Friday, June 11, 2010

One grumpy lady's experience with VBS

Our daughter attended Vacation Bible School at my sister's church this week.  It was a camping theme and she had a great time.  She played with friends, decorated a canvas backpack (apparently it's a "Bible bag"), received some McDonald's coupons,  learned some songs and dances. She liked the songs so much that she convinced me to give her $5 to buy the CD-Rom with the songs and bonus computer games on it. It all made me very sad, I was on the verge of crying when I went inside to pick her up on the last night. That's a weird emotion to have when a Christian mom goes to a Christian Church to pick her happy daughter up from a week of Christian activities.  So why was I sad?

She didn't learn any Christian lessons.

I know that they taught Christian lessons. Each daily note they sent home had the verse that they studied on it.  But when I asked my 8-year-old daughter what she learned, she could only answer "songs. And dances." She also related that they got to climb up a library bookshelf, and when they reached the top, they yelled "Jesus is alive!"

I probed further: "but what was the story they told?"

Silence. And a sheepish grin.

After a minute of pondering, she remembered that they acted out a play that "explained the symbols in the Izod." I giggled and said "you mean icthus?" "Yeah! that's what I meant!"

I explained to her that I'm not a big fan of that sort of VBS because, while it was very fun and fancy, Jesus wasn't a fan of fancy things. He believed that we should be humble and good and generous.  There are so very many really compelling stories in the Bible. Those stories, and Jesus himself, don't need marketing teams and glossy pictures and overhead screens and giant speakers and cotton candy and goldfish in  a kiddie pool.

My favorite part of this whole exchange? She totally understood me, and my disdain for the fancy. She's a terrific kid. I told her that I should be doing a better job of teaching the bible's stories, and she said that it sounds like a decent idea.  (Our church does Godly Play on Sundays and she's learned a lot, but there's a huge amount of ground to cover-- no danger of running out of lessons.)

We've committed to go to VBS at two more churches in town this summer. Here begins my new mantra: There are worse things they could be doing.  There are worse things they could be doing. There are worse things...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

But I don't wanna!

A couple of weeks ago, there was something that I didn't want to do. I knew in my head and my heart that I should, that it was the right thing to do, but I just didn't feel like committing the time or the energy to it. At this moment, I don't even recall specifically what it was. But the feeling of a whiny "I can't do that because of ___ and ___ and ___" is very clear. The resulting feeling was weird, as I'm usually pretty sure of my good-person-ness. I couldn't justify myself. Rationalization of my actions was impossible. God/Universe/Spirit/Conscience had told me what to do, and I was willfully ignoring it.

Yelling "I don't wanna" was keeping me from living the good life.*

My kids stomp their feet and whine when they don't want to empty the dishwasher or put away their clothes, or brush their teeth. We expect it from children. We have fancypants experts to tell us that they are "exploring their boundaries" and "learning their place in the world." But what about us grown ups? We don't stomp our feet and cry very often. Willfully not doing the right thing because it isn't the convenient thing to do is really the same action, isn't it? What's our excuse? Our boundaries are explored. Our place in this world is set. But still we rebel against doing the right thing all the time. Right action is hard. It very often isn't comfortable, and it usually isn't profitable.

Doing the right thing, feeling the right feeling, thinking the right thoughts, are not easy. Justifying non-action by writing a check instead is easy. Turning down an opportunity for mission, citing other (more fun) commitments, is easy. Getting all self-righteous about how politicians are screwing up the world is incredibly easy. Ignoring the whole kit and kaboodle by watching a movie is also very easy.

God tells us what to do, and we stomp our feet, screw up our faces and yell, "I'm not going to do it! I'm not going to throw away my comfort, my comfy couch, my free time, all that I've worked so hard for! You can't make me!" I suppose there are some people who are satisfied there. They do that, go on about their lives and do just fine for their years on this earth. But something has happened to me, and I don't think I can do it anymore. I don't know how I'm going to do it, it's going to be a difficult process, balancing the needs/wants of my family with the needs of Spirit. But it needs to be done.

I picked up a book at the library the other day** and in the introduction was this:
Prayer is not so much about convincing God to do what we want God to do as it is about convincing ourselves to do what God wants us to do.
I guess I'd better pray on it, eh?

*Good life = right-lived life, not the cocktails-on-the-veranda type of "good life", although that is much more enjoyable.
** Becoming the Answer to our Prayers by Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. I'm only a chapter in, but it looks to be a real barn-burner.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Jesus and me.

I'm not in any doubt that there is a God of some sort keeping the Earth turning on its axis (also keeping the galaxies from bumping into each other, etc). I know that we can find strength and guidance and comfort by tapping into that force/power/God. I know that following the life of Jesus is a better way for us to live than pining for  wealth, power, beauty or fame. But I don't believe much the rest of what they teach at church. I'm not much for believing the water into wine and virgin births and resurrections. And God isn't a bearded king-type fellow running all our lives like a marionette's manipulator. I'm generally comfortable with my concept of the Divine and how it relates to life.

But here's the rub: I go to church. A lot. I sing in the choir. I serve as a deacon. I'm on the board. I take our kids to Sunday School so they can learn Bible stories. Several times a week I am assaulted by the glaring differences between what I know to be Truth and what others know to be Truth. Even in my very liberal denomination, I choke on words in the program nearly every week, not wanting to say things I don't believe. After all, no one wants to be a liar in church? That's tantamount to perjury, right?

But what's a girl to do? I love the community in my church. I think I'm an asset to the soprano section (the lyrics of most choral music make me cringe. yikes!). I'd miss it terribly if I didn't go. My family would miss our friends, too. So I put up with the gut-wrenching knowledge that I'm the almost the only one* in the room who fails to qualify as a Christian ("Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and do you accept him as your personal Savior?"). It's a painfully lonely place for me, there in that big beautiful room of believers. 

I am a little jealous of those who have all-powerful faith in a personal God who directs their lives through Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I am not saying their lives are easier, of course, just that the whys and hows are not still questions at the end of the day. Those people get to sit down and just say "it's God's will" and be satisfied. They get to pull God's grace over them like thick woolen blanket and feel loved and cozy.

It's hard out here for an Agnostic. At least I think it is. I don't exactly qualify as one of those, either.

*I say "almost" because there's woman who has begun coming weekly with her husband, and I'm pretty sure she's even less Christian than I am. She's just a good wife who supports her husband.