Confession [or step two]

I have been thinking about this one for a long time: what occurs in the process of reconciliation? What comes next after realizing the need for such action?

I think it’s confession, but I’m not really sure. Confession is a practice that I think the Protestant church left in the dust during the mad dash away from Roman Catholicism. I think it was a huge loss. No, I’m not very comfortable with the idea of confessing one’s sins only to a priest and asking that man to bless and absolve you and give you acts of penance.* However, James is pretty clear that we are to confess to one another and to pray for each other–so that we may be healed. So I think that confession is a necessary practice in the Christian life. Yes, I will admit that it is an extremely painful one; full of shame and fear. The last time I really confessed something to Ghena, I bawled my eyes out and was terrified that she would be incredibly disappointed in me.** But the muck in our lives needs to be dragged up and out into the light, for only in the light can things be dealt with.

In the whole reconciliation process, I think that confession is key. Or perhaps, a better word is honesty. I don’t know about you, but I lie to myself all the time. “I’m ok,” I repeat over and over when really, I am the farthest thing from okay. It is scary to be honest with one’s self. I think that’s because when we’re honest, we have to see all the ugly that is within our hearts. Somedays it’s astounding what we find in the dark places of our souls. But if we want to get anywhere, we have to be honest and really recognize our broken, wicked selves for what they are. If we aren’t honest with ourselves, we aren’t able to see the need for a saviour. Even if we acknowledge that need intellectually, we can’t accept it on a heart level.

And when we recognize the sin our own lives, I think it points out the way we sin against others. Oh yeah, last week I was ticked because my mum complained I’d gotten in late. Doesn’t she know that I wanted to be at my friend’s just a little longer? Oh wait, I promised to be home so she could go to bed, and, oh yeah, I was aware of the time and I selfishly chose to stay out, thereby giving my mother a migraine the next day. Hm. When I’m honest, I was incredibly self centered on my own needs and desires and neglected to acknowledge those of my mother and her inability to sleep through any noise above a soft whisper. It’s hard, becuase I want to stamp my feet like a little child and say that I was in the right, that I needed that time with my friend. But then I read about Jesus and remember it’s not about me. And I really should have been more respectful and loving. I should have honoured my mother.

I had to confess that. To myself. To God.

And then to my mum.

Eeek. Confession is hard.

But let’s be realistic. If we never confessed anything, we’d never see the need for reconciliation. We’d live in our own self righteous worlds, surrounded by our loving self. And eventually, we’d end up alone. And when humanity is designed to live in community,*** I think that reconciliation is worth the humiliating step of confession.

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*I understand how penance started, and yes, logically, it made sense. But at the same time, it flirts with a very dangerous line of theology (that is often not adressed) where penance simply becomes another method for earning salvation which cannot be earned only gifted and not even the faith we have is ours but that also was given to us so that none of us can boast. (Paul’s words, not mine)

**This only goes to show the depth of not only my insecurity but also my misunderstanding both of Ghena and God. He doesn’t say “go clean yourself up and then come back. Mhm, now we’re talking, that’s better. Here’s some love.” He, like Ghena, simply smiles sadly at the ways my sin has hurt me (and others) but takes me into his arms, tells me to hush and then says “I’ve got it covered. Jesus has got it covered. And I love you.”

***Check out the first two chapters of Genesis. God creates man [humanity] in “our” image, often considered a reference to the Triune nature. So man [humanity] is designed to live in deep, intimate community–I think that’s why God says it isn’t good for man [man!] to be alone, because  “alone” isn’t the complete image of the Triune God.

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Reconciliation [or step one]

It’s a pretty difficult subject to wrap our minds around and even harder to put into action.

I podcast sermons from a pastor in Texas: Matt Chandler * who one might associate with the resurgence of Reformed Theology and the “new Calvinism.” In a lot of his sermons, including the two or three I’ve listened to while running in the past week, Chandler makes his listeners flip back from wherever he’s preaching to Genesis 3. Why? Because Genesis 3 is where the whole world fell apart. In Eastern Orthodoxy, the fall is viewed as a rupture in relationship between man and God, between man and woman. It’s not so much a fall from grace as it is a broken relationship, like an extreme argument between friends or lovers; one which will take years and hard work to overcome.

The beauty of the Gospel, simply put, is that God wanted to reconcile with his beloved. He reached down and sent his son to be the great sacrifice not only of atonement but of his desire to be reconciled with warped, lost creatures. It’s sort of like the time I took Coy out for milkshakes on my own dollar, even though he’d thrown a fit and been disobedient the whole day long. We got milkshakes and walked around the town center in the blazing afternoon heat simply because I wanted to restore our relationship. I sacrificed a few dollars to the burger joint and my clean shirt to the sweaty walk. But I did it because after nannying for three summers, I loved Coy like a little brother. God loves us quite a lot more than I love Coy and so instead of a few dollars, he sacrificed himself to repair our broken relationship.

But our relationship with God wasn’t the only thing that was damaged in the tragedy of Eden. Adam and Eve suddenly broke apart. Their intimacy was destroyed, and we’re living in the aftermath. We see it every day. My BBC headlines that come daily to my email are always about people ruining one another. Today a French national was abducted by gunmen in Mali and a student opened fire at a university in Hungary. We’re all torn apart, we hide in our broken, flabby skins; we get defensive because we’re so afraid of being open; we lash out at others, criticise them and shout because we are so terrified of our own depravity and the awfully humbling fact that we can do nothing about it.

I want to go to another country. In many ways, I want to go to a place where women cover their heads, the men grow thick, unruly beards and the imam calls for prayer five times a day. I don’t want to go because I feel strongly about women’s rights or education or the “fight” against “terrorism.” I want to go because I think that Jesus offers a better answer. People are always jumping down one another’s throats. But in Jesus we have this great shift in the reality of the world. There’s reconciliation–with God and with each other. I want to take that offer to others and share it with them.

But reconciliation doesn’t happen in one conversation. It doesn’t happen in a day. The US is still dealing with the effects of the Civil War. My Grandad would never have even called it that. If we can’t even decide on a name 150 years later, we clearly still have issues. And have you ever heard of Africa? The entire continent is awash in conflict between clans, tribes, and races. The Muslims themselves are still warring over who should have been the right successor to the Four Righteous Caliphs. Roman Catholics and Protestants maim and kill each other in Ireland. Netanyahu still raves about Palestinians and Jewish settlements… the list goes on.

People are working for peace in these things. But the problem is, they’re missing the most important element. They are missing Jesus. The forgiveness, the freedom, everything that Jesus offers us is essential for reconciliation. Without him there is no lasting reconciliation, there is no peace.

But even with Jesus, we are still humans and reconciliation is hard work.

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* Matt recently suffered a seizure. He is back at home with his family; please keep him, his wife Lauren and their children in your prayers.

Best Weekend So Far

I  mean, it really has been my best since coming back to Colorado. Let me give you a short run down of the awesome-ness.

Friday: Coffee with Melissa, Doctor’s office with Ghena and kiddos, phone date with Sarah, baby shower with City Group!

Saturday: mother-daughter date, worked for Scarbroughs, desert with Scarbroughs, Dvoraks and friends, slept like a rock for almost 6 hours!

Sunday: Set up crew at my awesome church, shopping with Mum for Thanksgiving, phone call with Aunt Becky, phone call with Josh, work at Grace, Cafe with Holly and family, catching up with a long lost friend!

God is so good and so full of blessings! I mean, he is so good.

 

ps: I set up communion at church this morning, and despite spilling the wine (thank God for dark table cloths!), it was the most sacred experience I’ve had in a while.

Tonight:

Joy: I can’t wait, it’s going to be hilarious when you two get back together. I’m going to laugh so much.

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Me: I just looked over, made awkward eye contact and then he checked me out. Ugh! He had a nasty rusty old truck and chops and a five o clock shadow and I was like “heck NO. You have got to be kidding me.”

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Sarah: Oh, I can see you wearing skinny jeans. Without boots. Mmhm.

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Elderly African American Woman [clothed in all white and looking glorious] after the door squeaked at me on my way out of the building: That door was making music for you! Weee,wee,wee

Me: well, it was making some kind of noise. I’m not sure I’d call it music…

Woman: Oh, it was music for you girl.

As the sky turns dark…

I am finishing off a batch of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Yum!

I have to give a shout out to the person that these cookies are for: Daniel Johnson. He’s the one with dark hair who’s not making a goofy face.* He is my computer saviour. Last week I called him when my internet browser kept pulling up chair2porn. I was yelling on the phone: “Daniel! Daniel! What’s happening? I’m on Facebook! Why is there porn? Make it stop!” He laughed, and I’m sure that he was grinning, 1400 miles away, as he explained and coached me to get the mess off my computer. (of course, my dad had to finish fixing it, there’s only so much you can do over the phone) So I’m making cookies for Daniel to say: Thank You!

In the midst of mixing the dough and adding some mystery ingredients not on my recipe, I told Jesus that I needed him to be really clear about some job opportunities that I have coming up. I interviewed at a Starbucks yetserday and I think it went well. I’ll be able to say more on Tuesday. But it’s a huge pay cut from what I’m used to. I also had replied to a family that wanted to interview me as a nanny. Both had upsides, both had downsides. In my arrogance, I assumed** that I would easily get both jobs, or at least, the nanny position. I mean, clearly, that would just come. So I asked God to make it really clear where he wanted me to be, and this (rather large) part of me wanted him to turn me down for Starbucks, because that will be early in the morning and actually be a challenge, whereas children aren’t (and it would be a paycut). Hm, yeah.

Got an email back right after I pulled the last batch out of the oven. Yep. They already filled that nanny position.

At least it was clear. I mean, it was very clear. No. We filled the position. Thanks for your interest. Good luck. Signature. Can’t get much clearer than that. But I sat down in the rocking chair, on top of my purse that glitters with mirrors when the sky isn’t grey and stormy, and I was quite disappointed. But it was clear said a small voice. Yeah, I know, I said back, but it wasn’t the clear that I wanted.

Ah, Matt Chandler is onto something–and so are all the new reformed pastors. My wicked heart! My fickle heart! I asked and even when I received I was ungrateful! Ah me, what a sinner. My fickle fickle heart.

I can’t even eat my sorrows away in chocolate chips, because the cookies have been promised away.

 

*The other is Robb Willett, who is pretty awesome in his own right. But he’s in China which makes it a long distance call, and really, I talk to Robb about scottish drinking songs and awkward jokes–not computer issues. It’s far too sensible a topic for our friendship.

**once again, when you assume, you what? oh yeah, make an “ass” of “u” and “me”

Old City, New City

today, as you may have noticed, is Sunday. I think that most of the Western world think sSunday is another day to sleep in. It should be, in my opinion. Especially when I got up yesterday early and stayed up late last night playing hearts and 041708_17121laughing to the soundtrack of the Beatles with my awesome family.

It seemed unfortunate at the time that I was rolling out of bed in the dark at 5.45 am. You heard me. And I wasn’t just up to hug my brother before he set off in his T-6. I got up that early so I had time for a latte before leaving for church at 6.45. Of course, I don’t run on time, so I arrived at 7.10 instead of 7. But Aaron and Tye said it didn’t matter and put me to work right away.

You see, I’m on the set up and tear down crew, on a bi-weekly rotation.

Today, I unloaded one of these huge black rolling cases that must be six feet tall two feet thick and five feet wide. I almost got run over on the way down the ramp, even as I tried to hold it at bay with all the strength of my comparably weightless little self. I helped set up the children’s room with Tye and he asked me question after question. And after service, we did the same thing in reverse. I am the only girl on our crew, it was great fun. We laughed about my betrayal of Denver–due to occur tomorrow night when I cheer for Roethlisberger and Palomalu. I told the guys they had to do the heavy lifting and smiled my way through the manual labour that was more fun than anyone should have been allowed.

At the end, Aaron stood in the back of our trailer and throwing his hands to the wind, spread eagle, he grinned: “that’s basically it Sara,” he said. Tye hugged me and called me “sister.” John said I managed to weasle my on to the “good crew,” and I said that I only work with the best.

Tonight, I went to my old church, which is a great place too. I sat in the nursery, hugged a few children, handed out toys, wiped noses–the usual. I even went to “cafe” and socialized with some people over dinner. But there was something missing. No fault of the people there. Maybe it was the lack of sweat, or the plush chairs or the way I ignored someone I knew, or just the awkwardness of being there again–three years later and totally different than I was. Or maybe, it just wasn’t right, in a totally unexplainable way.

But I like my new church. And do you know, I didn’t think that was possible. But I LIKE my church. I like the people. I like the crummy donuts out front. I like the theatre seats that almost put me to sleep this morning. I like my pastor and his very cheerful wife and their three beautiful children. I like my church. I could have shouted it from the rooftops today! I have been so irritated with the church lately. But this was beauty at the early hours of the morning. My pastor knows my name! People give me hugs! People caaaaare about me. People love me here.

And the picture? Well, that, my friends, is how I feel about the church right now. And I don’t mean mine, I mean the whole big world wide church.

Run Forest Run!

Today I ran 5.08 miles. Well, I ran 5 and “cooled down” .08. I shaved off eight and a half minutes from my total time. Yeah, that’s right.

I was totally oblivious to the world for 5 awesome 13 minute miles while I had Bebo Norman singing songs I think he wrote just for me.

It was awesome. Now I need to shower so I don’t smell as bad when I go to work tonight. And maybe someday, I will write you an actual post.

 

postscript: Denver has a half marathon in June. How long are half marathons? 12 miles? I think I could do 12 miles. I think, with Bebo in my ears, I could run the world.

2.06 pm MST

MST meaning Mountain Standard Time. Or, if you knew some of my friends in high school: Mormon Standard Time.

 

You know, I had great plans last night. I was going to get up early, be productive, get things done, be chipper.

And now the afternoon has made its gain on my entire day and I’ve done nothing but write a thousand words, watch tv, and sit in my dad’s office.

crap. crap. crap.

I must also admit to my incredible amazement that nowhere in Douglas County can there be found a copy of the Holy Bible: New Living Translation. Really? Really.

Sundaaaaay!

it’s surprisingly my busiest day of the week. So much for Sabbath. But technically, shabbat is Saturday, so whatever.

It’s also All Saints’ Day! Personally, I think I’m going to read some St. Gregory of Nyssa to celebrate. I think it’s great that we have a day to celebrate all those who’ve come before us and handed down the faith. Martyrs, priests, monks, abesses, knights, kings and queens. Not to mention the common every day folk who probably had a simpler, more pure faith than some of the uppity-ups.

Also, in case you hadn’t realized: today is November 1st. What you probably didn’t know was that November is “National Novel Writing Month.” And I will be participating in a little competition (NaNoWriMo) to write 50,000 words in the next 30 days. So…. I can’t promise that I”ll be posting so regularly. Hopefully… but no promises!

The Problem of Rings

In the last week I have been asked four times a variation on the question:

 

“are you married?”

 

once, by a seven year old at church.

once, by the six year old next door who thinks having a driver’s license somehow insinuates marriage.

and once, by a friend at church who freaked when she saw a ring on my ring finger.

and then my dad, today, “why are you wearing an engagement ring?”

 

I’ve worn it for years on this finger. and just now it is drawing attention.