Forgive us our “Churchiness”

IMG_3456-001

By: Jana Greene

God,

This letter is difficult for me to write…not because You will know what it says before I get the words onto the page, but because some of your followers will read it.

You’ve placed upon me the burden of a writer’s mind, and I feel compelled to share this prayer instead of hiding it. I’ve hidden them under a bushel before, and when the storms kick up, the winds lay all the broken pieces bare.

“God, save us from your followers!”  Have you ever heard that expression?  Of course, it is prayed to you – if only tounge-in-cheek.

We humans have made Your Church about us.  I am reminded today that the enemy hasn’t hijacked your church entirely. That the church as You intended was your broken disciples gathered around at your feet, wanting to learn how to love.

What made them the Apple of your Eye, even with all their foibles, denials and betrayals, was that they were gathered at your feet looking to you, not around at each other.

Oh how we like to look around at each other!

Today, I called a member of Your Church, in the gathering of Your followers that I call home. I seem to be going through a challenging season in my life, and was ashamed at first that I’m caught so overwhelmed by it. Afraid to share it, even to fellow believers!

Even though it should be the first place broken people run for support in You….the church.

For the hundredth time in this very challenging season, I’m overwhelmed with angst and gratitude, both.  My church family didn’t scatter and run from me, because I’m in a struggle. They are running toward me, in love!

I wish this running-to was what the world associated with “churchiness,” but how could it be?

The world has not always seen your church as a running-to. They have a lot of bad history with which to define “church, and so the run from it.  Sometimes, in churches:

We’ve pointed fingers at each other in smug satisfaction that our micro-management is an  efficient way to follow You …  in rules, divisions, regulations.  (We’ve perfected, it, God – your church – You’re welcome!)  What we’ve really perfected is a way to distract us from You.

We’ve built stunning cathedrals in which to bring Your worship, but we’ve left our praises to  echo in stone after Sunday service.

We’ve marketed Your “brand” with slick campaigns, and watered down your message in the effort to offend no-one.

We’ve called  attention to the “specks” in the eyes of others, while blinded by the “planks” in our own eyes.

We’ve called You “Pal,” and lost our reverence of Your Diety.

We’ve revered Your Diety, and lost sight of Your intimate friendship.

We’ve decided that “those” people (addicts, adulterers, swindlers, cheats, fill-in-the-blank however You wish) are only a product of their own poor choices, deserving to suffer… while every last one of us is guilty of some similar infraction far worse.

God, You know that I am guilty of most of these things myself. I constantly need your help not to be.

For the hundredth time, I’ve been ashamed of my struggles because I’m afraid people will judge my “churchiness.” I make no bones about being a part of your church, and many people make no bones about judging churchy people.

Perhaps because so many churchy people have judged them harshly.

What would happen if we – the modern church – made “churchiness” synonymous with running to others? What if we just gathered around your feet to hear what you had to say, so that we could learn how to love? I so long to do this; to be this church.

Forgive us, Father, that we don’t know how. God, save us – Your followers -from ourselves!  Let us look to you. By YOUR grace we are saved. By YOUR grace, we are Your Church.

I thank you for a church family that gathers their own, even when their own are bona-fide humans. We are Yours, worth redeeming.

You have no need for the empty, gem-encrusted artifacts that the world has come to brand as “churchiness.” You just want all the broken pieces, gathered at your feet.

I am signed,

A broken disciple. Yours.

All the Sparkly Things: mindfully mothering in the moment

IMG_6548

By: Jana Greene

She doesn’t know it, I’ve pulled a muscle, and it’s all her fault.

I am lacing up the back of her dress, the periwinkle blue ribbons weave in and out of the stays, corset-style. I have to lift the tendrils of red hair out of the way as I work, and I worry it will be too tight -I can tell she is sucking it all  in.

Her dress has all of the elements of girly-ness that she guffawed only a few years ago: sparkles, lace and taffeta. All the pretty things she used to think were silly. It is strapless ballerina-style, showing off her young curves and fair skin. As I pull the last of the ribbon through and tie it into a bow, the muscle that is my heart lurches.

“There,” I say. “all done.”

Like Scarlett O’Hara she arches an eyebrow, and eyes herself in the mirror. Sunlight just so happens to be coming through the window at the perfect angle, setting the  on fire.  So many rhinestones! The perfect amount to be glitzy, without being  tacky. They are sprinkled throughout her dress and in her hair – even on her shoes. Just to be certain she sparkles enough, she slides on a bracelet chock-full of them, and clips on dazzling earrings to match.

The lurching again, in the heart. The pulling.

The heart is a muscle, and if it’s working properly it is always in motion. Lurch and soar, lurch and soar.

My daughter is always in motion, too. How can this be? I am wondering how this moment came to pass, sitting on the edge of the bed, watching her slip on ridiculously high heels. The reel of her growing up sped through my mind.

Don’t panic over time lost, I tell myself. And don’t rush into thoughts of the future. It’s a struggle to live in the moment sometimes. Even when the moment is beautiful.

Not very long ago, this girl hid herself away. Not very long ago, she didn’t want anyone to notice her at all. But now …

She cannot wait to see her boyfriend, to assault his senses with her girly-ness -sparkles,  lace and taffeta. He is wearing a suit with a vest to match her dress, and she swoons when she sees him. He is utterly handsome. I want to think that they look like two kids playing grown-up, but no. They really are growing up.

She beams while her date ties a corsage around her wrist.  It is a lovely, delicate gathering of white flowers, and it’s perfect. It had bloomed just the right amount to be perfect in time for the evening – just like her.

Boys were “gross” just a few years ago…weren’t they?  The memory of her chiding her older sister for liking a boy is still clanking around in my mind when we drop them off at the venue.

When we drive away, I look behind me, and they are kissing. The rhinestones in her dress are glittering, and she has one  ridiculously high-heeled foot slightly lifted – just like in the movies.

Lurch, goes the heart.

My hand goes over my chest  involuntarily, but my husband takes my other hand and squeezes. This daughter  is my youngest child; I will not go this way again. My husband knows that the stays are loosening, even as my heart tightens.

I surprise myself that think of my girl only several times – and not several hundred times – during the course of the evening. The occasion is making me feel a million things – old amongst them, to be honest. But mostly I am blissed-out that my daughter has come out of her shell in so dazzling a way. It is  her turn to have young curves and fair skin and wear so many rhinestones. I hope she wears all the pretty, sparkly things every chance she gets.

When she comes home, she is barefoot and  luminescent. She sits on the edge of my bed to share the details, even though its late.

Prom was wonderful. Her hands are fiddling with the edge of the periwinkle taffeta, just as girly as you please,  as she rushes to tell me the details.

“Swedish meatballs were the best, and I ate lots of them.  The courtyard was decorated with these candles and white lights, and linens and tablecloths… There was dancing, of course, and we slow danced, too,  but I  had to take my shoes off right away,  because I couldn’t really walk in them, and all my friends loved my dress…..”

When I unlace her dress and her remind her  to put away all of the sparkly things, she leans in for a hug. I take it, and hug her a little longer than usual, just because – like my daughter – the moment is beautiful.

And my heart soars.