Monday, January 30, 2012

Finding a Home

I was brave today. I have put off finding a church home in College Station because it is so hard to go to church by myself. I have attended lots of church services with others, but not for me alone. But God was finally able to get me to hear Him—to hear Him say that it was not about me, it was about Him, and that I needed to continue His mission for me…to find a place to worship locally with other believers.

I have struggled to find my place in “the church.” I was raised “Protestant” which gives you great roots but no congregational home, as you move from post to post and are taught by pastors and chaplains of many different ilks. I grew to love Army chaplains, as their agenda is pretty pure—they just want you to know Jesus. But as the Army moved us about, we attended church less and less as a family. It was up to us to get ourselves to church, if at all, when we were teenagers. I chose the church I wanted to be married in because it was pretty, not because it was my spiritual home.

Once I was away from a military post, I couldn’t tell you if I was Baptist, Lutheran, or “nondenominational” but all of a sudden it seemed to matter. In civilian communities we had to “shop” for a church…sometimes Baptist felt right, other times Methodist, and yes, even Catholic. I could never get Bo to go to church with me. I took the kids to church by myself, and it was no small feat to get 5 children out the door on time in “church” clothes. I can’t tell you how many spankings or “disciplinary sessions” I had with my children before we entered the pews or the Sunday School classroom. Sometimes Sundays were the days I least resembled the woman God wanted me to be.

I have been baptized three times in my life—once as a little girl in the Lutheran church, once as a young mother in the Baptist church, and once as a widow in the Catholic church. Beneath each of my baptisms is my own yearning, I think, to know God and to learn to love Him wholly and purely. I know I am Saved by Grace through Faith, and that is the bottom line. I don’t struggle with my faith, but I have struggled with the church.

Church can be a painful place. I weep easily there. God gets to me. He convicts me, kind of fillets me, and He searches me for my sin. Realizing how I’ve failed Him brings tears, repentance, and I am grateful for it. Church is my hallelujah place; I can sing and not be heard by anyone but Him. I can lift my hands, break open my heart, bend my knee, bow my head. It’s not hard once I’m there—the hard part is walking in the door alone. Churches haven’t always known what to do with single moms. You don’t get invitations to join couples for dinner; you get relegated to the seniors group or the singles group, and I never really felt like I fit either of those categories. Sometimes jealousy rears its head the most on Sunday mornings; you are envious of women who have what you don’t—a spiritual partner.

But I guess what God is showing me today is that very little of that stuff actually matters any more. In fact, denomination doesn’t matter much either. It’s time for me to find a group of believers to join for worship. All that matters is my willingness to listen to Him and to follow Him, wherever He leads, and to recognize that I am not alone. He is my Father and Husband; He will lead me beside the still waters, renew my life, anoint my head with oil. He wants to see me dwelling in His house with others, and I need to be obedient and faithful instead of reticent and scared.

I was talking this over with Christi this afternoon, and she gave me such a sweet blessing. She told me perhaps I was meant to be a Titus mom within the church. The congregation I met this morning was full of college students. I think I was one of less than a handful of folks with gray hair. But I loved her idea…that God might use me to encourage, with integrity and dignity, so that these young believers might be reminded that He has good works for all of us to do, so we are fruitful at any age or stage of our lives. That’s grace, and that sounds good to me.

Friday, January 6, 2012

There's A War Going On...

I listened to the President last night as he outlined all of the plans he has in store for the military- reducing our armed forces to a minimum because the world is now such a peaceful place. All of the campaign rhetoric contains little reference to the thousands of soldiers who still have boots on the ground in Afghanistan as well as areas of conflict around the globe. My flag is still posted, my yellow ribbons are still wrapped around the tree. Our soldiers have not come home.

I've been working on a new book, so I'm paying a lot of attention to the news coming out of Afghanistan, and much of the news is not good. At this very moment, more than a hundred thousand soldiers are scouring the mountains and villages of this war-torn country on the other side of our planet, trying to do two things--rout out the enemy and convince peaceful people that the road to a modified democracy in their homeland is indeed possible. However, the media has withdrawn nearly 100%, from both Iraq as well as Afghanistan. Nearly 2,000 American lives have been lost in Afghanistan--this represents a huge segment of our population that has been directly affected by the deaths of their loved ones--and yet our media is treating the war in Afghanistan as a done deal. These statistics don't begin to reflect the numbers of civilians who've perished over the last 10 years...though they are not Americans, the human death toll is huge and we should care about those statistics. If it's your child, your father, your uncle, who's gone from this world, it doesn't matter whether you're on the side of the west or the east, military or civilian. You have lost someone you've loved. No human life is more or less valuable than the next. No ethnicity or nationality is more or less valuable than the next. No infant deserves a world where his life is devalued based on the spiritual or physical geography of his birth.

The Persian poet Rumi, who grew up in Afghanistan/Tajikistan in the 8th/9th Century AD, said something that is important to me today:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I'll meet you there.

We have a place to meet, that is neither right nor wrong because such absolutes are based upon our personal theology. But beyond our knowing, we can meet in that field, and together we can dwell.

Rumi went on to say, "A thousand half-loves must be forsaken to take one whole heart home." From an ancient mystic whose homeland is the same as the precipice upon which an American soldier stands guard today, I would say let us not forget the whole heart of this warrior, who answered the call to battle to preserve peace for the innocent. I would say the whole heart of our nation rests in the calling he has to preserve a homeland, eventually our own.