Feeble Knees

Monday, January 31, 2005

What a Difference a Day Makes

The last twenty four hours have been a day like no other.

First off, to everyone who's wished us well, thank you! I busting at the seams to tell *someone*, and couldn't keep myself from blogging it out. Your well-wishes and prayers mean so much to us! I'm going to save them and always treasure them. Thank you.

I meant to post or at least comment again last night to thank you all, but as you can imagine, it was a rather wild day, with lots of excitement. By early evening I was convinced that a persistent dull ache in my shoulder, combined with pain in my lower back meant that I was dying. Or at least losing the baby. No matter that I had no fever, chills, shortness of breath or other symptoms. This was serious, an unexplained pain! In my shoulder! Imagine my incredulity when my sweet, kind and very attentive husband kissed me on the head and said "eh, you're fine, I wouldn't worry too much about it."

Worry too much about it? Worry too much about it??? Clearly I am grave danger! A quick consultation at WebMD just added fuel to my frantic fire. Maybe it's a gallbladder attack! Maybe I have an ectopic pregnancy! Good Lord, I'm having a heart attack!

Welcome to the world of Pregnancy Mania, population: me.

This morning I spoke with a very understanding nurse who must specialize in hypochondriac first-time mothers like myself. She very reassuringly told me to take a Tylenol and put a heating pad on my achey shoulder. And she didn't even laugh at me.

In the meantime, I can't help feeling very small, and very quiet and awed that there's a new little life in the universe, and it's taking shape inside me. Those of you who've been reading here for a while know that this is rather poignant for me, considering how my life kinda got started off on shaky ground. This is just a very profound thing for me then, and I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to convey just how grateful I am to God for this. Something just clicked into place in my heart, some joy, some forgiveness, a deeper awe for God's majesty, a greater desire to worship the One who is truly able to make all things right.

A few weeks ago I got a little annoyed, thinking of how it could take up to two whole weeks before I'd be able to find out if I was pregnant. It bothered me to think that some litle one could be in there, rapidly being knitted together in secret, with only the Lord Himself aware of what was taking place. No fair. I wanted to know too!

I suppose I should start here and now and put my money where my mouth is where it comes to putting my little one in the hands of the Lord. They had a secret, a few sacred days just between the two of them. Who am I to begrudge them a little alone time? There's no time like the present to remind myself that God himself loves this little person far more than I'll ever be able to in my own strength.

Now that's some blessed assurance.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Breaking News

We interrupt this blog to bring you a special report.

I'm going to have a BABY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, January 27, 2005

The Postcard

When a new church planted itself halfway between my home and my old church, I began making plans to check it out. I had my reservations about it though. The new church was being entirely too cutesy about its outreach efforts. It employed a slick marketing campaign, mass-mailing hundreds of glossy, hip postcards to all the homes in our city and the surrounding towns. They promised coffee and donuts before and after the service, a service designed with Me in mind. This totally flew in the face of everything I knew church to be.

Sunday after Sunday I was faithfully and dutifully enduring hours of spiritually asphyxiating, legalistic preaching. The three-and-a-half to four hours of Sunday morning service, two-and-a-half hours (or more) Sunday evening service, the weeknight bible studies, and prayer meetings weren't drawing me any closer to the Lord. Where I once felt the spirit of the Lord fill the sanctuary, now I sought it with a growing desperation. Sermons about the evils of movies and dancing, the absolute necessity of the evidence of speaking in other tongues, and the extreme importance of tithing imparted only tiny crumbs about Jesus, and my heart and spirit began to groan under the weightiness of all the law and the prophets.

So I got this postcard from these friendly-sounding people. It had a tropical scene on the front, and some witty quip about paradise on the back. I'd thrown out the first card they sent, because really, it must be one of those seeker-friendly churches we'd been warned about, the ones that didn't really preach against sin. Who did they think they were, luring people with coffee and donuts? No doubt their preaching was just fluff and they were just looking to increase their numbers. It couldn't possibly be a serious, bible-believing, sin-killing, and God-fearing church like mine.

But when the second card arrived a week or two later, I kept it. In truth, I was lonely. Though I was involved in several ministries and knew so many people within my church, I always had this nagging feeling that the minute I ever slipped, I'd be outcast. It would have shamed me to admit it, but I didn't completely trust that my "church" friends really loved or cared about the mess that was me. My life was scrutinized. My church attendance was noted. I was chided for lateness. If I was sick, I made sure to call people before the service so I wouldn't get the phone calls later from suspicious, inquiring minds. My good standing and the good will of others came with strings attached. It was entirely dependent on striving to be an outstanding pillar of the faith, 24/7.

Ok, so this new church might be soft and friendly. Yet I realized I kinda wanted that. I wondered what it would be like to go to a mellow church. Mine was anything but mellow. I began to crave anonymity. If I went to this coffee and donut church, no one would know me. For all they knew, I could even just be some normal person off the street. I wouldn't have to play Sunday School teacher, or choir person, or usher. I could just be me. This was a powerful draw.

I wistfully remembered the first day I went to my church, how my pastor prayed over me for what seemed like an hour, weeping and pouring out his heart over me. How could I ever forget that? Even thinking of going somewhere else felt like utter betrayal. I must be an ingrate.

Apparently my pastors got the postcards too. One Sunday morning I sat mortified as the assistant pastor angrily preached against the postcard-sending church. This feverish diatribe struck me as being ferociously territorial. He was none too happy that all these pretty postcards offering tempting delights were being sent to his flock. To hear him preach, you'd think they'd committed an act of war. I shrank in the pew, remembering the postcard at home on my fridge. I couldn't go there now. Surely it would be sin, especially after hearing pastor preach against it so vociferously.

Not long after, a friend confided that she too had held onto the now anathema tropical postcard. We discussed our pastors' reaction to it. We confessed to each other that we had more than a little curiosity about the new church. After a bit of hemming and hawing, we made secret plans to duck out one Sunday after teaching Sunday School to go check it out.

On the appointed day, we finished up our lessons quickly and waited while the kids filed out towards the sanctuary. We dashed down the back staircase and out the back door to the back parking lot. My heart was racing. It felt like cheating, like adultery. My heart stopped when I remembered I hadn't handed in my tithe. Oh no, what do I do about my weekly tithe? We were going back our church for the evening service. I'll put it in with the evening offering, I reasoned. We raced up the street, our constant chatter fueled partly by exhilaration, partly by dread. We had just snuck out of church. What are we doing?

The coffee church people were delightful. True to their word, there was plenty of coffee and an almost gluttonous array of donuts. They met in a local elementary school, using the dark and unappealing auditorium as a sanctuary. We looked around excitedly and filled out visitor cards as young-ish men and women took to the stage and led a simple, honest and down-to-earth worship service. There was no wailing, no hollering, no "dancing in the spirit", or any other stage-show tactics designed to appeal to our emotions. It was pure, refreshing. Very refreshing.

The pastor couldn't have been much older than I, a point that I found both comforting and disconcerting - kind of like the first time you go to a doctor and realize he's younger than you are. His preaching was simple and unadorned. He didn't clutch a pulpit and yell "Hallelujah" over and over. He didn't stride up and down the stage, waving his hands and hollering scripture. He didn't even appear to break a sweat. In a quiet, kind and Mr. Roberts-esque voice he delivered the message of the gospel, then proceeded to share how it applies to our lives today. His message did not drone on and on for an hour or more. He said what he intended to say in the space of about twenty minutes. I found myself simultaneously welcoming and condemning his brevity. You call that a sermon?

Yet there was something about the gentleness of his spirit, and of those around him that made me crack. The quietness and intimacy of that dim oasis comforted me. I felt safe from scrutiny and judgment. No one else may have known why I was there. But God did. Out of my timidity and shyness my heart fumbled for God's, and found Him right there, waiting.

After communion and the requisite coffee and donuts we chatted with a very sweet-natured greeter who seemed genuinely happy and interested in us. When we confessed that we were playing hooky from our regular church, I expected her smile and mask of gentility to slip. Her eyes showed concern, but she continued to speak kindly with us. She told us she was so happy we came to worship with them and wished us well. What, no lecture on the evils of church-hopping? Don't these people recognize a sinner when they see one?

In the car, our thoughts were all akimbo, flailing to grasp a single declarative sentence to voice our impressions. My friend began apologetically, saying "Well that was better than I thought it would be, but it doesn't seem like the place for my family right now..." Sensing she was afraid of delving too deeply into the relative merits of the new church versus our own church, I kept most of my thoughts to myself.

It was early yet, very early. We laughed about this, saying that we hardly felt like we'd been to church. There was still time to sneak back into our old church for the remainder of the sermon and the altar call. Instead, we decided to make our rebellion complete and go out for an early lunch.

Stopped at a red light, we noticed another car pull up alongside us. With a shock, we recognized the faces of two respected elders from our church, a woman and her husband. They knew us and recognized us instantly. The gentleman was very sick, and as his illness progressed his ability to sit in the three-to-four hour morning service was increasingly diminished. Unlike us, no one would question their early departure.

She rolled down her window.

"Well where are you going? Church isn't over yet!"
"It is were WE went!" we confessed, red-faced."

The lady and her husband smiled, giving us a very parental What in God's green earth have you been up to now? type of look. Before she could interrogate further, the light turned green. We smiled meekly, waved, and sped off.

That evening we returned dutifully to our old church. I anxiously fielded a couple of questions about my whereabouts that morning. Naturally I had to tell the truth. I lowered my eyes and quickly, quietly said I'd been at another church, then tried to change the subject as quickly as possible, fearing further questions and the recriminations I was sure my honest answers would bring. I was mixed with guilt and fear as I remembered my little coffee-church fling. My mind still flirted with the thought of leaving, of escaping. Pastor often railed from the pulpit, wailing of the dangers of "itching ears" and seeking people to preach "smooth things" to us. And here was I, seriously considering exchanging my mortal soul for light preaching and baked goods. Esau, the original Old Testament "Let's Make a Deal" guy himself probably wouldn't make such a trade. What was I thinking?

Whenever the subject of our little episode came up, my friend and I joked about it nervously, then changed the subject. She redoubled her efforts in several ministries as if doing penance for her brief indiscretion. Clearly what we needed to do was to stick things out, you know, pray and persevere. At least we'd know we weren't being led down the garden path, she reasoned.

I don't recall what I ever did with the postcard, whether I hung on to it a little longer or tossed it in the trash. I stayed put. Month after month of Sundays I pretended to ignore the little hand-placed sandwich-board signs pointing up the road to the coffee church. Quiet despair fell steadily like snow, piling up and burying me in its chill.

Women of the Blogosphere, Unite!

Catez at Allthings2All has very kindly taken the initiative to start a new aggregator for female Christian bloggers.

Check out Women4God Blogs for yourself. If you're interested in having your blog added, follow the instructions on the main aggregator page.

Thanks Catez!

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Surfing Spree

Been doing more readin' than writin' today. Just can't wring out any good brain juice. Instead, I give you an assortment of posts that caught my attention in the last twenty four hours.

Messy Christian asks the question:
Who Are You? who, who, who, who? Yeah I really wanna know!
(Apologies to Pete Townshend & co.)

Joe and Jane Missionary are celebrating six years together - congratulations and many blessings to you both!

Mission Safari is posting about his short aid trip to Sri Lanka in the wake of the tsunami. Riveting.

A darn fine writer should be getting a new job any minute now, if he hasn't already. Good luck Mr. Carter.

Over at Boar's Head Tavern, iMonk paints a pretty accurate picture of revivalist preaching and in so doing, makes me cringe. Been there, done that, could write the book.

Emily at Letters From Babylon gives us a look at my home state of Massachusetts as it used to be. Boy those days are long gone brother.

Whoa. Someone completely misunderstands the name of Phil Dillon's blog. Egad!

Hug a Fundamentalist? Could this be the next big new thing? Maybe it should be?

Blogma provides interesting Calivinist commentary on something called the "cage stage". (Point to ponder: is this phenomenon peculiar to just Calvinists? Methinks not...)

That should keep ya busy! :)

Monday, January 24, 2005

What a Blizzard Looks Like

This is the view looking out our front door during the height of the blizzard Sunday morning. The darker spot in the corner is snow that had drifted up over the storm door. You can just barely see a dark line - that is the edge of the front steps where the wind blew the snow away.

The snow started Saturday afternoon and the intensity picked up pretty quickly. Overnight, a town not far from us reported that they got four inches of snow in about twenty five minutes! The local meteorologists were comparing this storm to the legendary Blizzard of '78, which I still remember. For us, I don't think it was as bad as 78 was, but some towns much further south really got walloped - three feet of snow with drifts as high as 8 feet!

Boston is still under a state of emergency and pretty much all the schools and colleges in eastern Mass are closed today, some will still be closed tomorrow as the cities and towns try to figure out where to put all the snow that they are trying to remove from streets and sidewalks.

Seems to me we have it much easier today. In 1978 we didn't have snow blowers, and I still remember my poor dad and brothers breaking their backs trying to dig three feet of snow out of our driveway. It took Mr. F and I considerably less time to dig ourselves out Sunday afternoon. We love our snow blower. One of the wisest things we ever did was to factor in the cost of a snow blower when we were figuring out what we could spend on a home. We bought just after we moved in, and it sat in the garage for a few weeks before it ever got put to use. Watching the scenes of frantic shoppers queuing up at home improvement stores desperate for snow blowers just confirmed to us again that it was money well spent!

Because we did such a good job clearing the two-plus feet of white stuff from our driveway yesterday, Mr. F trudged dutifully off to work this morning. In 1978, we were home from school and my dad was home from work for a couple days. The Blizzard of 2005? Eh, this was nothing! :)

Saturday, January 22, 2005


I can't remember the last time we actually had a real, honest-to-goodness blizzard.

We've been known to get two feet or more of snow from one storm, but we haven't had too many classic Nor'easters where the winds are at hurricane force (> 60mph) and the visiblilty is a quarter of a mile or less. Well, it looks like this storm could be one for the record books, judging by the current forecast for Boston. They're saying 20-30 inches, probably two feet at a minimum with snowfall rates of up to 3 inches an hour.

It seems we had a lot more storms like these when I was younger. I don't know how my parents managed to keep five kids in one small house without going bonkers. There were a lot of board game marathons - lots of Monopoly, Boggle, Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit. Ah, those were the days.

Mr. F, the kitties and I are hunkering down for a nice time of rest, and perhaps a game or two Scrabble. Hopefully the storm will wind up sometime tomorrow afternoon so we can dig out before nightfall...

This and That

Haven't had my morning coffee yet, so what follows is a random series of brain bits and half formed thoughts.

I'm glad some people are standing up for Spongebob. Thanks for being a voice of reason, Rebecca. I don't watch him much, but I have an affinity for weird little things.
* * *

I knew there was a reason I liked Joe Missionary. I can always appreciate a Christian who's not afraid to admit they have skeletons in their closet (Though Joe's is among the cooler skeleton stories I've heard.) Everyone does, few are willing to fess up! I started out a goody-two shoes myself until I started drinking around age 13. It was all downhill from there...

* * *

It's going to snow again, buckets. Last I heard we're looking at up to a foot. It's starting sometime tonight and continuing on through tomorrow. Oh, joy.

* * *

Can't wait for the Patriots-Steelers AFC Championship game tomorrow night. I think the Pats might pull out a win, it's going to be intense though.

* * *

Things have gotten quiet about the whole Boston terror threat thing, which is very good.

* * *

My family is split on the Bush inauguration. One family member was appalled by Peggy Noonan's critique of the inaugural address. (I thought it was spot-on.) Another spent a good amount of time yesterday (as did I) reading up on Kirbyjon H. Caldwell, the Bush family's Houston-based pastor who gave the inaugural Benediction. It explained some things for me and confirmed some hunches. More later, maybe.

* * *

There is a tremendous difference between having religion and having faith. Growing up, I thought only Catholics were subjected to having a faithless religion (my entire family is Catholic and they exemplified this sort of adherent; your experience may be different). Wasn't until later that I learned Protestants are just as susceptible to having a "form of godliness". Today, half my family have faith, the other have religion with a smattering of faith.

Is it me or does there seem to be a timeline where a new believer starts out in faith, gradually becomes churchy and hyper-legalistic, then disillusioned, and then faith-filled again? That's been my experience, and I see history repeating itself now with other believers in my family. I'd be curious to hear from you if you think there is some sort of natural progression or timeline like this. What's your experience?


Friday, January 21, 2005

It's Not Just Me

Peggy Noonan and I must be on the same wavelength. In today's Wall Street Journal opinion piece, she hit the nail on the head and explains why yesterday's Inauguration bugged me so much.

There are several things about yesterday's inauguration which the former Reagan Administration speechwriter and I agree about wholeheartedly.
But whoever picked the music for the inaugural ceremony itself--modern megachurch hymns, music that sounds like what they'd use for the quiet middle section of a Pixar animated film--was . . . lame. The downbeat orchestral arrangement that followed the president's speech was no doubt an attempt to avoid charges that the ceremony had a triumphalist air. But I wound up thinking: This is America. We have a lot of good songs. And we watch inaugurals in part to hear them.

Never be defensive in your choice of music.
I was wincing all through the singing of "Bless this House". While I understand the intent was to invoke a blessing on the Capitol/government (I think that was the intent!) the lyrics were just not befitting a state occasion.

Read for yourself, then tell me if you think I'm off my nut:

Bless this house O Lord we pray; Make it safe by night and day;
Bless these walls so firm and stout, Keeping want and trouble out:
Bless the roof and chimneys tall, Let thy peace lie over all;
Bless this door, that it may prove ever open to joy and love.

Bless these windows shining bright, Letting in God's heav'nly light;
Bless the hearth a'blazing there, with smoke ascending like a prayer;
Bless the folk who dwell within, keep them pure and free from sin;
Bless us all that we may be Fit O Lord to dwell with thee;
Bless us all that one day we May dwell O Lord with thee.

It's a lovely song. I have no trouble at all with the song itself, it's a very sweet sentiment. But it is not appropriate for a presidential inauguration!

There, I said it!

Ms. Noonan and I apparently also had the same reaction to the President's ambitious vision of America's role in the overthrow of tyranny.
The inaugural address itself was startling. It left me with a bad feeling, and reluctant dislike. Rhetorically, it veered from high-class boilerplate to strong and simple sentences, but it was not pedestrian. George W. Bush's second inaugural will no doubt prove historic because it carried a punch, asserting an agenda so sweeping that an observer quipped that by the end he would not have been surprised if the president had announced we were going to colonize Mars.

As I wrote in yesterday's post, I had that same bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. It troubled me greatly. Why is this soaring rhetoric about human dignity and freedom not uplifting me? Why do I get the sense I'm not at all going to like what happens next?

I am a Christian; raised in a Christian home where our thoughts and conversations were dominated by God, Jesus and the Bible. We deplore the ever increasing godlessness of society today, and thought police out there who try to drive Jesus and God altogether out of the public square. But here's the thing: even for me, there was too much brazen mentioning of God in that speech. As Ms. Noonan points out: this ain't heaven:

The president's speech seemed rather heavenish. It was a God-drenched speech. This president, who has been accused of giving too much attention to religious imagery and religious thought, has not let the criticism enter him. God was invoked relentlessly. "The Author of Liberty." "God moves and chooses as He wills. We have confidence because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind . . . the longing of the soul."

I support those who choose to make no secret of their faith. I admire people who make public declaration of their faith, knowing it may gain them ridicule and scorn. What I am most definitely not into is a swaggering kind of "here's my God IN-YO'-FACE" type of witness. That is how Bush's speech came across to me.

Granted, our God can very definitely be an IN-YO'-FACE type of God. I don't ever put it past Him to manifest himself in ways that truly do put the fear of Him into us. That's great - I'll leave it up to him to do that. But if Bush thinks he's going to help the cause along by flaunting God to the masses, well, I have a feeling that might backfire on ya there buddy.

All I can do is continue to pray that God steers our President, if almost despite himself. What concerns me most is whether or not he already believes he has a clear mandate from the Almighty to make good on his ultimatums to undemocratic and oppressive regimes.

It almost makes me long for another hard-drinking Winston Churchill:
Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter. The statesman who yields to war fever must realize that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events. ~Sir Winston Churchill

They don't make them like Sir Winston anymore...

Thursday, January 20, 2005

The Speech That Made Our Hair Stand On End

The full text of George W. Bush's second inaugural speech may be read in its entirety here. If you didn't hear it live, give it a read. Then if you would, please come back here and explain to me why I feel so uneasy...

I must admit, this one made my hair stand on end. I'm not the only one. Not long after the ceremonies were over, I got an email from an equally baffled family member. Her candid thoughts:

To remove tyranny from the world is rather a large agenda....After all it's been here longer than America has....It's a wonderful thought but why does it make the hair stand up on the back of my neck??? Am I missing something here?

If she is, then I am too, because I was just as wigged-out by it. Why? I really don't know. Something in my gut has a terrible feeling, similar to the feeling I had two years ago that they weren't going to find WMDs in Iraq and we were going to end up with egg all over our faces. It's that same awful foreboding I had watching Colin Powell at the UN, rattling that little symbolic vial. His mouth said one thing, his eyes seemed to say something else. But maybe I imagined that?

I'm sure the nations of the world are going to have a field day with this one, and I almost dread to read the worldwide reaction.

Do I want freedom for all peoples? More than anyone save God can know. Who doesn't want that but the tyrants themselves? Do I want my country to do what it can to promote freedom and democracy throughout the world? Absolutely. But why do I have this terrible sinking feeling we just called out a bunch of nations to a fight? And why does that have me feeling so, well, nervous?

Anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis I hope knows by now that I love my country and its people with all my heart. There is no place else I would rather live, or that I could imagine living. My citizenship came to mean even more to me after traveling to other parts of the world. I know the blessings of liberty, and I pray they would be available to all souls. I have family who have served with distinction in the military, and I am forever humbled by and grateful for all that they did. They make me very proud of who we are and what we stand for.

So why am I still struggling with this darned speech? Can anyone else put a finger on it for me? I'd much appreciate it...

He Must Have Mixed Up His Red and Blue States

I thought the threats Osama bin Laden made before the election targeted the "red states". What on earth would he be thinking then, sending a dirty bomb to Boston, MA?

I can't for the life of me figure out why anyone in Al Qaeda would want to target Boston. It just doesn't make any sense to me. It seems more likely they'd instead use it as another staging ground. There aren't that many people here (as compared with the US's larger cities) and a large percentage of them are more against the US war on terror than Bin Laden himself!

More information here and here.

It's unsettling to consider that my favorite city in the world could be under the gun. We live about thirty or so miles north of Boston, though Mr. F works about 15 miles north of Boston. So far the details sound rather sketchy, as though it could be a hoax. I certainly hope so. Thankfully most of our family all live north of here in New Hampshire. We'd be the closest to any kind of impact.

Please pray for us, for wisdom for those conducting the investigations and for the safety of all concerned. Thanks!

Hat tip: Michelle Malkin

Update I: The search is still ongoing for the six people in question, but local news stations are trying to downplay the terror threat, saying it still remains uncorroborated. WindsOfChange has been following events closely, as has the Backcountry Conservative

Update II: Samia from Redneck's Wife points out that terrorists don't discriminate between Republicans and Democrats. Aye, this is true. Just to clarify, I was trying to be a bit humorous (which is often how I deal with crisis, strangely enough). Of course the terrorists wouldn't discriminate. To them, the only good American is a dead American - let's not kid ourselves.

But I was making a reference to statements allegedly made by Osama bin Ladenjust prior to the November elections in which he made a series of veiled threats to individual states. It was interpreted by many that bin Laden was threatening the security of states that voted for W. So when I heard the terror alert yesterday, my first rather twisted reaction was that if it was true, bin Laden must not know much about Massachusetts' residents voting habits!

Parting thought: I worried this morning: if something did happen here, would we get *any* sympathy from all the red-staters? Would some say "you got what you deserved you lilly-livered peace activists"? Would others say it was God's judgment for allowing gay marriage?

I wonder?

UPDATE IV: Ok, now I'm getting a little concerned. Boston.com is reporting that the FBI has added 10 more names of Chinese nationals to the list of those being sought for questioning. No reason was given as to why these new names were not released with the original four. Michelle Malkin is also tracking this new development.

LAST UPDATED: 1/20/05 8:36 pm - FBI now seeking 10 more individuals in connection with Boston Terror Alert


I've been trying to leave a comment at Phil Dillon's site but for some reason it keeps stalling out. So I'll thank him here.

After reading about some of my church experiences here, Phil at Another Man's Meat has begun writing a series of posts about some of his own experiences in the church. In A Brief History of a Church That Should Never Have Been, he shares about his experiences as a new pastor who begins to discover what the leaders in the church had been espousing prior to his installment. I didn't know he was moved to write these things, so I was kind of floored to read that he decided to do this after reading something I'd written.

Phil doesn't know this, but in the last few days I've been feeling a bit torn about sharing my experiences in the church on this site. From the get-go, I didn't want to just flap my gums and point fingers. God knows it really isn't my desire or intent to tear down the institution of church, nor is it my intent to discourage people from fellowshipping together. But I hoped that maybe someone else might benefit from the knowledge of what I've seen, heard and experienced.

Since Monday I've been unsettled about the whole thing. I started feeling guilty for not writing more about the grace and the goodness of God, attributes for which I am dearly grateful. Re-thinking my decision to join the evangelical aggregator, I wondered if perhaps I was writing for all the wrong reasons, maybe I was lost in sin, maybe I was just a negative person looking to complain. I didn't think I was, but who knows how deceived we can be about the condition of our own hearts sometimes? Certainly it's possible, I couldn't avoid that possibility, however distasteful.

It was becoming more difficult to post, because I've been second-guessing everything (sure death to any writing effort). While contemplating scrapping the whole thing, I ran across Phil's post. It reaffirmed to me that these stories should be told, and that we should not be ashamed to tell them.

It may not be my purpose right now to be a great evangelistic blog writer. I will never deny an opportunity to tell a seeking soul about Jesus. However it seems confirmed to me that my job right now is to warn about and confess the wrongs done in the name of Christ. I would rather like a different assignment, to talk about good things and happy people. But my heart says that there's more to do here, for now.

So I want to thank Phil for having the bravery to share from his own experiences. It encourages me to keep going and emboldens me to keep speaking out. As Christians we know that we are not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ - it is power of God unto salvation to all who will believe. Because my heart and soul is indebted to the saving grace of Christ, I am determined to continue to speak out against wrongs and injustices committed that sully His good name and crucify His cause.

If you have been hurt in a church situation, please know first and foremost that God still loves you, He will always love you, and he wants to help you overcome whatever it is that has happened to you. Do not let anything separate you from the love of God which is in Jesus. Hang on to your faith and ask God to help you see things as they really are, not as some may have tried to force you to believe. Find a believer or groups of believers you trust and tell them what you've been through, and ask them to pray for your healing and the restoration of your faith. Do not despair. God is still mighty to save you. Hang on. You're not alone, others have been where you are and have come through it all with a clearer understanding of God's grace, mercy, and forgiveness. There's hope for you too.

If I have to be nag for Jesus, then so be it. It is my hope and prayer that in retelling these stories some will be spared the heartache, devastation, and disillusionment others have suffered. Prayerfully we believers will all be reminded that ours is a ministry of reconciliation and a mission of love, that as we were called, so likewise we must call whosoever to come and see that the Lord is good.


Not the Nerd I Thought I Was

I'm surprised. I'll leave it you to decide if that's a good or bad thing. ;)

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Vanity and Vexation!

I've been itching to read Ecclesiastes for a couple days now. Finally sat down this morning to read it all again.

This book is such a bizarre comfort to me. I come to the words of "The Preacher" with all my post-modernistic angst, and every time I'm assured that what I'm going through is nothing new.

Two particular things were bugging me yesterday. One was a case of Christians behaving badly. Not only was I hopping mad at what I percieved was unjust treatment of a brother, but the offending brother seemed to be getting all sorts of props. This is a pattern I saw repeated all too often in church, and it triggered a bout of discouragement.

Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong.

Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.

As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are many words. ~ Ecclesiastes 5:1-3 (NIV)

I always thought it was curious that such a statement should be included in the holy canon of scripture: "Guard your steps when you go to the house of God." Later I would come to realize there is often as much treachery within the sanctuary as without. We are responsible at all times to be wise and use discernment, asking God for help.

Blogland certainly has no lack of words. So it should not surprise me or anyone else to run into a few foolish speeches here and there. Reading Ecclesiastes makes me feel somewhat better, knowing that I'm not the first, nor will I be the last, to be aggravated by such things...

Idol Lover

I have a confession to make: I secretly enjoy watching American Idol

I enjoy the first round train-wreck auditions the most. Before you think I'm a terrible person for saying that, let me say this: I've been that train wreck auditionee -- not for American Idol itself per se. Let's just say I've been through my share of pretty painful acting and singing auditions.

Remembering one in particular still makes me cringe. I was trying to sing something from a certain Sondheim musical, and I bombed. It was unspeakably bad. The director's cartoonish expression of horror caused his pointy brows to jump for the relative safety of his scalp - that was the only explanation I could conjure to explain the way they seemed to leap clear off his forehead. Those frantic eyebrows still haunt me sometimes when I'm singing alone in the car or around the house!

Some dreams die hard. Mine should have been bludgeoned mercilessly with a club. Those who ever so gently suggested that maybe I should try something else deserve a medal for their tactfulness. At the time I was pretty bummed out about it, but time and age have a wonderful way of straightening out your perspective on things. Now I wonder what on earth was I thinking? I may be able to carry a tune, but I ain't no vocal diva!

So it is with a mixture of amusement and embarassment that I tune in and watch other would-bes give it their best shot. You hope for the best, but then there are some who, like me, are really much better off getting shot down now. It's kind of like a public service, eh? ;)

UPDATE: Jeff at Proverbs Daily provides the proverbial take on how flattery will get you absolutely nowhere (or worse!)

Now Playing

On my way home from work one night I heard this song on a local college station, of all places! It had been a positively horrible day, and on my long hour ride home I was sad and torn, worrying about the state of my soul. Then out of the blue, these beautiful words reached out to me from the most unlikely of sources.

Turns out the musician was in town for a Reggae gig and was in-studio at the radio station. I was hardly listening to the interview bits, tuned as I was to my own misery. But then they played this song...

Imagine hearing gospel music on your local rock station - that's about how likely it would be to hear something like this on this particular college's airwaves. In fact I think you'd be more likely to hear the Blind Boys of Alabama singing "Amazing Grace" on Howard Stern's show. The effect that the song had on me at that moment was profound. Later on at home I immediately turned the Internet upside down trying to find a copy of it. I finally found it on a 45 (that's right, we're talking vinyl, people). It didn't seem to exist in any digital medium, so I plunked down the plastic and ordered it from a rather obscure Reggae site based in the U.K.

Joy of joys, the record arrived but there was one small problem - I hadn't had a turntable in eons. Granted, I still had a remoteless television set up until I married Mr. F, but even I, the queen of all things low-tech, didn't have a record player anymore.

Mr. F by now had realized how much the song meant to me. So for Christmas that year he went out and bought me a turntable so I could play the song whenever I needed it most. Just recently he figured out how to digitize it for me, so I am now happily listening to it in my iTunes library. I wish I could provide a link to it so you could all enjoy it too (there must be a Blogger hack for this, but I haven't found one yet.)

In lieu of the music itself, here are the lyrics, as best as I could decipher them. Imagine a beautiful soft reggae song sung by a male tenor and you get the idea.

The King is Amazing - Peter Hunningale

At times the pressure when the going gets tough and,
man I feel it when the road is rough
Weak and you're tired and you've had enough
Sound your praises to the One above

I know you can't fight it
without the love of the King the Almighty
hold onto faith tightly
and you'll be sure to go through

The King is amazing
there for me when I know I'd give in
living in a world of stress and fear
the King is amazing, yeah

Today we struggle through the war and crime, it's
like we're living in the very last time
if peace and love is still what's on your mind
sound your praises, let them hear your cry

I know you can't take it
but if you give up right now you won't make it
be real and don't fake it
and you'll be sure to go through


Although you try to live a virtuous life, still,
certain things are bound to cause you strife
put down the (???)
sound your praises, open up their eyes

I know you can't fight it
without the love of the King the Almighty
hold onto faith tightly
and you'll be sure to go through

(chorus 2x)

I'm still amazed by the timing that day, and the words, everything.
Thanks God...

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

A Dose of Just What I Needed

Ok, so I could have used it a few hours ago. But right after publishing my last post, I found two other blogs that cheered me up some.

Phil Dillon, author of Another Man's Meat is someone I respect, and it's not just because he has the good sense to be a Red Sox fan. He is thoughtful and erudite, and puts a lot of care into everything he posts. Today he writes about influence in So Who Was Mordecai Hamm Anyway?. (No, it has nothing to do with soccer phenom Mia Hamm.)

Phil's post was inspired by Influence, Small and Great by John Zimmer at Letters From Babylon. Both are worth checking out, both helped me readjust my attitude a bit.

Hope springs eternal...


Do you ever get discouraged?

I'm down today. I've read a few things in the last twenty four hours or so that really got me down. One was one blogger taking on another, threatening to report a post to several ministries with the stated intent to expose and correct. It struck me instead as spiritual bullying - The threats to expose and bring shame, the sanctimonious tone - it totally depressed me. It's like a Christian Gestapo. It gives me chills. Whatever happened to the biblical prescription for going to your brother and discussing the problem one on one first? Doesn't that still apply?

The second thing that I just ran across while looking something up was a site by a person who has completely forsworn Christianity and Christ. He had some bad experiences, including some time spent in my former denomination. Now he's chucked the baby out with the bathwater. Some "Christians" have since attacked him for going public about this, and it has had the horrible effect of hardening his heart even further. Nice going folks. Way to go. I hope they're proud of themselves.

Not long ago I finished reading The Secret Life of Bees. It was ok, though I have to admit all the Mary worship freaked me out a bit. Though I'm not sure what flavor of Christian I am at the moment, but the Protestant in me recoiled to read the part about baking cakes for the Queen of Heaven on Ascension Day.

But leaving that aside, I've been thinking about the one character that intrigued me more than the others, and that is May. (I'll try to prevent leaking any spoilers for the sake of anyone who hasn't read the book yet who wants to read it). Why did May stick with me? Part of her reminds me of me.

May's defining characteristic is that every wrong, every painful thing cuts her to the quick. There is no distinction between big injustices (violence) and smallish slights (family quarrel). Everything upsets this girl's apple cart. What other people could shrug off sends her careening into an emotional tailspin.

Part of my difficulty in church stemmed from my an overly keen awareness of and sensitivity to sinfulness in all its forms, and my total inability to overcome it. I frequently despaired over my own sorry state - I may have overcome a thousand sins and tearfully repented, but my heart broke over my and others' inability to live up to all that a good Christian life should be.

My holiness paranoia has a parallel in Jainism, a radical derivative of Hinduism. Jain monks are hypervigilant in their efforts to kill no living thing. Some employ brooms to sweep any living things out of their paths for fear of unintentionally treading upon them, killing them. Some take this to the extreme of suspending themselves above the ground, tormented by the thought that there may be organisms too small to be seen with the naked eye that could be dispatched by one careless footfall. Jain monks do not bathe, knowing that would kill organisms living on their bodies. They cover their mouths to refrain from breathing in airborne microbes. They go to every extreme and extent within their means to do no harm.

I learned about the Jains in college, while studing eastern religions. I figured it was a good idea to know about what else was out there, not because I wanted to pursue any of it, but I didn't want to be an ignorant Christian. It was ironic then that years later I found myself comparing my own strident efforts to lead a sinless life to the paranoia of the Jains.

Looking back now, I see that my feelings of paranoia and failure stem somewhat from early childhood experiences that left me filled with constant shame and and a deep longing for acceptance. Though in my heart I knew I was forgiven, some deep part of me still felt I must be that loathsome insect Johnathan Edwards preached about. The particular fellowship I belonged to didn't do much to allay my fears or reassure me that I was "accepted in the Beloved". Some saw my constant state of tearful repentance as a good thing. Few ever stopped to think that maybe I was taking everything a little too hard. Perhaps they just thought it meant that they must be good preachers, for me to be walking around in a perpetual state of conviction for several years. They didn't realize that my grief over my sin and theirs was setting in and deepening, causing me to despair.

One of the good things that has come of my departure from that church is that my faith in God's forgiveness was tested to the breaking point. Not only did that faith survive, but it has been strengthened. I no longer tremble, wondering if my attempts at holiness are pleasing. I don't wring myself out anymore. I've given myself permission to be human again and allowed God to take the lead with regards to my sanctification.

But I still struggle some days, like today. I read about the difficulties other Christians face, of one Christian attacking another, and still more who have left the faith in droves. It's almost enough to make you despair.

Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him
For the help of His countenance. Psalm 42:5

Monday, January 17, 2005

Still Dreaming

Very many years ago, I'm not sure how many to be exact, yours truly sat in an elementary school classroom, completely captivated by the scratchy recording booming out of the speakers of an ancient phonograph. Never before had such words had an impact, electrifying my little girls' heart and challenging my growing mind.

His words resonate as fully today as ever before.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring." And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado! Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California! But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia! Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee! Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Thank you MLK. Thank you.


We had a house-full of friends and family over last night to watch some football. I am slowly recovering today.

Dear me, when did I suddenly get so old? This is the girl who used to go non-stop and work all night, drinking black coffee and Mountain Dew®. In college I once went about two weeks (during finals, of course) without sleeping in a bed - on the train, in class, backstage, and wherever else I could catch a few winks, but my head didn't hit a pillow. (This is not recommended sleeping behavior for college students or anyone else. Looking back, I'm very thankful I didn't nod of at some point and drive off the road into a ditch!)

Considering I had an incredible amount of personal fortitude in my younger days, I am absolutely flummoxed by how tired I can get after a couple hours of shopping for a football party, never mind preparing for and hosting said party itself. The party was a rousing success, even with the strange assortment of personalities present. Our beloved Patriots absolutely shut down Peyton Manning (sorry dude -- Not!) and we absolutely reveled in it.

By eight PM I found myself to be so incredibly tired, I felt as if at any moment the life might go right out of me and I would be converted instantly into a lump of organic matter. An eggplant, perhaps, or a cabbage. Realizing that a few of the players on the field in last night's game are about my age (33) or older really made me feel like an old lump. When did this happen?

I've got just a few days to get ready for next Sunday's matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers. I almost couldn't watch last night's game because of nerves - I really didn't know which way it was going to go. This next game could be one for the ages.

I better start resting up now...

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Why Give Needless Offense?

I've been mulling over the duststorm kicked up over at One Hand Clapping. If you haven't been over there lately, there's quite a conundrum going on about whether Western Civilization is "morally superior". I promised myself I would not get into this. I read follow-on responses at Messy Christian and Effortless Grace and In The Outer. I read and read, shook my head and went "tsk tsk tsk". I even commented here and there. But I absolutely was not going to get into writing anything more on the matter.


What follows is not so much a direct reply to anything that was said in any of those blogs, but my own ruminations on the wider subject of what role our faith should have in shaping our attitudes towards foreigners in general. No one person or comment is singled out, nor do I wish to demean, disturb, or defame any of the individuals involved in those discussions. With some trepidation, I dive into the fray. Please bear with me. May these words merely provoke thought and not give offense.

It is hard to argue with the premise that the Western European and American nations were the most single influential civilization during the last several hundred years. If we try to step back and look at things as objectively as possible, the influence of Western Civ on commerce, industrialism, literature, arts, music and yes even religion and morality has been huge. Talk to any citizen of India about the British influence there and how it changed Indian culture. Ditto the American influence on post-war Japan.

Notice I use the word "influential" in a neutral way. Certainly a good amount of America's influence has been beneficial during the course of its history. But you'll never get a consensus on what was and was not beneficial about our influence. It'd be more profitable for you to spend hours of time trying to teach a pig to sing. Everyone is going to have varying perspectives about America's influence. Consider too that Russia was influential during WWII, but no one would go so far as to say that everything the Russians did was beneficial (just ask Poland).

Does this mean then that we can never make a value judgment or have an opinion? Are there then no objective yardsticks by which to measure the relative success or failure of a particular civilization of people? No, that is not what I'm trying to say here. Certainly within the Christian worldview there is knowledge and recognition of good and evil, profitableness and vanity. The Scriptures themselves make no attempt to call evil by any other name. Since as of yet no person yet living (save Christ Himself) has been a continual fountain of God's wisdom and grace, we do have to open our minds a little to make absolutely sure that conclusions we draw are based on truth, not presumption or prejudice.

In her book Bird by Bird writer Anne Lamott cautions would-be writers to work hard to see both other people and ourselves with compassion and pursue a more reverent contemplation of life in general. At a time when so many bloggers are struggling to observe and express their thoughts about the tragedy in the East, this seems timely:

Writing involves seeing people suffer and, as Robert Stone once put it, finding some meaning therein. But you can't do that if you're not respectful. If you look at people and just see sloppy clothes or rich clothes, you're going to get them wrong. Bird by Bird pp. 97

The Bible also instructs us not to have respect of persons, setting up or esteeming one group of people higher than another. Perhaps because it clouds our perspective, and prevents us from seeing that the people whom we've deemed "lesser" as people who ought to be regarded as we'd like to be regarded ourselves. Does the golden rule just apply to people who look like we do? Or to those who think like we do? Or does it apply to everyone?

This requires something of us. If God so loved the world, then what ought our attitudes and deportment be towards others? The One who issued the Great Commission did not weight the value of one group of lives over another. Therefore, "Love thy neighbor" should extend equally beyond the boundaries of our town, state and nation. Knowing that we are first and foremost citizens of Heaven, why do we not conduct ourselves with grace towards those who are without? Why do we not see in our hearts that all these too are souls for whom Christ died?

Suppose I see you zipping by me on the Interstate in a souped-up Mustang. You are going much, much too fast and hit a patch of ice. You are critically injured in the ensuing crash. Is that the time for me to stand by the side of the road, wagging my finger and calling you a rotten driver, an accident waiting to happen? You would think me the meanest of all people and question whether there is any love or grace in operation in my life. Even worse, suppose you were driving like a madman because your pregnant wife was in labor with your first child, and you were trying to get to the hospital. My observation that you were driving horribly would technically be valid. But who has just committed the greater offense, you with your frantic driving or me with my inappropriate and graceless remarks?

To be engrossed by something outside ourselves is a powerful antidote for the rational mind, the mind that so frequently has its head up its own a** -- seeing things in such a narrow and darkly narcissistic way that it presents a colo-rectal theology, offering hope to no one. Bird by Bird pp. 102

Do we want to be a people that offer hope to no one? Or worse, do we want to be preferential, offering hope only to those who think like we do and affirm all that we hold dear? If so, what kind of moral superiority is that?

There is only One whose morality is superior, and that was Jesus, called the Christ, the Son of God and the only one with the righteousness required to save our lost and dying world. Whosoever calls upon His name shall be saved and made new by the regenerating power of his Holy Spirit. Whosoever hears His words and lives them will be like a house built upon a rock and a light to the world. If those in Asia hear the call and heed the words of Christ, He will come and rebuild them, and restore all that has been taken away.

The blessings of God are not the exclusive privilege of Western civilization. God forbid we should be like Jonah, sulking under the dead gourd plant, complaining about the mercy and grace God chooses to bestow on people we choose neither to know nor to understand.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Harvard University Hires "Fun Czar"

In 1643 Harvard University's raison d'etre was "to advance Learning and perpetuate it to Posterity; dreading to leave an illiterate Ministry to the Churches." The Harvard of today bears scant resemblance to its roots. Now the $64,000 question is: How much lower can Harvard University go?

Today the Boston Herald reports that Harvard has hired a former student into the newly created post of "Fun Czar", designed to help students learn how to "have fun". Apparently Czar Zac Corker (I'm not making this up, really) comes well qualified:

As an undergrad at Harvard, he put together a suds-soaked party that was busted by police, and helped create a Web site that encourages drinking and gives tips on how to tap a keg and unhook a bra.

Czar Corker's website hahvadpahties.com instructs students how to get $100 out of the University to sponsor parties.

Somewhere in the soggy Massachusetts earth, the Rev. John Harvard is spinning like a top.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Who (or What) is Feeble Knees?

It occurred to me this week that I never really properly introduced myself. Here's an attempt to fill you in, without giving too much away.

First off, I'm married, female, and thirty-three at present. I have no children, yet. My husband and I have been married just over two years. We live in Massachusetts, we're die-hard Red Sox fans (naturally).

There are several reasons why I write anonymously. First and foremost, I know the Internet is a wild and wooly place. I conceal my name to protect myself and my family from any unwanted stresses, like getting dooced (i.e. fired for blogging) or harassed. Of all my family, only my husband knows that I write this blog - it is my way of protecting the innocent. Some friends are aware that I blog, but they don't know which blog I write.

Because I frequently share about my past experiences (and resulting scars) about being in a spiritually abusive church, I write anonymously to protect myself from retribution, but also to protect my brothers and sisters who are still faithful members of my former church family. I love them, and I do not want to hurt them. I do question many things that they did or said in the name of Christ, but no one should ever construe (God willing) that I condemn or demean them. God forbid. After all, I was right there with them for a good long time. I understand all too well how these things go.

I was part of a evangelical/Pentecostal fellowship for several years. It was the only church I have ever regularly attended. I was an official member. There were many good things that came out of the experience, and there are things I learned in church that I am forever grateful for. It wasn't all bad. Certain people helped me in so many ways to grow in faith and to see Jesus more clearly. Others, well, not so much. During my time there I heard some crazy preaching and saw terrible things, including a forced exorcism that involved restraining a minor (who was unaccompanied by her parents) and holding her against her will. This particular event was in some ways the last straw for me, though it still took many more months before I finally left.

As for what I believe? A lot of people are no doubt curious about that. I do believe Jesus is the son of God, born of a virgin. I believe He lead a sinless life and died on the cross to pay for the sins of the world. He came back to life and ascended to heaven. I believe His Spirit (the Holy Spirit of the Trinity) operates to glorify Christ and to draw men and women to Christ. I do believe there is a place that is apart from and completely devoid of God's presence - that place is called Hell.

Without my Bible, I'd be sunk. I've read it cover-to-cover several times. I highly recommend that everyone read it for themselves and be challenged by it, but don't look for easy answers. I believe that "being saved" is not as cut and dried as some people would like to think. Personally speaking, I have more in common with more of the "unsavory" characters in the bible than I do with the giants of faith, unless you're talking about those like David, Solomon, Jacob, and so many others who had a gift for screwing up royally at times.

When I gave my heart to Jesus at age 14, I wrote Him a little note to solemnicize the occasion. In it, I freely offered my heart, but in a bit of naive wisdom that still makes me smile, I apologetically wrote that I couldn't guarantee that I wouldn't mess up from time to time, but even so, my life was His and I loved Him. That was probably the first and only time in my life I ever prophesied. Many messes later, I'm discovering that Jesus' love is deep and wide, His grace is unfathomable - I cannot plumb the depths of it. My fear of God in all His holiness prevents me from testing the limits any further. I surrendered a long time ago.

After agonizing over the decision for about two years, I finally left my church. That was a couple years ago. Though I began looking for another church, I abandoned my search for a time after getting pretty darn depressed about my choices. Today I am a classic "lone ranger Christian". I am angry about many false teachings that have hurt people and driven many, like me, to flee the church. I do believe in the institution of church, but like anything that was originally intended for good, I believe many churches have lost their way. Before they condemn me for leaving, I ask that they examine the reasons why I left. Churches can have motes in the eye too.

Blogging has been a surprising journey. At the start, I half expected to be inundated with people trying to chase me back into church, offering cheap excuses or browbeating me with scripture. To my amazement, that has not been the case (well, not always). Instead, some folks with really big hearts came along and offered consolation, encouragement and prayers. What a hopeful thing - to find a church in the wilderness.

My name, Feeble Knees, sums up where I am at. It is my admission that I am weak, that I need encouragement, that at the moment I can't run with the horses or scale the great mountains of faith. One day I found this Spurgeon sermon, and I realized I am one of those "sons of sorrow" about which he spoke. He asserts that there are some people who seem to be born melancholy, who are so sensitive to evil and grief. I wish I could explain why I've always been so sorrowful - there are many reasons, some secret, that are too painful to speak of. But it's been this way since my earliest memories, and I'm very conscious of the fact that I've been a challenge and a burden to some Christians for whom joy and contentment are more natural. For that, I'm very sorry. Often I was ashamed of myself for it, though I am learning to live with it. I do my best.

It is my hope that through this blog others will come to see that there are some weak, who struggle. They are not necessarily ignorant of scripture, stupid, or unable to help themselves. They do not necessarily lack faith. They are beloved by God and whether or not you realize it, serve an important function in the body of Christ. They remind us that we have a duty to love and encourage one another, seeking the patience and wisdom of God when our own fails. Weakness may be despised and feared by the strong, yet it is the frail and feeble ones who know the secret hiding places in the shadow of the Almighty. That is one of the blessings afforded the meek and the poor in spirit.

I'm in love with the person of Jesus as much as ever. Were it not for Him, I shudder to think what my life would be - or if it even would have come to be at all. My heart's hopes and desires are all wrapped up in Him. His mercy is great and His gentleness and patience is beyond comprehension. Hopefully my life and words reflect well upon Him.

To those who have been reading here for some time, thanks for sticking with me and helping me to sort things out and air a few grievances. For those who just came along, I hope this answers some questions and helps you understand the frame of reference from which these posts are written. I'll provide a permanent link to this post over on the left column here for future reference.

Thanks for stopping by. God bless you.
~ Feeble

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

I Think I'm Still an Evangelical

I actually had to think about this before adding my name to Joe Carter's new Evangelical blog directory. I hesitated though. Is it enough that I *think* I am?

Old habits die hard. For a moment I found myself wondering if I should dare throw my lot in with this list, given my present churchless state. What if people come here and decide that I'm terribly backslidden? What kind of evangelical am I? Maybe I shouldn't join up. I don't want to reflect badly on the others.

Yet part of me is jaw-droppingly shocked that I'm still so caught up wondering what the church at large's perception is of me and my walk. Yep, I'm prone to intense bouts of insecurity, even now, even so many years down the road since that first day I committed my heart into Jesus' hands.


Self discovery is tricky business. If you don't have someone with a more objective opinion around, you run the risk of believing wildly inaccurate things about yourself. So we look to others for a plumb line - how screwed up am I compared to this one or that one? Maybe this tendency is a little more pronounced in women. Is my butt bigger than hers? No? Oh good! I find myself doing the same thing when it comes to faith. Do I know the Scriptures better than him? Yes? Oh good!

I'm comfortable with the idea that my faith will not be perfected this side of eternity. At least I think I am. Until I run into some one who professes a more perfect faith than mine. That's were my twisted little mind gets tied up in knots and trips over itself. Perhaps this is why church is difficult for me. Rather than being happy if I make it in the door at all, I'm caught up in comparisons.

Is it covetousness? Do I covet someone else's faith and perserverance? From time to time it strikes me that I have been given my measure of faith, and I should be happy to work with what I've got, not focus on what I don't have yet. I worry that someone's going to come along and say, "is that all you've got? Harumph!"

Well, I decided to take the leap and join the list. After all, I do identify more as an evangelical than anything else, I suppose. So if you're here as a result of finding me in the long list of evangelical blogs, welcome to the world of Feeble Knees: evangelical Christian, neurotic mess!

How Not to Witness

Staring at me from across the park, the woman strode purposefully towards the place where I sat on the grass, enjoying the sunny summer day and the live worship music. Her jaw was rigid with determination as she marched across the lawn, swiftly closing the comfortable distance between us. You just knew no good would come of this.

Watching her bold and steady advance triggered my fight-or-flight response. What did she want? Should I sit here? Should I run? Am I in trouble? Mummy!

I fought the urge to snuff out my cigarette. Maybe that was it? Maybe she had a problem with my smoking? It sure looked like I was in trouble for something. Her gaze burned with intensity as she stood over me. With a booming and resonant voice she demanded: "Do...You...Know...GOD??"

Oh good grief!

Reading this post at A New Life Emerging made me remember this sister and our first "chance" meeting at an outdoor service held by my old church. She truly wanted to win the lost for Christ, regrettably she just had the spookiest ways of going about it.

Within the space of about two short years I was probably rivaling her for spookiness and inappropriate evangelistic tactics - from the spontaneous testimonials I gave at work, (during work hours) to leaving tracts with restaurant tips and more. I once chased a homeless man down a Main Street in Nashua trying to give him food because I thought God was telling me to witness to him in this way. He was wearing a winter parka in ninety degree heat, shuffling along with what appeared to be all his worldly possessions bound up in a bundle on his back. Yet it was he that looked at me with suspicion and fear. His bewildered eyes said it all. "Who *is* this crazy woman and why won't she leave me alone?"

How did this happen? How did I go from being the one rolling her eyes at the "God-woman" at the outdoor service to being just as wacky? If it there is a reward for being a fool for Christ, I expect I have one heck of a booby prize awaiting me in heaven.

New Life Emerging, in the same post, talks about Christ's fellowship with sinners and how he sat down and ate with the unlikeliest people, concerned more about the state of their souls than their manner of dress or speech. Looking back this seems so contrary now to how I'd go to a friend's wedding ceremony and skip the reception, or leave just after the meal, before the dancing started. I followed my pastors example in this. They felt that by sticking around at such a wedding would make it appear that they condoned the "sinful" practice of dancing. So they split. (Let me tell you, it was always interesting to hear them explain their way around Jesus' first miracle at Cana.)

It's been kind of humbling to look back on all this stuff. I am grateful that Jesus has not forsaken me, even as I've made a complete arse out of myself and probably have done more harm than good to His good name at times. I've never heard anyone tell me "gee, that time you refused to come to my party because we were drinking, gee that really impressed me and inspired me to follow Jesus myself."

How do we go about this business of glorifying God? Somedays I think trying to bring glory to Christ is rather like bringing coals to Newcastle - He was and is glorified by God already. I'm not sure, but I think it has something to do with reflecting that glory, in the form of lavishing love and compassion on others.

It has got to be about reflection - God's love is embodied in Christ, and Christ's life and work glorified God by reflecting well on God. The Holy Spirit's ministry is to reflect the goodness of Christ in our lives, hearts and minds. I should be the embodiment of Christ's spirit at work in us, and this in turn should reflect well upon Christ and God. It is as if we are a series of prisms positioned in such a precise way that the goodness and love of God reflect upon each prism, then each prism in turn radiates that light both outward to our fellow man, and inward, back to the source of light which is God himself.

I do not have to try to *be* the light. I don't have to work it up or manufacture it, any more than I could duplicate the work of the Sun. But I do want to reflect that light. I want Jesus to glance off my imperfect life and illuminate the dark places so many others travel through. Lord, help me...

Mac Mini

It may finally be time to retire our Apple G3 Powerbook.

I'd forgotten that yesterday was the day Steve Jobs was due to give his famous keynote address. Mr. F and I usually wait until later on in the day and watch it at home. But I happened to pop on CNN and saw the headlines about the much rumored, much anticipated new $499 (USD) Mac from Apple.

We've been drooling over the prospect since it first started getting tossed around on ThinkSecret.com and MacRumors.com. Now the truth is out! Six inches by two inches, weighing in at about two pounds, it's absolutely adorable. I'm coming down with a serious case of the gotta-gets

My poor Powerbook has been giving me fits lately, because I keep pushing its limits with new software and upgrades, and sadly it just can't keep up anymore. But I haven't wanted to be angry with it, it's been such a good little machine. I still admire its design and enjoy using it to blog with, so we'll probably keep it, along with the five or more other Macs we have about (Classics, Plusses, we got 'em).

The iPod shuffle I'm not as crazed about, though I can see where it would be a huge hit for anyone who was balking at the iPod Mini's $249 price tag. I say, if you're really craving an iPod, do what we did and get a refurbished model. They're in tip-top shape and are supposely subject to more rigorous testing than new models. We've had no trouble at all with ours, and we love them.

I am particularly excited about the new word processing/publishing applicationPages. If it lives up to the Apple standard, it should beat the stuffing out of Word. I'm dying to take this app for a spin. Not having a better alternative than Word for Mac has been one of my biggest (but few) complaints about Macs. Appleworks just didn't cut it, and I refused to install Word, because I loathe it. I've been a FrameMaker aficionado since version 3.1, and it became my tool of choice for work projects, but the $800+ price tag was a bit prohibitive when it came to home use. We actually used LaTeX a few years ago to layout and publish a family history. It came out well, but it shouldn't have to be *that* tedious. So I have high hopes for Pages. Hope it doesn't let me down...

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Sleepless Knees

Last night I was up until about 2:30 in the morning, my mind was refusing to let me off the hook. I had to get up and write down everything I was planning to do today. It was if the cerebellum took over and said "that's it; you're accomplishing something worthwhile tomorrow if I have to keep you awake all night until you agree to it."

Whenever I lie awake sleepless, which thankfully isn't as often as it used to be, I think of how my former pastor used to pray for backsliders and unsaved loved ones of church members. He used to pray that the Holy Spirit would wake them in the middle of the night and basically give them insomnia until they repented. "Let no sleep come to their eyes!" he'd bellow.

Being a terrible insomniac myself, and frequently sleep-deprived due to work (and church) demands, this absolutely horrified me. How many times had I personally almost driven off the road and met my Maker because of sleeplessness? I began to be a little paranoid that my sleeplessness was due to some deep hidden sin, that my Pastor was the calling down the demons of insomnia on my poor addled head. Tucked in his office he must have a Christian voodoo doll in my likeness, stuck full of pins through the brain. Go without sleep long enough, suddenly anything seems like a plausible explanation.

I sleep much better now than I did then, but I've moved to a quieter street. There are no "independent businessmen" selling their uh, wares out in the darkened parking lot behind my building and having guests upstairs at four in the morning. There are no ambulances and firetrucks rushing by every forty minutes on the nose. I am not sleeping with a pool cue next to my bed, in case I need to bludgeon an intruder. Mr. F. is here to keep me safe and secure. I've left behind my crazy high-pressure job in high tech. Things are much different, and sleep comes much easier these days.

But there are still nights like last night where it eludes me. I pick up a book and try to read myself to sleep. I drink warm milk. I try to clear my thoughts by writing lists. And I remember my Pastor, and wonder if he's up, praying for me?

I Don't Like Mondays

Why is it so hard to post on Monday? I'm noticing a trend: I seem to be unable to come up with anything intelligent to say on Monday morning.

Given how grouchy I was last Monday morning, it's probably a good idea for me to avoid all keyboards on the first workday of the week. I seem to be at my worst - lethargic, dull, unimaginative, uninspired. It's a good day to do mindless stuff like laundry and cleaning, but my higher cognitive functions appear to be severely impaired.

Though I am a natural born procrastinator, I have developed an effective scheme to cloak this trait with business. It works like this: if I don't want to do something, I do something else that I've been putting off that isn't quite as distasteful as the task I'm currently trying to avoid. I did not want to write yesterday, ergo I cleaned the kitchen, which I was putting off all last week by writing prolifically instead. At least something gets done!

Member of the Body

Originally, I intended to stay out of the Church Membership conversation started by Reid at Faith Gambler, then extended by Messy Christian. But darn it all, I can't keep my mouth shut!

My attitudes about church membership have done a complete 360 in the last ten years. I started out a complete Lone Ranger Christian, and happily so. The fellowship that God and I had in my living room, sitting on the couch at two AM reading the gospels together was pretty rich, and I was rather satisfied with it. Eventually I began attending church, then joined it, then left it, and here I am again, lone and churchless as ever.

The first two years before I became a member of my former church were the best years I spent there. Sadly, for me it seemed to all go downhill once I became a card-carrying member. Granted there were many reasons why I became unhappy there and eventually left, but in fairness that decision had more to do with certain goings on than my membership status. But the rigors of being a member didn't help much either.

Originally, I had no intention of joining up (and this was before I knew the whole list of "don'ts" that would be drilled into us during the membership classes). But during my second year there they had a "crisis" where an adult who was involved in children's ministry said or did something related to Halloween that got everyone's knickers in a twist. The offending adult was chastised and I think removed from ministry (though I'm not certain). Not long after that, it became mandatory for anyone who wanted to minister in any capacity to attend membership classes and become a member. This included ushers, choir, nursery workers, the whole shebang.

I was very torn. I didn't really want to be a member of any church. But by then I had grown to love my church very much and had just started in a couple of ministries and wanted to continue. So against my gut feelings on the subject, I enrolled in and completed the membership course, or as I like to call it, "Legalism 101".

I don't want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member ~ Groucho Marx

On my most reasonable days, I can still defend church membership courses. The church has a responsibility to uphold its beliefs and protect its traditions. I understand that. I absolutely am in agreement with any church's insistence that those who minister to youth, children and infants undergo training and certification (and don't forget criminal background checks). But making someone swear that they'll never take their kids to Disney World or redeem that Barnes and Noble gift certificate your Aunt Mabel gave you last Christmas, just so you can usher? Well in my mind that crosses the line. But I went a long with it, because I had a heart for Jesus and I thought I was doing The Right Thing™ by being obedient and teachable.

When it became apparent to me that my life was now an open book to be examined by the entire leadership, but that this openness was not at all reciprocal, I began to have some doubts. A leader could scrutinize everything I did, but when I had genuine questions and alarms about certain church-sanctioned events, I was given the brush-off. Things I said in confidence to my pastor were preached from the pulpit, much to my consternation. When I sought to pursue ministry opportunities in an outside, non-denominational organization, it was met with stiff resistance and admonition from leadership.

While sheep were to be completely transparent and accountable to leadership for every thought, word and deed, whether in or outside the church, the leaders themselves were not. Children of the leadership were the ones who were most often flaunting the "rules", yet the remained in ministry. They bragged of seeing certain movies while out of town, giggled about secret tattoos and yet remained aloof and silent when the rest of us got called on the carpet for oh, not attending so-and-so's prayer meeting.

Accountability is important; people in ministry should be accountable to those over them. But as individuals, Christians are first and foremost accountable for what kind of lordship they permit over their lives. I realized too late that I'd submitted myself to authority that I did not trust, and to leaders who stepped over the line.

If you paid your tithes by check, it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what your salary was. In my church, you tithed ten percent of the gross, not the net. This was hammered home repeatedly. Granted it was tough for families and single people struggling to make ends meet to dish out week after week to a Cadillac-driving pastor. If you failed to give your regular expected amount one week due to circumstances beyond your control, you were called in for it and removed from ministry unless you paid up ASAP, no ifs ands or buts.

I tried so hard to be faithful. I did everything that was asked. When unemployed for several months, I dutifully tithed my unemployment checks (the gross, not the net) though this left me with little money left for food. (I just managed to cover bills with some help from family members who knew I was in tough shape, but they didn't know how tough). Though I'd given generously and faithfully when special collections were taken for families in financial need, no help was offered me. To this day I'd love to know why. I suspect it was because as a single woman, I was breaking some unwritten rule that I should have been living at home with my parents, not in an apartment by myself where no one could keep proper tabs on me. So if I struggled, their expectation was that I shouldn't be succeeding on my own anyway. That was never said out loud, but boy it was felt.

A couple months ago I was going through the stack of business cards in my purse and found the card the church gave me on the day I was formally recognized as a member. Inwardly I was thankful I hadn't been in any accidents where an EMT or other person would have discovered the card and contacted my former church. Isn't that awful? I hate to admit that I even think that way, but these thoughts do occur to me. I still worry that my name is on the rolls somewhere with a big red asterisk next to it, or worse, branded with a big red indelible "Backslider" stamp.

I'm having enough trouble these days even wanting to go to church at all. Picturing a day where I could become a member of another church is even harder, though I won't ever rule out that possibility. More than anything I fear becoming so embittered by my lousy experience that I lose my way and begin to refuse the Grace that saved me. There are healthier churches out there, and saner leaders, I do have faith in that. If and when I do pick a church to start attending regularly, I intend to have a nice chat with the pastor about my experiences and scars. I'd tell him or her that I don't intend to join up, if that's ok. That it would take a miracle of the highest order for me to change my mind (not an impossibility; God can do anything after all). If they're okay with that, then it could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

EDIT: fixed typos, incorrect trademark code, eliminated some of the repetition. Note to self: do not post before having morning cup of tea!

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Dagens Nyheter

Andreas Ekström from Dagens Nyheter mentioned this blog in this article about religion and the tsunami. Unfortunately for me, there don't seem to be any accurate Swedish to English translation tools online, so I haven't got any idea what was written, but I do thank Andreas for the visit and for the mention.

Though I have not blogged about the tsunami and its victims in some days my heart continues to be heavy and torn for all those who have been affected by it. There weren't many adequate words to describe my initial shock, and as time goes by I seem to have fewer and fewer things to say, until I am rendered speechless by the sheer enormity of it, the incalculable loss of life and loved ones.

There's been some incoming traffic from that part of the world, so for the sake of those looking for them, below are the links to the tsunami posts that were published as the events of December 26th unfolded.

Here are my thoughts on the tsunami, chronologically, starting with the first post on December 27th.

December 27
Give What You Can

December 28
Don't Anyone Dare

December 29

My sincerest and deepest sympathies go out to all who have been affected by this tragedy. There are no words that suffice at a time like this. May the God of all comfort be with you and your loved ones.

God bless,

UPDATE: (1/9/04, 9:04 pm) A very kind reader emailed the following information about the article:

In short, the article is about God's existence and the question if God could have prevented the disaster in Asia. The article is well written and comes to no conclusion and you are mentioned since you have written something (concerning God's possibility to prevent the disaster) like “After 33 years of living and learning I know enough to definitely say this: I do not know.”

So the article is referring to the post Don't Anyone Dare.