“I love Jesus but I don’t go to church”

%22I love Jesus, but I don't go to church%22

Dear Goin’-Solo Christian,

I’d like to tell you a story.

When my hubby and I were dating and I was doing the intense “get to know you questioning” phase – I asked him a zillion questions about his vacations, his friends, his hobbies, his pets etc… and also his schooling. I discovered that he had done a Masters at UC Berkeley – which was tremendously impressive to me – Berkeley was one of a handful of schools I had actually heard of in South Africa. As I quizzed him about Berkeley, I learned something interesting. I learned that you can finish up a Masters in Engineering at Berkeley in one of two ways. You have to take an exam to finish up – but you can either take a Masters exit exam, or you can do a PhD entrance exam, which not only finishes your masters but also gains you admission if you want to do a PhD later on.

You, friend, if you believe in Christ, have been “justified” by God – declared to be in the right with him. But I think that many of us have a view of justification that it is like an “exit” exam. It gets us out of the guilty seat in court, scot free. We have the idea that justification means we have a spiritual “white board” with all our sins written on it, and then in court Jesus wipes away all those sins and gives us a “get out of jail free” card. We think justification means that Jesus gave us a ticket out of the sin-exit exam.

But if you look at the way the Bible talks about justification – that’s not quite right. Justification is not just an exit exam. It’s not just picking up a get out of jail free card. If you’ll forgive the monopoly on these terms – it’s more like picking up a get out of jail free AND a “community card”. Because justification is more like a PhD ENTRANCE ticket- it gets you OUT of one program, and simultaneously admits you to another. Justification in Christ means that we are included in the blessed, forgiven people of God. Jesus gave us a ticket out of sin and into his community.  And of course your sins needed to be forgiven to get there…. but that was just a part of it.

If we are in Christ, justification means we are part of God’s covenant community. There is no “us and them“. We were saved together, we worship together, we mess up and forgive each other… together.

Friend… or should I say sibling, if you think you can do Christianity alone, you should go ahead and call it something else; because it is not Biblical Jesus following. He died and rose again for US. Not me on my own. for US – his PEOPLE. We are PLURAL. No going solo.

I know the church is full of frustrating, broken, hypocritical people. Jesus didn’t come to save great people or reliable people. He saved wretches, and so you are quite right when you observe that the church IS full of wretches. But he loves us none the less. So please, come back.

If you’re going to fly, don’t be Amelia Earhart. Come be a duck: let’s fly together. You belong with us.

This post is day 15 of 31 Days of Belonging. WHEW! Almost half way! Thanks for all the comments, ‘likes’, emails, and words of encouragement. Thank you for thinking some of these posts worthy of sharing! It encourages this weary writer greatly. For a complete list of posts, please click here.

What I Love About Public School

I spent three full years anxious about school for our children. We live in a city with excellent public schools, a nearby excellent private Christian school, and we have a complement of truly awesome friends who are homeschooling their truly awesome kids.

Which would we choose? And Why?

The decision seemed almost impossible to make. Each of the parents I spoke to had such good reasons for the choices they had made. We prayed and weighed the options.  In the end we eliminated the Christian school option (too expensive), and opted against homeschooling (I can harness kindergarten-awesomeness for about 24 hours, and after that – I’m done. We figured our daughter needed more than 24 hours of awesome in a school year.)

image

So public school it was.

We are now in our second year of public schooling, and we are LOVING it. Not because it was the “only one left” after the other options had been ruled out (although that is true). Not because it’s free (although that is awesome). Not because it is perfect (no education ever is).

We are loving public school for one main reason: it has allowed us to participate in and belong to our community like never before.

After more than 9 years in the same city, we have made wonderful friends. Most of these have been through church, or through people we know from church. It’s been through activities sponsored by church, service projects run by church, moms groups springing out of church friendships. You get the picture. Quite churchy.

Yes, I have met people at the park or at play group, but without regular, sustained contact it is hard for deeper relationships to develop. One needs proximity AND regular contact to make friends, especially when you are in the “I can only talk for 90 seconds before someone asks me for juice” phase of life.

How wonderful, then, it has been to be in a public school filled with diverse and fabulous families from EVERY demographic in the community. My daughter loved her first week of public school for all the wondrous things that happened in the classroom, but I loved public school because of the wondrous parents I met waiting OUTSIDE the classroom at pick-up time. Interesting, educated, kind, marvelous, NOT-church people.

We LOVE it. Our family is meeting other families, and we are experiencing a feeling of community belonging in a totally new way.

We are loving birthday parties and play dates with new families. We love being able to trade kindnesses, to learn about different cultures. I love that, after more than a decade of feeling like “I wanted to make friendships outside of church, but not wanting anyone to feel that they were my “project””, that these friendships are organic and fun. And it DOES feel like they are organic and fun, because they ARE organic: we have something in common. We are parents-of-school-kids together.

This does not mean that I think public schools are superior to any other type of schools. This post is not a rejection of or judgment on different educational choices.

This is just me saying I’m grateful. Grateful for my children getting the instruction and care of a very experienced teacher. Grateful for a variety of excellent options, all locally available. And today, grateful for the community of families that public school has introduced us to. We’re ALL IN. And (just one more time, let me say), we LOVE it.

This is day 3 of 31 Days of Belonging.

Photo Credit: www.ncpubliccharters.org

 

Thank you for loving my children

Thank You For Loving My Children

Dear friend,

In case I haven’t said so before, I wanted to thank you for loving my children. Maybe you don’t think it’s a big deal, but I want you to know it means the world.

Thank you for looking them in the eye and greeting them by name. You are teaching them they are valuable.

Thank you for asking them questions about their lives and waiting patiently for their stumbled replies. You are teaching them the currency of conversation.

Thank you for entering their imaginary worlds and helping find the pet unicorn a snack. Thank you for reading to them, even though they were sticky and stinky. Thank you for for pretending you couldn’t see them under the kitchen table when they hid in the same place for the tenth time playing hide-and-go-seek. You are teaching them that that they are wanted. You are showing them the value of play.

Thank you for that time you played rough-and-tumble T-ball with them. Thank you for asking about their first day of school. Thank you for reminding them to say thank you when I’m too weary to remind them again. Thank you for telling them your own childhood story to distract them from their tears.

Thank you for being a safe adult, another role model in their “village”. Your presence in their life is more valuable than you know. They soak up your laughter, your kindness, your pleases-and-thank-yous.

We take our children to church, but you are the church to our children. You are one of the teaching aides God has put into their life, and they love you.

Thank you for loving my children, and in doing so, for loving me.

Corny reflections

This is our third summer growing vegetables. Last week I harvested garlic, this morning I picked our first zucchinis, and as I look out on my veggie patch I see a veritable forest of tomato plants which will yield a harvest FAR beyond our ability to consume them. But no corn. Despite the fact that we love corn, and would gladly eat as much as we could grow. there is no corn.

The reason for this is that our past two years of corn-growing have been abject failures. As it turns out, corn growing is tricky business: you need a certain number of days all above a certain temperature. The soil needs to be not only warm, but also well-aired and rich in nitrogen. We thought we had the perfect soil – but in the first year our soil spent 3 months growing and only reached 3ft in height before being toppled by an early autumn wind storm. No crop.

The following year we started earlier, read more… and the initial growth was better. But after 4 months again we had 3-4 feet stalks with TINY corn heads. We told Teg they were “baby corns” (as if we’d grown them that way on purpose), and ate the whole lot as a sprinkling on one summer salad. Pathetic.

Meanwhile, on the way to J’s work we pass corn field after corn field which rapidly shoot their way towards the standard 8-and-a-half feet corn height. “Wow,” we think, “farmers are SO much more impressive than we give them credit for.”

Here’s one of the things that the farmers have got right though: they know that corn likes company. Maize needs mates. You cannot grow just one stalk of corn, or even just 6 or 8. You need a minimum of a 5 by 5 square of it (not a long row, mind you – it needs a CLUMP for cross-pollination).

Which makes me think: Christians are a lot more like corn than zucchini. Christians who think they can “go it alone” and have fantastic growth all by themselves, as long as they give themselves the right kind of “soil” (teaching input, spiritual disciplines etc)… may well land up looking like the corn in our garden: stunted growth, minimal fruit, susceptible to the first big winds of the season. To really thrive, you need to be with other corn – cross-pollinating, sharing the sun, working the soil, growing tall together.