Monday, April 20, 2009

Not All Soul Music Comes From the Church

I am supposed to be writing today, but there is a lot on my mind right now. Part of it is just the is the end of the semester and I am still both a student and an educator. I am wrapping up the semester and I am finishing chapters for my dissertation. I am also not feeling well with an annual sinus infection that is overtaking my body and my mind. So why, do you ask, are you wasting your time at a blog that you cannot keep up with and in a format that so little people pay attention to?

A wise mentor once told me that you need to write something every day. I struggle a lot with that as I wonder why anyone would care what I had to say. Well, I have come to realize that this writing is for me and if someone else happens upon it and it speaks to them get a double blessing. So I am writing if only to purge thoughts from my soul so I can then get to the writing that I have set aside for the day and then I can say I accomplished something.

In the same vein of self-disclosure and laying my predjudice on the table, I also have to admit that I continue on a path of spiritual discontentment and questioning. It is just the season I am in right now. I wish I could tell you that my faith is so strong and clear that when these moments come, that I am firm in my faith and I am not tossed by the wind. That, however, would be a bold and utter lie. I am naturally a questioner...ask my mother. "Why?" and "What's that?" have been the theme of my life. I suppose that is what drew me to academia and what keeps me here. There are just so many questions. I am convinced that God is not afraid of my questions nor is he bothered by them, because even in moments where I am lacking in faith, I can clearly testify that it is in those moments that I sense God is most near. So I will not call this is a season of spiritual dryness as I find God very present, but it is a season of questions and discontentment with the perceived answers. While I sense God is very close, it is not his voice I hear.

My sister-in-law is in a battle for her life. Makes all my challenges, questions and issues seem pretty small. I have a ton of knowledge and lots of education to back it up, but the question of cancer looms large in my mind. No academic degree can tell me why a person who lives in the light of grace and has the most intense faith and trust in the goodness of God is being tortured to death. I have a wonderful, Godly friend who asks me this often and I have pat answers about suffering that I give to her and they are all right and true, but even while I speak them to others I think...what a bunch of bull...and then I hear Karen speak and I am brought back again to the fact that this is not about cancer. This is about the goodness of God in the midst of the worst kind of human suffering.

It is my perogative that in these moments a person of faith turns their attention to their church and the community of worshippers that sustains them. It is here that much of my discontentment falls these days. Previous posts allude to this. I don't really "get" church right now. I will admit that we have struggled with even going to church as of late. We have had to contend deeply with the thought that we may have actually chosen the church we attend for the Pastor and now that he has been called elsewhere, we aren't so sure this is for us...yikes! Seriously? Have we become those people that were only attending a church for the PASTOR??? But it wasn't really the Pastor because as much as we love and respect this man...he couldn't get us to the pew every week. No, rather, I struggle more with the church universal than I do with one church in particular. And I do see myself as part of the problem.

We have not invested ourselves in our church. While we diligently pay our tithe and upon tax filing can say we actually gave upwards of an actual 10% this year, that is about all we put into it. Where your treasure is...there is your heart...10% is just about right. You only get out what you put in...why, why am I not putting more in?? Why am I not willing to make the investment?

The question is not where is God, but rather the question is where am I? I find more spiritual discernement in a NY Times Op-Ed piece by a rock star celebrity than I do anyplace else ( and yet I feel guilty that I found it there and not from "the church" like maybe I am looking in the wrong place. I agree that in times of struggle people often turn to the church for a place of comfort, but honestly, I don't think God is worried about the American teaching on financial security and not God security makes me crazy. When we turn to our church is to find something bigger and bolder and greater than ourselves. It is about stepping outside of what is happening in a fallen and evil world, not analyzing it from a Fox News perspective masked as a spiritual teaching.

So if we can get the same news from the church as we get from CNN, then why not just stay home and watch CNN? And whatever you do, do not turn on Christian Radio. You might be lucky to hear an occasional teaching if you can stomach the "Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise" programming that is sandwhiched between a vitamin infomerical and Christian legal programming. Really? There are people in this world who are dying and going to hell every day and our message is that if they had just used this herb combined with this financial plan and coupled with a donation to fight this legal battle, then God would save their souls. Really? If only I were rich and thin...sounds more like an article in Glamour magazine than Godly wisdom.

And yet, God's presence is strong. I sense him right here as I cry through these words. Despite my often lacking faith and my constant questions, the presence of God is so clear to me. Isn't that amazing? That is what seperates God from the church. No one even notices that we have been missing from church, but God not only sees and hears, but he comes to me before I can even get the question out and he lets me sit at his feet and soak in his presence and he stays right there until I am done with my questions. Sometimes he answers right away, but somedays, like today, he just sits silently and holds me tight because he knows even better than I do that is not the answer that I need, it is just him...he is afterall..the answer.

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