Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Church Lady Connections . . . or Not

There is something going on.

And it’s not good.

In the past two weeks, I have had countless women bring up the topic of rejection from ‘church ladies’ until I seriously can no longer ignore it. Women from work, cashiers at stores, and—one crazy deal—a woman who remembered me from a retreat we both attended over ten years ago. She walked up in a crowded room and told me she hadn’t been back to a women’s retreat since. Why not? Because she finds being around Christian women taxing. (Um, no, don’t go there girlfriend, it wasn’t me that put her over the edge… at least I hope it wasn’t!)

And, there is no one denomination to blame; this is across the board.

In these encounters, I’ve met some amazing women and had some meaningful dialogues but to be quite honest, I’ve been left dumbfounded more than I have really been able to help.  The first few conversations were easy and I gave an example that I will share in a bit, but the last two in twenty-four hours completely tossed my brains out the window. Not that their stories were any more or less disturbing, but because my head was spinning with, ‘What? Another one?’

Anne Graham Lotz has a brand new book out and when I opened my email this week, I almost couldn’t believe it; ‘Wounded By God’s People’ is the title.  Need I say more?

God doesn’t do happenstance. He sets us up. And, I believe, He calls us to action.

First of all, in case you don’t read any further, please, please hear me. To all of you who have ever been hurt by one of God’s flawed women, I am truly sorry. I am sure there have been many times that I was busy ‘serving the Lord’ in the foyer and passed you by.  I am convinced that there have been times when in my introverted tired existence I have ignored you, or appeared to look right through you.

God forgive me, and I pray you will as well.

In the meantime, let me tell you a story.

My sister-in-law, Roxana, and her children were recently in a serious car accident. The financial and physical ramifications have affected her family greatly.  Doctors, medications and constant pain have filled her days and months since.

But here’s the thing.

Not once since the accident has Roxana blamed Toyota. Why shouldn’t she? It was a Toyota Corolla that hit her.

But, that would be silly, wouldn’t it? Because Toyota was only the creator of the vehicle; it was human error that caused the harm.

So before you toss out your relationship with God due to some insensitive women in His church, take a moment and realize that He is not to blame for any hurts inflicted on you by us. Don’t be angry at the Creator for what his creation does. It’s slightly crazy that He chooses to be represented by sinful humans, but that’s the deal. So we mess up. A lot.

God loves you—fiercely—and it pains me to hear from so many of you who have turned away from Him or refuse to open yourself up to any Christian fellowship due to old wounds and horrendous encounters. I’m not trying to play down anything that’s happened to you. Many of you have suffered straight out abuse at the hands of ‘God’s people’, but there are some amazing women out there who do love the Lord and want to get to know and love you too.

In order to dig further into stories and statistics, I would so appreciate if you could take a minute of your time and fill out an online ANONYMOUS five question survey, (4 are multiple choice – see how nice Christian women can be?)

As for this problem in our churches, the answer starts with the church lady in the mirror. Each of us need to address our own wounds, find healing, and then be brave enough to put ourselves out there. Once we get our own hearts fixed up, we can then effectively and sincerely reach out to others. Stay tuned, I think I will have a few more stories and tips to share on this timely topic.

Photo credit: Vojko Kalan

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Exhausted Grace

It was one of those days where you wake up being more tired than when you went to bed. I will never understand what goes on in the night that makes me feel so exhausted the next day. If there was a party going on, I sure wish I could remember it.

I stumbled through my morning just dying to drop into bed; and it was only 10AM. Functioning in a fog, I dropped my brand new Samsung Note 2 instead, shattering the screen.

But, the day was not over yet. There was more to be done. Problem was, I was done. Kaput, wasted . . . way past my best before date.

By 5PM the couch had swallowed my face as I passed out before dinner. Woken up by the sweet smell of barbequed chicken and fresh corn on the cob, I begrudgingly agreed to keep my appointment to do some filming of my feet for a new promo video on the topic, ‘Walk a Mile in Her Shoes’.

I figured I could fake happy feet and my daughter and cinematographer promised to keep the camera low and not capture my grumpy scowl.

Three hours later I stood in the grocery store trying to read the scrawled list; my daughter had informed me just before bed that the milk had expired. A few aisles over an obviously tired toddler was whining and crying. The noise irritated my already shot nerves. Just as the nasty thoughts began to rise in my head--the critical tisk tisk voice of, ‘Why do people drag their tired children out’--I suddenly remembered the script for my video talk. About how we don’t know the journey others are on and to give Grace.

I threw a handful of ‘emotional eating’ colourful, sweet candy onto the top of the overflowing cart. Saying a quick prayer for the exasperated mother who was now dragging her child out of the store, I made a mental note to do an edit for the video and add a scene with a woman pushing a baby buggy. I had missed that whole season of life in our film.

We do take a lot of steps in our journey with the Lord and it can get just plain exhausting, but our friends, coworkers and other late night random shoppers are tired too. We need to plug into His Grace daily in order to pour out on others.

Thankfully His Grace doesn’t have an expiry date!

Monday, 5 August 2013

Pressing Into Jesus

I fondly remember how during my stay-at-home years, the girls would pull out their own mini-ironing boards and ‘iron’ with me. Beside stacks of warm, neatly folded t-shirts and their dad’s freshly pressed work uniforms they would arrange their own piles of miniature doll clothes. Kiddie cartoons would be playing in the background as we all worked diligently. It was my wonderful, albeit temporary era as a domestic diva. (Now that I work in an office full-time, my iron has not seen the light of day in over a decade; I figure the huge wrinkles in my clothes help to make the ones on my face appear smaller.)

But, back during our little house on the prairie days, impressionable eyes would study my every move . . . as I shook out a dress shirt; they would fastidiously dig in their water baby’s wardrobe and do the same. It was all serious business; it was Monday morning and this was what we did.

During their formative years we really did have a lot of structure to our days. In order to keep my sanity, I would rise before everyone and sit in the semi-dark living room with my Bible. If the girls snuck out of bed before I came to get them, they would peer around the corner, somehow thinking I could not see them. Depending on where my study was taking me, I sometimes ignored their presence but if I was being moved and wanted privacy, I would whisper, ‘I serve a jealous God,’ and they would take off down the hall back to their room.

One of our other precious rituals was our ‘Girls’ God time’. The three of us would read from a popular bible study and share. I looked so forward to hearing their take on the different topics. By the time they approached their tween years, we had worked our way through quite a few different books. One day, however, I caught them giving each other that sister look—you know, the one that silently says, ‘Are you going to tell her or am I?’

“Mom, can we both have our own devotions and journals to do our God time alone . . . like you do? It’s kind of personal.”

My heart broke—and grew—at their declaration of independence.

To have your children push away and establish their own walk of faith is wonderful—when they choose wisely—the hard part was respecting their wishes. Some would say I was wrong, that I should have forced family devotions, but I disagree. Our daily walk with the Lord should be personal, and intimate . . . if they desired time alone with Him, who was I to hoard in? After all, they chose to serve a jealous God!

As parents, along the way we have to let out the leash; letting our children make decisions according to their maturity. When they were preschoolers, I used to allow them do their own hair most days, and choose their outfits. More often than not they would combine prints with plaids, clash colours and break every fashion rule. They felt very grown up taking on this responsibility and I let them run with it . . . proud that at least their mismatched clothes were properly pressed.

Having made good choices—not counting the fashion ones—my now sixteen and twenty-year-old ironing princesses have earned fairly long ‘trust leashes’.

We are never done teaching however and God continues to give us fabulous opportunities to drill home the odd life lesson now and then. Like the other day, when I was heading out the door and they were both looking at old photos. Groaning, they asked what I was thinking, letting them dress themselves the way they did.

Pulling down on the wrinkles in my skirt, I absentminded replied as I rushed off to work, “I pray those pictures are a reminder to you both that the decisions you make will follow you. Ten years ago you chose cow print leggings with 100 Dalmatian tops; be sure that the choices you make today won’t make you cringe when you’re in your thirties.”

I guess it’s safe to say that if they choose to continue to follow my example, when they hit their forties, they will love the Lord, cherish their private time with Him . . . and be running out the door for work in matched but wrinkled outfits.