Searching for Sunday

Can you find the church in this picture? Oh, wait, not that kind of searching.

Can you find the church in this picture? Oh, wait, not that kind of searching.

This morning in my Facebook feed there were several people upset about an article in Huffington Post entitled Rachel Held Evans Defends Leaving Evangelicals For Episcopalians. They called Rachel a false teacher, questioned her theology and her salvation, and said that she was leading people astray. They expressed fear at her perspective and her influence. So I thought I’d share a little about Rachel’s influence on me.

For the record, Rachel responded to the article on her Facebook page saying that the title of the article

makes for an interesting headline, but which doesn’t really reflect the way I see my own church story or how I tell it in the book. This isn’t a story about demeaning one tradition in favor of another tradition. It’s a story about how the Spirit shows up, often unexpectedly, in multiple traditions and congregations and communities – particularly in the tradition that first introduced me to Jesus (evangelicalism) and the tradition where I am beginning to find a new home (the Episcopal Church). In the book I write about how I could no more “leave” evangelicalism than I could “leave” my parents. Evangelicalism is a part of me. It has irrevocably shaped my faith and my view of the world, and I am glad for that. It’s a gift. And anyone who reads the book will see that I honor it as such. ….Besides, I’ve always been under the impression that one can be both evangelical AND Episcopalian – the two are not mutually exclusive. 🙂 Most of us don’t fit into neat and tidy categories when it comes to faith. Most of us, I think, are an amalgam of experiences, beliefs, questions, longings, doubts, and dreams. A rejection of one kind of church for another would make a simpler story, but it’s not my story. And my guess is it’s not many other people’s story either.

I like Rachel Held Evans a lot. I read her book A Year of Biblical Womanhood and am about to start Faith Unraveled, and I follow her on her blog and Facebook. One of my favorite things about her is that she has been open about her struggles with faith and with the church, which are very similar to mine. She is open about her doubts as well as her beliefs, and is honest when she second-guesses herself or changes her mind about something.

I’m really looking forward to reading her new book Searching for Sunday because the subtitle — Loving, Leaving, and Finding Church — describes where I’ve been, where I am, and where I hope some day to be. I will be buying the book and reading it with the goal of drawing closer to Christian community and to God. I don’t agree with everything she says. But here is a partial list of other writers whose works I read and love even though I don’t agree with everything they say:

George MacDonald
Madeleine L’Engle
Jen Hatmaker
C.S. Lewis
Martin Buber
Glennon Doyle Melton
C.K. Chesterton
Peter Kreeft
Sarah Bessey
Soren Kierkagaard
Victor Hugo
Victor Frankl
Anne Lamott
Fyodor Dostoevsky

Just to name a few.

I like to hear the perspectives and stories of lots of different people. It helps me realize that we are all trying to understand and describe the ineffable and indescribable, and that my own theology, as well as others’, is not The Truth about God, but just our best attempt to put the things of God into words and concepts we can understand. I am not afraid of being led astray because I trust, more than anything, in Jesus’ promise: “Seek, and you will find.” Evangelicals and other conservatives, you are very good at seeking. But others are seeking, too. Let’s share our own stories and perspectives, listen to those of other seekers, and trust Jesus to keep his promise.

What is your personality type? A tiny anecdote.

taipei-101This morning NPR was having a special on the issues facing modern China, and it reminded me of the year I spent as an intern at Park Street Church’s international student outreach. I lived in a house with several international students, including a few from Taiwan. I learned a lot from them, like the fraught relationship between Taiwan and China, differences in communication styles between the east and the west, and never, never to serve only brown rice when it was my turn to cook the house dinner.

But one thing confused me, and that was how often my Taiwanese housemates mentioned their personality type. They were always talking about how they were “type A.” As with many things in cultures I was learning about, I just absorbed the information and didn’t question it. I am a visual learner, and sometimes it takes me a while to understand information that comes through my ears. So it wasn’t until I saw, one day — in a book or a presentation, I can’t remember — the capital city of Taiwan spelled out. Taipei. Pronounced tie-pay. Type A. Ah-ha.


The revelations of love

CandlePeople generally suppose that they don’t understand one another very well, and that is true; they don’t.  But some things they communicate easily and fully.  Anger and contempt and hatred leap from one heart to another like fire in dry grass.  The revelations of love are never complete or clear, not in this world.  Love is slow and accumulating, and no matter how large or high it grows, it falls short.  Love comprehends the world, though we don’t comprehend it.  But hate comes off in slices, clear and whole – self-explanatory, you might say.

From Jaybur Crow, by Wendell Berry


What does it mean to be a Christian?


S. D. found the irony in this; I think it’s incredibly profound.  Why do we expect God to give us an easy life?  What do we think this is all about, anyway?  (And by “we” I mean “me”).

Another friend emailed me this recently, a wonderful reminder of our purpose here:

The chief purpose of life is not happiness, but the knowledge of God. One reason that the problem of evil seems so puzzling is that we tend to think that if God exists, then His goal for human life is happiness in this world.  God’s role is to provide comfortable environment for His human pets.  But on the Christian view this is false.  We are not God’s pets, and man’s end is not happiness in this world, but the knowledge of God, which will ultimately bring true and everlasting human fulfillment.  Many evils occur in life which maybe utterly pointless with respect to the goal of producing human happiness in this world, but they may not be unjustified with respect to producing the knowledge of God.”

In other words…

“We take our own spiritual consecration and try to make it into a call of God, but when we get right with Him He brushes all this aside. Then He gives us a tremendous, riveting pain to fasten our attention on something that we never even dreamed could be His call for us. And for one radiant, flashing moment we see His purpose, and we say, “Here am I! Send me” ( Isaiah 6:8 ).

This call has nothing to do with personal sanctification, but with being made broken bread and poured-out wine. Yet God can never make us into wine if we object to the fingers He chooses to use to crush us. We say, “If God would only use His own fingers, and make me broken bread and poured-out wine in a special way, then I wouldn’t object!” But when He uses someone we dislike, or some set of circumstances to which we said we would never submit, to crush us, then we object. Yet we must never try to choose the place of our own martyrdom. If we are ever going to be made into wine, we will have to be crushed— you cannot drink grapes. Grapes become wine only when they have been squeezed.

I wonder what finger and thumb God has been using to squeeze you? Have you been as hard as a marble and escaped? If you are not ripe yet, and if God had squeezed you anyway, the wine produced would have been remarkably bitter. To be a holy person means that the elements of our natural life experience the very presence of God as they are providentially broken in His service. We have to be placed into God and brought into agreement with Him before we can be broken bread in His hands. Stay right with God and let Him do as He likes, and you will find that He is producing the kind of bread and wine that will benefit His other children.”

~Oswald Chambers

What I will be doing in twelve days…


Sans the attic, Tyler and David… 😦 But avec Graeme, Ashlee, Riley, Jacquie, Jordon and Aaron. Hopefully Aaron. I’m not sure whether R2D2 will be there.

“Bagshot Row is an artistic community which seeks to apply the values and lessons of true, good, and beautiful art to both the spiritual and practical elements of life. Originating in Dubuque, IA and founded by Graeme Pitman, David Kern, Tyler Smith, Justin Phelan, and Riley Miller, Bagshot Row is a mixture of faith, literature, word (both in essay/blog/musing and poetry), photography, prayer, design, music all bound up in the belief that our very lives can be worship. We meet infrequently on Thursday nights at 9pm to discuss things we have written or read or sometimes just to hang out in an attic.”