What Does Revival Look Like?

I was chatting with a friend last week, and she said something that has stuck with me. She said, “Revival doesn’t look like they thought it would.”

My friend was talking about a particular category of church people, those mostly of an older generation (though not all) who often talk about praying for revival. For the most part, when these church people pray for revival, they have a very particular picture in their heads. If God were to answer their prayer, in their minds, America would look a lot like it did in the 1950s. For them, revival has a lot to do with people going to church on Sundays and adhering to traditional Christian values.

I’ve always figured the things I hope and pray for are bound to look different than I imagine. After all, Jesus showed up and looked nothing like the Messiah was expected to look. He did not act like those praying for deliverance expected a deliverer to act. He was God but nothing he did or said looked like the God of the Hebrew scriptures. Jesus tried to revive and reform Jewish teaching and practice, but the leadership wasn’t having it.

I’m married to a United Methodist pastor. Here in Mississippi, we have watched a handful of churches walk away from our denomination and we are awaiting decisions from our General Conference that will change the face of the Methodist church. To many, this is scary. To me, this is scary. However, this week, I have felt challenged to look at what is happening through another lens.

Regardless of which side of the human sexuality debate we fall on, the future seems unsteady. Things are going to change. And those praying for revival are missing it. Here it is… a revival that does not look or act as those praying for it expect.

Why are these questions and issues rising to the surface in our church? They are surfacing and making waves because of people who love Jesus and want to ensure we are following Jesus truly. Across the country, people from many generations are asking hard questions of their leadership, their tradition, their scripture, and their God. We are asking tough questions and begging others to engage in these conversations with us.

Revival has never looked like a quiet return to the way things used to be. Revival means a new day, a new life, a resurrection. In the case of the modern church, what looks like falling apart may actually be waking up.

Some animals shed their skins as they grow. Some animals shed their shells and look for bigger homes. Many times throughout history the body of Christ has had to shed her skin and her shell.

If you want to know what revival looks like, look at Jesus.

Revival will look nothing like tradition or status quo. Revival will look like uncomfortable changes, breaking bread with those the church has previously ostracized, stepping away from positions of power and nationalism. Revival will look like Jesus and Jesus looks like change. Jesus looks like love.

Scripture speaks of not putting new wine in old wineskins, and it seems like revival could mean letting go of the old wineskin of the UMC and embracing a new wineskin. That doesn’t mean the Methodist Church dies. That means she lives.

She lives revived, brand new, changed into a closer likeness of the Christ.

It’s still scary. The unknown will never cease to elicit fear, but it doesn’t have to paralyze us. It doesn’t have to tear us apart.

Revival doesn’t look like comfortable.

Revival looks like Jesus.

Advertisements

A Blog About Socks

Socks?

I’m snowed in for the sixth day. I’ve had time to think about everything in the world. This particular post has been forming for a few weeks, and now I have a little bit of free time to type it out.

It started when my friend raved about Woven Pear socks. I commented to tell her “I have a sock addiction.”

I do. I am a person who hates spending money on items of clothing people never see, camisoles worn under sweaters, bras, panties, etc… But socks, an article of clothing rarely viewed by anyone but the wearer? I spend money on that without a second thought. I want my socks to be thick and warm, because I am prone to really cold toes. I have some circulation issues in my feet.

But that is just the tip of the iceberg. When I think about socks, I hop on a mental time machine and land back in 8th grade. Let me channel my inner Golden Girl Sophia for a bit:

Picture it. Hopkins Middle School. Valentine’s Day, 1996.

IMG_0800

I was an awkward 8th grader, to put it mildly. Over the years, I was made fun of for everything from my pale complexion and black hair to my flat chest and crooked teeth. The most common thing people teased me about was clothing. No matter how I tried, I could not wear the right thing. Even if what I had on looked like what someone else had on, I would have the wrong brand, the Walmart version of whatever was popular at the time.

On Valentine’s Day, I was excited to wear my new red baby doll tee. Baby doll tees were in, and I knew this one looked good on me. It accentuated the slight curve of my breasts and waist. It was red and black, which looked good with my dark hair and eyes. That morning, as I got dressed, I chose a pair of red socks.

That was my mortal sin, y’all. Red socks.

It was another case of me almost getting it right. No one had a word to say about my cute shirt, but I vividly remember a girl in my science class pointing at my feet and laughing in that mean way girls laugh when they are certain of their personal superiority to the butt of the joke.

That day, I learned that no one wore red socks. No one wore any kind of sock except plain white athletic socks. My red socks were like a neon sign blinking over my head, exclaiming, “DORK CENTRAL.”

I never wore those socks again.

For years, I never wore any sock that wasn’t white. I can remember, as an adult, needing to wear black dress socks and feeling total panic over the whole thing.

And then, some time after having two kids and fighting through Depression, I bought a pair of goofy socks. Now I own two baskets of socks, ankle socks in one and knee socks in the other. I have plenty pair of white socks, but even the white socks tend to have bright colored toes. I have socks featuring Doctor Who, Alice in Wonderland, gnomes, kittens, etc… And now we can add these Woven Pear socks from my friend’s boutique: Speck and Louise.

 

They are thick around my cold toes AND they are adorable. This month, I will turn 36 years old, and I no longer give a damn what anyone thinks about my clothes.

Thankyouverymuch.

Viva Escriba

Every year, I ask God for a word or a theme, some sort of lens through which to view the year ahead. In 2017, I had 2 words: Peace and Justice. It was definitely a year of thinking on those things, pursuing a better education on social justice issues, listening to the people around me when they spoke about their lives and struggles. I finished 2017 with the sense that I can be at peace with myself only when I am living a life that pursues justice for others.

What about 2018?

I don’t know.

I have a couple of words, and when I write them in Spanish, they feel like my words for the year. However, they don’t have quite the same oh-so-certain feeling I usually have when my yearly theme lands in my lap. Why?

Perhaps it has to do with where I am in my faith journey. I wrote, last year, about coming to the end of deconstruction and being ready to rebuild. However, rebuilding seems like a distant dream. The foundation is steady. It holds. But I don’t know what it is.

I’m living in a surreal paradox.

I find solace in my faith and also disparage it. For a video I was a part of, my husband asked me to explain the connection between a struggle I experienced and Jesus/salvation/faith. I stumbled through something about Mary and parenting and how God loves us, but my brain was in a panic.

I believe in Jesus, but I don’t know exactly what I believe ABOUT Jesus. I find the Bible both comforting and polarizing. I see wisdom in the pages, but I also can’t elevate it to the level of authority to which those around me have raised it. I believe in God, but I don’t think I believe in the same God those around me believe in… or perhaps I believe in the same God, but approach God’s existence in a different way. We sing worship songs on Sundays and I both love them and find them empty. I feel moved and also wonder how much brain chemistry and music are playing into my experience of the Holy Spirit.

I don’t feel like I am still deconstructing, but perhaps I am being deconstructed. I have spent years tearing apart my religious beliefs and questioning them, rearranging them, shedding them. Now, it seems what is left of my faith is rearranging me.

It is uncomfortable.

It is not permanent, but I don’t know where it leads.

So, with that said, my words for 2018 are:

“Viva Escriba”

Viva can mean, “Live,” a verb, or it can mean, “Life,” a noun. I don’t know if this word is a command, that I am being told to “LIVE!” or if it is an indication that what feels like the death of faith will actually bring new life, resurrection. I can hope. The second word means “Write.” This one I know to take as a command. I have a lot of writing to do this year, in a zillion forms. All of it will stretch me, and I will learn. Writing always teaches me something new.

So, here’s to 2018, a year for living and writing and maybe figuring out who I am again.

Take a Knee

Recently, I sat in the bleachers for a high school football game. My son was on the field, and I was pushing past my dislike of sports and humid Southern evenings to watch him play. He loves the game, and I love seeing my kids follow their passions.

So, there I sat, trying to follow what was happening in the game, when a whistle blew and coaches walked onto the field. A moment passed and then all of the players on both teams knelt down. An injury was announced. A player on the opposing team was hurt. I watched my son and the other boys wait silently on one knee until the player was helped off of the field.

This was a familiar experience. Over the years, my sons have played a few sports and I recognized this show of respect being given to the downed player. It didn’t matter that said player was on the other team. Yes, that team showed up on the field with the sole purpose of winning, of taking a victory at the expense of my son’s team. That is how football works. However, a hurt person is a hurt person, and no one will dare cheer for his fall. They will show respect for his pain.

As debate and outrage fly due to the current NFL players’ “take a knee” protest during the national anthem, I thought about that scene on our high school football field. I know many will disagree with me, and I am okay with that. I’ve grown out of the need for everyone to see things my way, but I believe our country is injured. There are injured individuals in our ranks and the nation as a whole feels more broken with every passing day. When there is an injury, the most respectful action an athlete can choose is to “take a knee.”

This morning, I watched a group of NFL players doing just that. As the anthem played, not one of them laughed, joked, or even talked. They held the same air of respectful silence as every person who chose to stand for that same anthem. But our country is injured, and these men took a knee. There are plenty of reasons for our black brothers and sisters, our fellow countrymen, to feel that this nation is the opposing team, that the flag we stand for stands for their defeat. Still, they took a knee.

I can respect that.

I can also respect that there are men and women who lost loved ones to war, and some of them feel differently. Thinking of this made me curious about how we are supposed to respect the flag. See, there are things common in America that I have always felt disrespected the flag. It turns out, I was right about those things.

If you are truly interested in how the American flag should be treated, check out the Flag Code.

Here are a few interesting bits from the flag code (under the section “Respect for the Flag”) that show just how little respect for our flag Americans actually have, whether they stand up to salute it or not…

  • The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.
  • The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery.
  • The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever.
  • It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard.
  • No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform.

 

I know many people and businesses that violate the flag code on a daily basis. I know plenty of military personal who violate the flag code regularly. These direct violations of flag code are part and parcel of daily life in America.

In the end, I am grateful that these athletes have chosen a respectful, non-violent, method of protest. They have chosen the path of Martin Luther King Jr. and Ghandi and others before and after these great men. I have my own issues with professional sports and our country’s screwed-up priorities when it comes to paying athletes versus teachers, first-responders, etc… But I refuse to dehumanize these men who have chosen a respectful way of demonstrating their pain and the pain of their people and their nation.

 

Give Me Humility and Give Me Grace

Today is the anniversary of the arrival of the Dutch ship that brought the first African slaves to America.

Most likely, I had an ancestor on that ship. I know my ancestors were Dutch and worked for the Dutch Trading Company. I love learning about my Dutch heritage, my family heritage in general. I don’t love this though. It sits heavy on my heart.

My ancestors were not southern. They did not own slaves for their plantations. I feel like they were worse. They sold human beings. By bringing this first ship to the “new world” they forever altered the course of not just this country but many African countries.

They abandoned their humanity when they chose to dehumanize others.

I’m sorry for what they did. No, I wasn’t alive then. I didn’t do it. But my family line benefitted from that ship and all of the others that followed. And I’m sorry for that.

I believe in the concept of corporate sin, the sin of systems and people who benefit from and do not work to change those systems. I believe I am guilty of these sins. Most of you know that I have struggled with my faith over the last few years. I have struggled with the church and fundamentalism and all sorts of issues. I have also questioned sin, what it is and how it can be dealt with.

I never questioned repentance, because the need to make amends is deeply imbedded in my spirit. I feel the weight of my own personal wrong actions and the weight of the injustice this world bathes in every day, whether we are discussing racist systems or world hunger.

It is so heavy.

Recently, I set a book aside and paused a podcast. My soul was screaming for a break from this year’s theme (2017: Peace and Justice). I just wanted to not carry this burden for a while, to set it down and read something fun and listen to something light-hearted and watch Gilmore Girls on Netflix. I did take that break to some extent, and the entire time, I was aware that it is my privilege that allowed me to take a break from these things. People of Color cannot take a break from racial injustice. LGBTQ+ people cannot take a break from being judged and treated badly. I can take a break because I am straight and white.

Instead of relieving the pressure, my so-called-break convicted me to my core.

Jesus, help me use my privilege to work justice for your people, ALL OF YOUR PEOPLE, and your world. Help me to pass a different legacy to my children and all of the descendants who follow me. And when I am wrong, when I cling to my own privilege, to the systems that benefit me while hurting others, give me humility and give me grace.

The Skeptic Wrestles with Human Sacrifice

There’s a worship song we sing at church that I change one word in. I doubt anyone notices, but I say one word different when I sing that song. I will tell you in a bit what word I change.

Growing up in church, I was always taught that Jesus died for my sins, for the sins of everyone. Specifically, I was taught that God sent Jesus to die for our sins so that God could forgive us, that God needed the sacrifice of Jesus in order to forgive us. And I accepted this as “the good news” until very recently.

Here’s the thing. I still believe that Jesus died for our sins. It’s the details of that belief that have changed. I no longer buy the “God could not forgive us without a perfect human sacrifice.” Isn’t this the same God that told Israel, through the prophet Micah, that he was fed up with their sacrifices and rituals and wanted them to act justly and do good and walk humbly with their God. Didn’t the ritual of human sacrifice usually get applied to the “pagan” nations the Israelites were supposed to be different from? So God went from fed up with the emptiness of sacrifice and hating the entire concept of human sacrifice to requiring his own son be murdered before he could forgive us?

Apologists, stand down. I do not want to argue that theology. I know the arguments already. I have argued the arguments and truly believed them in the past. I just realized one day that the God I believe in, the God I have experienced through the Holy Spirit and the life of Jesus is not this human-sacrifice-demanding God. God loved us and made is in the holy image of relationship. We are the ones who tear ourselves away from that relationship. We are the ones who refuse to forgive.

We refuse to forgive ourselves.

We refuse to forgive others.

We refuse to forgive God.

Sin, to me, is this refusal to forgive, this refusal to see outside of our own selves, our own needs, the way we think things should work. This is especially true of the church, where Jesus is supposed to be the model for living, but instead we look a whole lot like the people shouting “crucify.”

How many men and women marched with Nazi flags in Charlottesville yesterday and went to church this morning?

That is sin.

I believe God did send his Son to us. I believe he sent Jesus to show us another way, the way of love and humility, of mercy and compassion, of integrity and abundant life.

But God created humanity and knew the evil in our hearts. He knew when he sent Jesus that we would kill him.

He knew.

It was our sin that killed Jesus. The sin of humanity: arrogance, closed-mindedness, cold-heartedness. Sin put Jesus on a cross.

You see, I don’t believe God demanded a human sacrifice before he would forgive us. I believe we demanded a human sacrifice before we would believe he forgave us. Because we see God through the lens of our own sin, our own nature. And we don’t want to forgive those who hurt us. We want them to pay for what they did, so of course we’d expect God to demand we pay for what we have done.

God knew this. Jesus knew this.

So we were given what we asked for.

Thousands of years ago, Israel demanded a king. God told them they did not need a king. They had God. A king was just going to cause them problems. But they insisted, and God appointed Saul king of Israel.

God gave the people what the people wanted, what they believed they needed.

We are the ones who needed a human sacrifice, a grand gesture, a miracle, a sign… And so God gave us what we believed we needed. Jesus came and showed us another way to live and submitted himself to our sin, took it on himself and let us mangle his body.

Today, we mangle his message.

We teach people that they are worthless, horrible, not worthy. We teach them God had to have a blood sacrifice in order to love us again, and that just doesn’t fly with me.

God created us and said that we were good. God already loved us. God always loved us. We are the ones who ran away. We are the ones who could not forgive.

The line I change is about Jesus dying on the cross. It says that “the wrath of God was satisfied.” When I sing this song, I sing, “the wrath of man was satisfied.”

Guest Post: Planes

My friend, Amanda, is living quite the adventure lately. She and her husband have moved to an island and he is in medical school. She is finishing a graduate degree. It’s all sorts of fun and crazy and hard. She just started a blog (Middle of Somewhere), and I told her I’d love to share one of her posts with my readers. So, without further ado, Amanda…


Hi Ya’ll,

I had every intention of writing to ya’ll last week, but that week was a doozy, to be sure. I flew from the Caribbean to MS on Tuesday, and arrived home Wednesday morning! What should have been a 10 hour day, turned into a 34 hour day ( I have an elephant sized hatred for Atlanta; sorry ya’ll).

I had never slept in the airport until Tuesday night. And let me tell you, I’d be ok if I never had to do that again. There’s no sleeping in an airport, I don’t care what they say. It’s cold, and the benches are harder and more uncomfortable than the seats in the planes. I’m still recuperating!  It’s never such an adventure when Will is with me. I like it that way. Smooth sailing.

Don’t we all like it that way? Smooth sailing? When plans and days and moments go just as we had expected and anticipated,  and nothing crazy happens to interfere with what we think our plans should be? Yet, if we’re honest with ourselves, those intentional, extremely thought out plans are never as fun and fruitful as the times when the plans go awry.

I learned a lot about myself on my 34 hour journey home last week. I learned that I was, yet again, stronger and more independent than I thought. I needed that reminder. Island life has spoiled me…. Will is always there to protect me, to lift me up, and to encourage me.

The Lord reaffirmed, yet again, that He is always with me. He’s always holding me in His more than capable arms. I’m never alone. We are NEVER alone. The Lord promises to always be with us. Holy Spirit is in our souls. No matter where we are; curled up on a hard airport bench watching Outlander, a comfy and cozy couch with a down feathered blanket, or driving down a deserted road late at night, the Lord’s presence is right there with us. Loving on us, protecting us, guiding us, lighting the way in which we should go.

Perhaps the Lord orchestrated it just so, that I’d be curled up under two airport blankets, because I didn’t think I’d need my own blanket and left it at home, won’t be making that mistake again. Perhaps he made it so that I’d ache so much for Will’s warmth and comfort that I’d remember the Lord’s warmth and comfort is more than enough.

Maybe, just maybe, we need a detour every now and then to remind us who we are. Who our Father is, and how much He loves us and aches over us. I have to tell ya’ll, I’d never felt more lonely than I did in that ATL airport over night. I didn’t meet a single soul to converse with, to vent with about the crazy journey. It was just me and my Lord. I told him how much I disliked my situation, how much I wanted to be in my own bed in my cozy sheets and warm quilt. He told me all is well and I’d be there soon enough, and to release my frustration and be enveloped in His peace and comfort.

I went straight to sleep…. for a 20 minute power nap. Funny how those things happen, huh? When we let go of our plans and frustrations and anxieties. He is sufficient, and yet we rarely remember that when we plan and go about the routine of the days.

I’m sitting in my parents’ home, on the comfy, cozy couch with a blanket, and I know that I’ll forget this lesson and will need another reminder. But until then, I’ll pray that I won’t need another ridiculous reminder such as a 30 something hour journey in planes and airports to remind me.

Till next time!