4.26.2013

I Survived Women's Retreat!


At the end of every Women's Retreat, they should hand out t-shirts that say “I survived Women's Retreat!” ...That shit is intense.

I'm still recovering.

There were parts that I loved (the view, the speaker, the roommates) and parts that I hated (the food, the craft, the bed, the awkward intersection of women with 23 cats and women with 23 tattoos). Overall, I'm glad I went. It wasn't, like, AMAZING, but it was good.

All I knew, as we drove up Highway 50 toward the retreat center, was that I had five room mates (!) and a head cold. I kept thinking, “This could be bad... This could be really bad...” But, then I learned (through a series of squeally, chickish, emoji-filled texts) that one of the roomies had to bail at the very last minute and one of my favorite friends was taking her place. This may not be true, but it felt a little bit like God was sending me a partner in crime, a fellow cynic with Liz Lemon social skills and moves like Jagger. It gave me a sigh of relief. “Ok. This could be good...”

Everything else went exactly as expected. Though the cafeteria food was super disappointing, the speaker was kickass, the view was incredible, the lady singing was... lady singing. The weather did not disappoint.

Not gonna lie; there were some lows.

Like I said, the food was bad, our bed was hand crafted in Satan's den, my face was filled with snot, and there was a scavenger hunt – not making that up. Oh, and? I had to make a paper doll – TOTALLY NOT MAKING THAT UP. Normally, I would say, “Yeaaaah. I'm not doing that.”, but it was a team thing, so if even one person on your team was one of those competitive, paper-doll-making, social butterfly freak shows, you had to participate. Otherwise, you're the a-hole who ruined so-and-so's Women's Retreat. I did not want to be that a-hole. And, to be totally fair, some of the women really, really, really loved making their paper dolls. Like, really. 

And I get that just because I hate something with a venomous passion doesn't mean that it's not really filling somebody else's tank. I get that. I do. To each her own... paper doll.

And there were some highlights, but I can't really talk about any of them. It's one of those "What happens at Women's Retreat stays at Women's Retreat" situations. Ya know?

So let's put it this way; I cannot confirm nor deny that coffee turned to wine as we gingerly made our way to the water to sit under the stars after curfew.

I cannot confirm nor deny that the speaker may have dropped a contextually relevant and totally necessary “F” bomb.

I cannot confirm nor deny that chicks fart, you guys. 

I cannot confirm nor deny the weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth that may or may not have happened behind closed doors.

I cannot confirm nor deny the laying of hands, the uttering of prayers, the presence of a great God – Merciful and Loving – weaving strangers into friends and friends into sisters and sisters into the living, breathing Bride of Christ.

Can't confirm or deny any of it. I can only say there were highlights. 

Perhaps the highestlights. 



I'm not sure what's higher than a highlight... Heaven comes to mind. And so, for moments here and there, between bad breakfasts and good speaking, after paper dolls and before moonlit skies, through wine and words and so much laughter, and right beside the broken hearted, I did, to my own surprise, find a bit of Heaven at the annual Women's Retreat thingy. I really did.

At Women's Retreat, I looked into a fiery sunset and found a thirsty soul, I drank from the water of the Word, and then I came home, refreshed.


And I could be wrong, but I think that was the whole idea...





.....          ....        .....

By show of hands, who here is in need of a bit of Soul refreshing?

4.19.2013

Because maybe it won't suck.

In a few short hours I'll be breaking an oath I made a long, long time ago. I swore I would never do it again, but here I am, standing at the threshold, palms sweaty, eyes wide with fear and trepidation, because, against my better judgement, I'm headed to my churches annual "Women's Retreat" thingy.

*gulp*

I know. I know. I truly believed when I made that promise to God, 8 years ago, that I would never, ever participate in the madness of Women's Retreat again. Ever. I was opting out for good; turning away from the cafeteria food, the lumpy beds, the crying and hugging, the headache inducing mix of fragrances, the crafts. "No more!", I said. And I meant it.

The last women's retreat I went to, I literally retreated to my room and spent 2 days reading magazines and doing planks with a couple of friends - while the speaker berated women for taking antidepressants, having bad marriages, and raising willful children. She assured us that if only we were spiritual enough, God would relieve us of these obstacles. And, oh, we could buy her book at the back of the room. I was livid. That old lady is lucky I didn't jump three rows of chairs and tackle her to the ground. It was bad.


Now you might be wondering why I'm going, so I made you a list...



Top 10 reasons I'm going to Women's Retreat:

1. My house smells like ass and armpit all day, every day. I need a break from teenage boys. Seriously. A smell break.

2. The speaker is legit. I've heard her before - She's smart, educated, straight forward, and God bless her, completely devoid of that annoying, weirdly romantic, soft "we're praying now" voice.

3. Lady singing. Throw a hundred women in a room with a pitched ceiling and let them sing their hearts out to their Savior. Even if 90 of them can't actually sing, it will be off the chain. I don't know why.

4. The food. I have a strange fondness for mass-produced cafeteria food. I'm not kidding. Love it.

5. This ain't my first rodeo. I know that if I want to I can take a nap, or hide and write, or go for a loooooong walk. I will probably do all of those things.

6. Lake Tahoe. Duh.

7. No way out. Now that I'm practically a pastor's wife, I felt weird telling people I wouldn't be at the Women's Retreat because "I don't do that crap." Anything else would have been a lie.  So, the way I see it, my choice was offend, lie, or go.

8. Did I mention the food? Yeah. I don't have to cook or clean up after any of it.

9. Friends. My friends are going and they're super damn fun no matter what. We could be going to prison and I'd still be a little bit stoked to hang out with them.

10. It could be amazing. No. For real...

I'm going to Women's Retreat because maybe it won't suck. Maybe I'll even find God there... yes, even at Women's Retreat. Maybe.

Here I go.

.....         .....         .....

What about you? Do you "Retreat"?? (**We used to call the youth guys retreat an "assault" but then one year they were talking about sex and we didn't want them telling everybody they were going on a "Sexual Assault" weekend with our Church. Sooo...yeah.**)  You were saying?....


4.09.2013

What Would Jesus... Blog?


A couple of weeks ago, I invited my friend to write for my blog because I knew she would give us something amazing and challenging and I knew she would do it beautifully. But when her bio popped up in my inbox, I have to admit, my heart sank - because I knew that for some people the biggest challenge in Jenna's piece would not be her words, but her life. I knew that for some finding the Truth in her work would be impossible.

Jenna wrote about our very own forefathers, the plight of the enslaved Israelites, the miraculous parting of the Red Sea, and the God we find in the middle of it all; God with us, intimate and close... She wrote to us with words and stories straight out of The Bible, and still, still, after some people read her brief bio, they were unable to appreciate the Truth in her written work, unable to grasp how Jesus could fit into a message from a Jew. Or worse, a gay Jew.

Some were offended that I would allow, let alone invite, my beloved friend to share this little space on the web. They were livid. One even wrote to let me know she was taking her ball and going home. “I'm unfollowing”, she said. And then she explained that she had enjoyed this blog over the years, but sharing my internet home with a gay Jew was just too much. She's outta here. And then she dropped  this bomb of internet hilarity:

Does Jesus love those living in sin? yes! Did Jesus spend time with sinners? yes! Would Jesus invite an unrepentant sinner to post on His blog? no.”

Honestly? I burst out laughing at the thought of Blogger Jesus gazing at his laptop at noon in his pajamas, sipping cold coffee, checking stats, linking his post on Facebook... Hilarious, right?!... But I still had to ask myself, What would Jesus blog? And Who would Jesus let guest post?

I wondered about the Jesus who walks us down the road, from Jerusalem to Jericho, past the Priest and the Levite and draws us into the path of the heathen Samaritan from whom we learn a valuable lesson. I pondered the Jesus who hand picked a posse of twelve sinners; guys who continually competed for power and attention, who questioned and doubted and so often misunderstood. I wondered about the Jesus who asked the man who would ultimately betray him to join him at the table. Would Jesus invite an unrepentant sinner to kiss him on the cheek and lead him to slaughter?

*shrugs* ...Perhaps we'll never know.

Fine. I'm sorry. I get sarcastic when I'm fired up.

But Jesus, the story teller, shows us over and over how to look at the world with different eyes. So when you ask me if I can reconcile the message of my gay Jewish friend with my own faith in Jesus, the answer is – Yes. And it's not hard.

I view everything through the filter of my Faith. I see the whole world and everything in it through the lens of Christianity. I am, lest there be a doubter among you, a Christian. As a follower of Christ, and as a believer in a triune God, I simply find Jesus present. And that's a gift because His presence makes me unafraid to engage the world, unafraid to ask questions, unafraid to answer them, unafraid to pass the wine and break bread with the those who some would slander and burn. Unafraid because “in him we live and move andhave our being”.  (⬅ See what I did there?)

Here's a shocker: I have deep and meaningful relationships with all kinds of people. I have atheist friends, and Jewish friends, Buddhist, Muslim, agnostic friends. I love them all. I also have gay friends and straight friends, and a few in the middle, and I have married friends and single friends and friends with kids and without. (For the record, I normally refer to them as simply “my friends”. No more. No less. Likewise, and gratefully, I have never been introduced by any of them as “the straight Christian”.) These people enrich my life and challenge me to know why I believe what I believe. My friends enrich my Faith. And I love them for that. Every last one of them is welcome at my table, around my children, into my inner-circle, and ~ you guessed it ~ on my blog.

But don't be disappointed if you don't find me lobbing verses of scripture at them like live grenades. In my experience, I've come to find that people don't generally respond well to being bombarded with Bible Napalm. And, if you're that guy? Stop it! I know you're well-meaning, but you just sound like a dick... When my friends and I discuss the differences in our Faith, we do it respectfully, gently, gracefully. We speak with Love for one another. It takes us far...

Conversations with Jenna are a highlight for me, I so often find God in them. So when she sent me her piece on being stuck in “the middle”, I couldn't wait to share it. I believed it would be beneficial to you. I believed you could be Blessed by it, and indeed many of you were. But some of you let her bio
clog your filter, rendering you blind. You were unable to see the beauty of God to be found in her words because of your own lack of vision. And I wonder how it is that you make your way in the world, afraid to find meaning outside of Christiandom. Have you not been moved by Ghandi? Not inspired by Whitman? Do you not find beauty in the work of Tchaikovsky or Handel? Does Elie Wiesel not just break your heart for the things of God? 

Unfollow if you must. I'm cool with that. But I can't help but feel like you're the one who's missing out. 


.....          .....         .....

Even now, I dread that some of you will try to turn this post into a “gay debate”. Someone will miss the point because someone always does. It's exhausting. Please try to understand what we're talking about before you comment. And keep in mind that my friends are probably reading these comments - so be respectful, or you'll be deleted. 

I'm asking. 

What do you think? What Would Jesus Blog?

4.05.2013

Victory.





                                    Everyone has a story... 
     
    What's YOURS?


**A million thanks to Danielle for her bravery and to the Production Team at Lakeside Church for telling her story so beautifully. I love our kickass church!**


4.03.2013

Sweet Little Baby Prostitutes.


I was just sitting here thinking about how I wrote about sex and then I welcomed the (beautiful) work of a gay, Jewish friend (gasp!), and now anything I post will be met with a sad trombone; you know, the bluesy WompWomp of disappointment. Not that I aim to incite a riot every time I post anything, but it just feels weird to be like, “SEX!....GAY JEW!!....KITTENS!!!”

But then I remembered that I have nothing to say about kittens, and also I remembered what I sat down to write about today, and I realized that there's no greater scandal happening on Earth, so it's all good. Crisis averted. Whew! That was close one.


So. A little while ago, I got an email from an internet friend. I had been a guest on his podcast a few years back, but this time he was inviting me to do something different. He told me he'd been working with a coalition of groups to end child slavery. He asked if I'd be interested in coming to Southeast Asia, to see their work first hand. “No strings attached.”, he said, “We just want you to see.”

I was intrigued, but I wasn't ready to jump on board.

It's no secret that I'm overly skeptical and I can be an incredibly harsh critic (some might say “uber bitch”) when it comes to the way the North American Church engages the world's problems.

I'm not a fan of poverty tourism. I've seen too many well-intentioned, rich, (usually) white suburbanites streaming in and out of the lives of the poor, the marginalized, the exploited, with cameras in their hands, a false sense of helping, and a giddy kind of torment on their faces. Would there be a purpose behind “seeing” this work? Would there be value in flying across the world to gaze at sweet little babies, bought and sold as prostitutes? I don't think I need to see the places where children are offered up to predators in order to know that it's a living nightmare.

But there's a conversation that needs to begin in my pristine suburban church - one that will make a lot of people uncomfortable. This subject will force a comparison between the lives of our own well-protected children and the boys and girls who are sleeping in brothels, gutters, and alleys on the other side of the planet. And, ultimately - painfully - it will hit us close to home, because I believe this conversation will bridge the gap between what we like to think of as a far away problem and the travesties occurring in our own backyards, sometimes even in our own homes.

We can keep rescuing children from slavery for forever. But if we never address the growing appetite for these kids, it will never end. When we talk about how the people buying sex in India and Asia are often times carrying passports from the U.S., Canada, and Great Britain, we must be willing to admit that they're living in our neighborhoods, working in our offices and, yes, sitting in our churches. With extraordinary Grace, we need to talk about our own sexual brokenness, we need to invite healing, we need to pray for redemption, and we need to bravely call for justice.

So I'm going.

This July, I'm going to South East Asia to see, so that I might speak.

Because it's time to start this conversation. It's time to rescue every last slave on Earth. It's time to Redeem every broken soul. I'm going because it's just time. And we have to start somewhere...

….

I hope you'll follow along on this journey. And I pray that by taking this trip and talking about it boldly, these pages might become a catalyst for conversation and action, not only at my church, but yours, too. I'll be visiting two hard-working groups in Asia (with whom I'm falling in love, for their courage as much as for their humility). I'll share more as we go, but for today, please check out The Exodus Road and Agape International Missions and be encouraged by what they are doing to end trafficking and slavery.

Oh. And pray. Because I'm seriously crapping my pants over all this... I mean, not seriously, but you know... pretty much crapping myself. 

....    

Will you help spread the word? We're starting a conversation you won't want anyone to miss.