.

Side story: I was recently at a table read for a new script and I it was my job to read aloud the direction notes. I came across the line, 'it was f**king mesmerizing' and I read it aloud as, 'it was effing mesmerizing'. It got a laugh from the room. But that wasn't ten years ago, that was Tuesday, so this is me, now.

As you can see, most of my experience with this cultural christianity was as a youth (I moved away during my 21st year). But in churches today, the youth culture is what informs the eventual adult culture and often the pursuits of a church as a whole.

In this culture there is a high emphasis on looking, sounding, acting like a christian, and the minor emphasis, although it is present, is on 'getting right with god', having an 'active prayer life' and we are told to 'be authentic', but how are these things taught, what does that look like? It is often an outward expression without an inner foundation.

To sum up. For me christianity and the culture I was immersed in had a lot to do with the outward actions as proof of the inner religious piaty... Now my christianity is less about how I speak - christian-ese - or what I do - action based religiousness - and more about my inward pursuit of righteousness.

But that's just me. Any questions?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Part 2: The culture that surrounds religion
Defining Christian culture

Before I really begin I'd like to clarify what our friends said about our christianity (see previous post for context):

I'd say "more thought out"/"more rational", something like that maybe. I'm sure if I had a few drinks in me I could find something more eloquent. A. French

I'll begin this series with my definition of 'Christian culture' in America. Then I'd like to hear what people think and have some help defining this term before moving on. I hope everyone that ever reads my blog knows that I am a student at heart and hope to nudge others toward a spirit of learning with me. I look forward to an open dialog.

For a rundown that takes no effort from me, check out these two blogs (granted there is some cynicism involved in these blogs, but never the less, there are some good descriptions of how this culture is played out day to day)

Stuff Christians Like
Stuff Christian Culture Likes

A note to my readers. I am not judging the merit of the following things in your life specifically. If one of the things on the list below resonates with you and is a true expression of your belief then more power to you. I am simply stating the fads, the cultural representation of what it is to be a "christian" in America.

Christians in America have a way of defining themselves as Christians. It often doesn't have much to do with the pursuit of the existential, but more to do with proving, in an instant, they are followers of Christ, a bumper sticker, a <>< fish at the end of an email, a wwjd bracelet, a purity ring...These things are culturally important but hold no biblical significance, and yet these are the things that are supposed to define us?

The use of Christian-ese: The language christians use in conversations that identify their christianity with words leaving less need for actions
Examples: I'll be praying for you, Signing a letter In His Service or IHS or any other numerous spiritual salutations, calling the prayer chain, referring to a quiet time. It is a verbiage and a language all their own.

Dear readers, at this point I want to express how difficult this is. It's Very Difficult. The last thing I want to do with this series is come across as though I'm poking fun at these cultural behaviors. Rather I want to draw a contrast between what we as a nation think Christianity should look, sound, and act like, and what the bible actually says we should look, sound, and act like.

I want this series to be less about the action and more about the character of the inward pursuits and motivation behind these actions. Christians can be very sincere in these pursuits, and they can also be very insincere. Again, my point is not to judge any one individual, but the culture as a whole as compared to the cultural change that christianity has undergone.

I think it's time I open the concepts I've introduced for discussion. I'd also be interested to hear in a nutshell how you define American christianity. (I know I'm asking a lot, as you can see this was very difficult for me to do and I only brought up two such cultural aspects of American christianity, but we can all work on baby steps.)

So let's do this, I'm so ready for some additional insight.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Part 1: The culture that surrounds religion

Recently I've found it difficult to talk about my christianity. I feel like every time I express how it is different from the christianity I grew up with people just say, 'oh, totally, me to' without so much as another thought.

One friend - you know who you are - asked us if we would consider being her kids' godparents...this heavy question was followed with the statement (correct me if I'm wrong) that out of the chrisitian beliefs they were both brought up with, or the culture they were used to associating with christianity, ours didn't seem the same, for lack of a better description. And obviously, they liked that.

Andy's the one that has the knowledge, the schooling, the terms and the philosopher reading under his belt. Me? I study slowly, listen intently, ask questions, and sometimes I simply trust and do that thing that's so overused in the culture - have faith.

I leave this post as part 1. I am leaving to go to a home group of sorts to watch 'Lord save us from your followers' I assume these thoughts were running through my head today because of the inevitable conversations that will happen tonight after we watch this documentary...but either way I think when I do come back I'll have much more to say on the christian culture subject. So, stay tuned??

I have the need to read

I found some great books to read this summer, but I need more and a friend just put out the word on her blog for book suggestions and I figured, my readers are all smart individuals, I wonder what kind of awesome recommendations I'd get from them. There aren't any parameters, just give me a bit of a description or why you like it, etc so I have a little to go on. Trust me, I'm into a lot of different books. So.

Books for reading. Go.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Blatent Promotion

So it's been a little bit heavy, thick, drenched in existential realization on the blog recently and I thought it was time for a photo or two, cause everyone likes looking at pretty pictures right?

I recently became a photographer for an afternoon. Now I know all my real photographer friends may get offended by that statement, but I'm sorry, I love it. If I could, I might ask people to pay me to take their picture one day, but right now I have neither the time, nor the money to indulge in an expensive hobby. So anyways. I borrowed my friend's digital Canon slr and went to town in the basement of our favorite institution.

Here is a sneak preview of what I collaborated on with Science Heroes. To see more check out their blog, myspace, facebook, or better yet, the music section of a newspaper or magazine near you.


A cliche' can sometimes have merit

I've done a lot of reflecting lately, as if you couldn't tell. One of the things I've learned is that the cliche' really is true: honesty (really) is the best policy.

I'm not talking about the kind of honesty that happens when someone calls you out, or when you're caught in a lie. I'm not talking about the kind that is shocking or controversial cause you 'went there'. I'm talking about the kind that hurts. The kind that refines you. The kind that can begin with a confrontation.

But another thing I've realized, not everyone likes this kind of honesty.

Just a warning to people that know me. I'm not so timid anymore. If I am wronged, if I am hurt, if we're talking about it behind a closed door when we should be talking about it in the family room, I will say so. This is loving. This is honesty.

Why walk through life with a chain of hurt around your neck? Why carry frustration like a basin on your head?

Of course being confronted by someone is difficult, and being the one to confront is difficult too. But how often can a comment someone makes or a phrase someone types online be misconstrued, misunderstood? I'd wager somewhere in the 'a lot' range.

One reason I want to be someone that is truly honest is because I want those around me to be truly honest with me. If honesty is given out of love, to heal a broken relationship, to further a friendship, to encourage another person, to refine, then although it may be difficult, it is necessary.

Honesty isn't something to shy away from. True honesty is freeing, and better yet true honesty is an amazing way to refine our character.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

To be or not to be pregnant

Let's talk about something. Pregnancy

3 Things.

1. No we're not
2. Yes we'd like it if we were
3. Yes we'd be happy if we weren't

There have been a lot of years and a lot of changes in our marriage, nine of the former, hundreds of the latter. One of them has been the issue of whether or not to have a child.

Many things ruled the decision not to have children. If you know me or have read this blog for any number of months you know the biggest reason was the loss of our first child while we were pregnant eight years ago and the pain and fear that resulted in this loss.

That decision was then coupled with the fact that Andy was in school and our best friends were also married without children. (Two couple without children makes for many spontaneous moments).

Well. During the past three years all of these things have changed. The grieving and feelings of loss had turned to peace and the pain and fear was gone. Andy had graduated and we bought our first house and our best friend's marriage ended in a divorce.

Yes, everything had changed.

During this same time I felt a desire to be a mother. I knew I wouldn't be the same mother I would've been eight years ago, and it made me that much happier with the idea. I was happy in my marriage and loved my husband more than I ever had and I was happy thinking of loving him as he was a father to our child. Basically, nature was calling my name, and the name I heard was, mother.

I don't like people that do things half-ass, so obviously I don't want to do anything half-ass either. So, I dove in to research of natural family planning and fertility awareness, and I educated myself. I stopped taking the occasional drag off a cigarette, I decreased my consumption of caffeine and alcohol, I cared about what I was eating and took my vitamins....and I became obsessed with making a baby.

My frustration set in as that ONE day out of the month came and went. The egg dropped. The sperm swam and then 12 days later, the period began. Perfectly on time, like clockwork. Like no effort had been made at all. Month after month, after month. The sad part in all this was instead of my pursuit being love toward my husband, it was to make a baby, (like I said, I was obsessed after all).

When I realized that, something changed again. Me. My heart. My desires.

You see, for me it isn't about fulfilling some biblical commandment, it isn't about finding my self-worth in being a mother or raising an amazing person that will grow up to change the world.

If I have a child, I don't want their first 18 years of life to be lived under some umbrella of my purpose in life, or my desire to fulfill some missing piece of me. If I have a child it will be because someone wiser than me thinks it's what's best, just as he thought it was best that he take our first son before he took his first breath.

It's about trust. Trust in a creator that knows best. And knowing that whichever way it turns out I'll be happy and fulfilled - either way. For real.

p.s. Don't worry, if it happens I'll let you know.