On Cigarette Ashes, Magnolia Blossoms, and Driver-Side Doors

by Seth

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I.

This is not so much a piece about marriage as it is about certainty, about propositional truth. In a certain sense, this is a piece about driver-side doors.

II.

At the wise old age of eighteen, I laid on a bed sheet under the midnight stars with a God-fearing girl; we flung dreams into the river of hot summer wind. She was supposed to be my first love. She was not–not really. She was, instead, the girl I was supposed to love, I being the youth group preacher-to-be, and she being the daughter of an upright minister.

We had a First Baptist kind of relationship, one that was more of a profession of faith than a profession of passion. The truth was–and boy, did we ever know the Truth–passion is a fleeting thing and decided love is lasting love. So, as was the way of relational propositional truth, we cultivated the easy way of close friends, or kissing cousins, except we had decided not to kiss until marriage.

Here’s to the kissing virgins.

To the simple all things are simple, I suppose, and we were among the world’s simplest. We were young’uns who’d bought into worldviews without nuance. We’d measured all variables, concluded that the decisions to follow Jesus,  enter the ministry, and marry were not all that different.

We talked, and talked, and talked ad nauseum, under the star-flecked ebony sky. We opined in the presence of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob–the God of sun worshipers, jesters, and scoundrels–that matters of life and lvoe were decisional. We would love each other, have and to hold, etcetera, etcetera.

Several years into our propositional relationship, we split the relational sheets (so to speak) because she refused to unlock my door after I opened hers. Allow me to describe my perpetual frustration: time after time, I’d open the door, allow her to enter, close the door behind her and walk to the other side of the car while she sat with her hands folded neatly in her lap; as I fumbled with the keys, I’d Christian-curse her lack of common courtesy. Couldn’t a sister reach across the seat and flip a latch? At first, this was a mere inconvenience, but it time, it turned into an abhorrent annoyance.

Yes, it really is as petty as it sounds.

III.

I met Amber in the fall of 1998, just four months removed from my logical love. She had me at “hello,” as they say, mostly on account of the fact that her thick southern drawl seemed to elongate the word by ten seconds. As it turns out, a fine female fisher can set the love hook in ten seconds. She reeled me in, this riddle of a woman.

In the days of early love, she told me that she was equal parts cigarette ash and magnolia blossom. Her jeans were ripped at the knees and at the  mid-thigh. She broke darn-near every rule in the book. She was anything but Baptist, and she always unlocked the driver-side door, courteous lover that she was.

Amber was a woman of few pat answers, one who was wild in spirit and quick to shake her hips. She was an impassioned woman, a fiery Irish wick. A bamboozler, she was hell-bent on undoing my spiritual assumptions, always asking me “where’s that in the bible?” She forced every issue, asked me to live less by the rules and more by the answer.

And in case you’re wondering, there is an answer.

No, it isn’t really as simple as it sounds.

IV.

In the spring of 2012–two years ago now–our youngest baby, Titus, fell ill. He’d not gained weight in some time, and we began a long descent into a dark season of the soul. Titus declined until we landed in a hospital room in Little Rock, he attached to a feeding tube, an IV, and a heart monitor. He was throwing up every meal, and what little fat stores he had were depleted.

He was in a death spiral.

Amber was a gentle spirit in that time, a woman who clung close to my side and didn’t struggle for any theological epiphanies. She forced no prayers, though she prayed. She required no convincing answers from me, but gave me space to ask questions. Amber was comfortable in the tension of the present reality and the future unknown–what the mystics call “the mystery,”–and she unlocked the door for me to share in her comfort and discomfort.

I don’t suppose my eighteen year old self wouldn’t have given the two of us a Titan’s shot in Tartarus, we with all questions and no systematized answers for the failing health of our little boy. But then again, my eighteen year old self didn’t know Amber. She was every pat answer gone awry; she was the enigmatic beauty of cigarette ashes and magnolia blossoms.

V.

Regarding Christian answers: they’re rarely pat, and often not answers at all. There’s no explanation for why some relationships are destined for failure. There’s no way to sum up either the sickness of a child, or how a struggling marriage can hold under its weight. There’s no rubric for understanding the tight-knit fabric of any surviving or failing relationship–whether marriage, friendship, church, or otherwise.

There is, instead, only mystery, Spirit, grit, grace, prayer, love, and maybe a little bit of luck. (Yes, I said it–luck. Make of it what you will.)

There are only these things, it’s true. These things, and maybe the common courtesy of unlocking driver-side doors or two.

Featured image credit: “Magnolia” by THOR.

Memory, One Last Cracker, and Practicing the Daily Examen

by Mihee Kim-Kort

memories

Become aware of God’s presence.

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We meet almost weekly over some seriously legit bagels – which I feel wouldn’t normally exist outside of New Jersey and New York – but I think these people who own the bagelry are actually from the Northeast. This means the bagels are perfectly soft on the inside, and when toasted, it’s the divine combination of crunch and carbs and lox cream cheese, and usually a random pickle or tomato slice completes it for me.

It’s three of us around the table, sometimes four, small in number but the conversations always feel significant and encouraging. They loom large for the rest of the day in my mind in a good way, in the same way an honest and simple meal or an artful glass of wine will nourish me long after I’ve digested it because it’s not just the nutrients or calories (or the de-stressing) but the smells and laughter, all the clinking of glass and silverware and ceramic, the light, the chairs, all that fills me, too.

We switch off posing a thought or question to prompt the conversation. This week it was about memory and the ways we cultivate our identity – as individuals and communities – whether through oral/aural, written transmissions, and I suppose, in our digital age through other forms (Tweets and hashtags? Status updates and groups? Google Plus circles?). She shared her appreciation of a classic spiritual discipline – the daily examen. And as she explained what it was, and how she has used it in the past to ground her in grace and gratitude, my mind drifted to the last week of putting the twins to bed.

Review the day with gratitude.

“One more! One more! More crackers, pleasepleaseplease, Mommy, more cracker!” they beseechingly chirp in unison at me. Except it sounds more like, “moeeeeee, peasseeee, peasepeasepease,” if it’s Anna, and “moooorrrnnn, Mommy, PEASPEASOHPEAS,” if Desmond. For some reason his “more” is “mourn,” like he knows that I’m mourning the day they figured out the baby sign and verbal word for more. As adorable and miraculous it was to see them communicate with us I kind of rue that day. Now it’s always more. More. More. More.

I shuffle off and grab a few more Ritz crackers and hustle back before they realize they can get out of bed and run down the hallway one more time. And as I hand them two more crackers, and tuck the blankets under their chin I recount the day with them.

“It was a good day, wasn’t it? We went to school, and saw our teachers and friends, and got to play outside and ride in the cars, and play in the big room, and have a nice snack.” I pause as they parrot what I say and add in their own memories or riff off each other’s stories or even completely make up stories or get off track and talk about something abrupt and random – “Mommy, dinos have big teeth.”

“And then we went to the playground and we went down the big slide, and tunnel slide, and curly slide and you climbed up the ladder and did the swings, and you were careful to wait for your turn–” and before I’m done recounting that episode both interrupt me with their own memories, their own revisions and redactions, and their own conclusions about what happens when you push someone or scream at another child or don’t wait your turn and mommy gives you the hairy eyeball and starts counting to three.

Pay attention to your emotions.

We go through a few more moments throughout the day working through our own sort of communal daily examen reflecting on what was good, what was bad, and what was hard, what was surprising. And while they’re doing it I’m mentally giving thanks for the moments of survival and abundant life – we managed to make it another day mostly intact and even enjoy ourselves! – and feeling a mixture of regret, bliss, shame, and amity.

The combination of emotions is a perplexing cocktail that makes me feel like the onset of a headache is imminent and my stomach churns from the nausea. Is it beer before liquor and never sicker? Or liquor before beer all clear? My mind wanders again seeking out an analogy from the hazy memories of drinking rules that never really worked when I thought of them at the moment because it doesn’t matter what you drink or when you drink it. Drinking a lot will always make you sick no matter what order. But I decide I will do a keg-stand on these emotions anyway because they’re the cozy debris from those memories of the day. Not everything was perfect, I wasn’t close to being the perfect woman/pastor/mommy/wife/friend/daughter/sister but these peculiar emotions are the little crumbles of bread that I snatch up from under the table to remember the stories, and remember who the children are, and who I am, Who we belong to, Who walks, sits, runs, gathers with us.

Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.

“Oooooooooh the Lord is good to me and so I thank the Lord for giving me the things I need…” I trail off hoping one of them will jump in and sing with me but they’re shoveling food in their mouths like I’ve been starving them for a week. Anna surprises me by singing the next line with a shy smile and we get to the end and all shout Amen!

Then Ozzie – the 13 month old – reaches for Desmond’s food who screams bloody murder with big elephant tears forming in his eyes so blindingly quick and Anna somehow manages to fall out of her chair and knock over her plate full of food and Ellis – the boxer dog – comes scooting in trying to get the food that’s now fair game and now Anna is shrieking at the dog to get away and that commercial from my childhood pops into my brain, “Calgon, take me away.” Is that even still around? I pray for God to make my feet like concrete blocks so no bubbles lift me up and away, I need and want presence, heavy presence, one that doesn’t run away out of fear or cowardice but faces it all, all the good, all the hard, and I soak myself in it, let it baptize me over and over again, the living waters might not have foamy bubbles but they’re the ultimate detox in a way, so I ask again, “God, keep me here.”

After it all, the kids finally quiet and asleep clutching apple slices and sock monkeys, clean laundry finally folded neatly in three large baskets, and the murmur of the dishwasher in the background, I collapse onto the couch and…

Look toward tomorrow.

Thankful. For these rhythms of love. For these practices of thick, meaty hope. For these signs of grace.

“For grace to be grace, it must give us things we didn’t know we needed and take us places where we didn’t know we didn’t want to go. As we stumble through the crazily altered landscape of our lives, we find that God is enjoying our attention as never before. ”
-Kathleen Norris

image credit: “poetic” by Seyed Mostafa Zamani licensed under CC BY 2.0

W(o/a)ndering.

by Luke

wandering

 

What is it about sun and sand and surf that is salve for a wounded soul? Beyond the jumpstart of vitamin D production, there’s something transcendent about the ocean, something therapeutic in its rhythms, something comforting in its memory.

____

I can’t relax, even though we’re on vacation. I fight the urge to act like we have a destination as we walk along the beach. My chosen line is a safe distance from where the surf washes ashore. The path is straight as an arrow and the pace plodding, steady.

Their path is decidedly less predictable.

Darting in and out of the water with wanton disregard for the fact that we don’t have towels or swim clothes, they are utterly free. They zig and they zag and double and triple back to look at anything and everything. My instinct is to tell them to get out of the water, to come back here, to stay away from there, but I push back hard against those feelings. I take a second to drink in their freedom, to try to vicariously touch the sky with their fingers and see the forever of the ocean through their eyes.

They wander far and wide, but their wandering is not without purpose.

_____

There’s just something about late winter snows. They seem to push me beyond the normal melancholy that arises from short days and long, cold nights and into something darker. The often-warmer temperatures that accompany these snows lead to big, wet snowflakes, leaving us with a heavy white blanket that oppresses the trees as they groan and crack under its weight. As I look out the window, it seems to press down on everything.

It’s all just so…heavy. 

_____

I feel claustrophobic as I sip lukewarm coffee. I mutter under my breath about being stuck inside and I worry about the power going off. (It would, eventually, but with little consequence.) Laughter and little footsteps echo down the hall, but the sound barely registers over the din of my own self-indulgent internal monologue. I create new ways to complain about the same things while they seem to find the marrow of wonder that runs through every single moment of life. They’re still young enough that there are some stark developmental distinctions between them. One thing they still have in common though, is that capacity to simply wonder.

I suck in my breath after stepping on a building block. I bite my bottom lip hard to catch a word I’d never want them repeating before it escapes into the wild. It comes out instead in a hiss through clenched teeth.  I look up to see them both walking from room to room, from window to window, marveling at the still-falling snow. The fact that this is the 7th or 8th such snow just this winter in no way diminishes their awe. They are enraptured by its simple beauty in a way that feels almost completely alien to me, and I wonder at what point I lost the ability to feel the way they do, or if I ever had that ability at all.

____

In a society that measures worth by productivity and value by efficiency, wandering isn’t exactly a virtue, yet it seems to come so naturally to them. Maybe it’s just that they’re still kids and haven’t figure out “the way the world works” yet. Maybe it’s just that they’re free from the responsibilities and the worries and the anxieties that we pile on ourselves as we get older in the name of “success.” Or maybe they’re just still innocent enough to remember that life isn’t something to be spent, but something to be drank in like a cold lemonade on a hot summer’s day. Whatever the case may be, I can’t help but ask myself,

“Could they wonder as they do if they didn’t wander as they do?”

Maybe in the future instead of hurrying them along, I should just wander along with them.

And maybe – just maybe – I can start to relearn what it means to wonder.

_____

 

image creadit: “They Wander” by Damian Gadal, licensed under CC BY 2.0

When Your Child Isn’t Perfect*

by JenL

perfect

When she was 18 months old, she knew the names of all the butterflies at the zoo exhibit and could enumerate the differences between a butterfly and a moth. At 2, I asked her to retrieve the state of Ohio from her puzzle map of the United States. She did. At 3, she lectured us about using the word insect properly and asked her dentist what his favorite dinosaur was. Hers? Parasauralophus, from the Cretaceous Period, known for its horned head. Yes. She could spell it. And we love her. Not for what she knows but for who she is.

She talked endlessly. Endlessly. She blabbered in the back seat of the car, she babbled while we read with her. She jibbered to the stuffed toys and the swing set and the trees. I ask her even now: “Is this a conversation I need to listen to?” She answers accordingly, no harm, no foul.

In fourth grade, she was diagnosed with ADHD**. She was listless in class. She didn’t ever finish a math worksheet. Ever. She only wanted to talk books and science. Anything else bored her. Such is the case with ADHD, and really, who doesn’t want to do only what’s fun and interesting?  If a family doesn’t have experience with this, it sounds weird, and willful and truly annoying. It sounds like we should just be able to wave a magic wand and correct her behavior. Ha. ha.

Now, at 16, she is delightful and she makes me nuts. She engages well with adults, who are reeled in by her confidence and opinions. She cares not a jot for hair or makeup or dating or driving. Her brilliance shines, but not on her report card. Some might listen to her and dismiss her as a goofy kid with strong ideas, but if you listen to her, you see. She is witty and strong and amazing. And she can’t organize her notebook well enough to turn in her math homework. She forgets deadlines and she talks ceaselessly. Ceaselessly. And we love her. Not because of this, but because she’s ours.

And still. I have mother guilt. Lately, when I log on to everyone’s favorite nightmare, Facebook, I see that this kid earned straight As, because Mom has snapped a photo. I hear that that girl is in the Super Fancy Society for Exceptional Children, and her twin sister, the Barbie look alike, won all the relays. The children I see on Facebook, as represented by their parents, are obvious prodigies of the highest standing. And mine? She doesn’t want to learn how to drive. She can’t be bothered to wash her hair.

I find myself mumbling ungodly things about these exceptional children who are not mine. And their parents. I whisper invective screeds about the state of the educational system and how very little grades tell us about any given student. I rail against praising  kids for their grades, lest they learn that performance equals love.

But really, I feel guilty. I feel guilty and inadequately prepared to be her mom. I feel like my prayers hit the ceiling and my nerves are broken. I feel guilty because I don’t boast about my daughter on Facebook, and I feel guilty that her grades are not perfect. I could not keep up with the proverbial Joneses before the internet, and I sure as shooting can’t do it confronted as I am with these other people’s perfect lives.

I am torn. I want her to be who she is, but I also want her to fit this weird standard made up by someone I don’t even like very much, some giant machine that mandates what is and what is not appropriate. And she can’t do both. I don’t want her to do both.

I want….what do I want? I want to embrace the goodness of this kid who gets to be mine. I want her to know that I love her and respect her, which means I don’t worry that she doesn’t want to style her hair. It means that I walk with her until she’s ready to learn to drive, and then I walk with her some more. I have fallen victim to a set of rules that I didn’t establish and don’t even like, and worse yet, I’m pushing them on her, this beautiful, confident, hilarious person. There is no right time to have a first date or to learn to drive. There is no one way to be 16 or 18. There is no one way to grow. And there is no such thing as the perfect child. And I love my imperfect child, my imperfect children. Not because they are imperfect, but because of who they are.

I still can’t get behind posting grade reports, but it’s not my job to arbitrate the world. Alas.

*She gave me her permission to write this post, and asked me to explain that she thinks it’s important for people to understand that ADHD often looks different in girls. She’s kind of awesome like that.

**ADHD is a real and true diagnosis that can be revealed through testing. Teachers cannot and should not diagnose. And girls manifest with different symptoms. I found this piece incredibly helpful in assuaging my guilt. 

***EDIT:  Many of us parents still wading these waters alone and certain of only one thing: that we are doing it all wrong. But, in your private messages last week, I learned one thing. We are all surging against the tide, thinking we are alone, when we are not. I’ll be spending every Monday on the topic of parenting a “different” kid on my own site. I’m also asking for contributions, if you’ve something you’d like to share; a strategy that worked, ways your family helps or doesn’t, if you’re an adult with ADHD or something else. Please see today’s post and be in touch over there. http://jenniferluitwieler.com/another-brick-in-the-wall/

When I Can’t Do Enough

by Dulce

sickie

Her forehead was hotter than normal, but lower than “Yikes, she’s burning up!” Her nose was dripping constantly. “Mami, did you even know that this many mocos could fit in my nose?!” I agreed that it was an impressive amount. She snuggled to bed early, but I was pretty sure I was in for a long night.

Sure enough, by 1:30AM her whimpers had already awakened me twice. She kept sliding down off the pillow and then crying when her nose was too stuffed up to breathe through it. I lifted her into my arms, my cool cheek against her warm one, my arm around her so that her head would be propped up. Her eyes never opened, but she made contented noises and wiggled closer, and the snuffling stopped.

I prayed. I let my heart hurt for the fallen world where little ones get sick, and so much worse happens, and begged for healing for all of us. I listened to her breathing, alert for any change, relieved that it seemed fine again.

My arm was asleep and the rest of me wide awake. I flexed my fingers repeatedly through the tingles until I was convinced she was sleeping soundly. With ninja-mami skills acquired through years of practice, I stealthily slid my arm out while holding the blankets and pillow so that she wouldn’t feel it. Indiana Jones has nothing on motherhood!

This morning she woke up, full of beans and bouncing around. I asked if she knew I was holding her during the night. “No, but I could feel you loving me.”

***************************

So often I get overwhelmed at the systemic sickness in our world. I feel like I should be doing so much more to fight it, and I don’t always know how. The guilt and the inner accusations of complacency are like stabbing needles in my conscience that so easily and quickly goes numb. Because, honestly, just getting through the days taking care of my own little ones is all I can accomplish. Forget saving the world!

I don’t know where the balance really is.

I don’t want to go back to my comfortable little bubble of obliviousness.

I don’t feel like a very effective warrior.

But maybe I can listen to the quiet sounds of those who are exhausted and hurting, when the daily injustices come like the constant stream of a drippy nose. Maybe I can put my arm around them and hold them up. I can pray and let my heart hurt for them and ask for healing. I can listen.

I worry that they won’t feel me holding them, and I hope that they can feel me loving them.

 

image credit

Patience and Tantrums

by Sarah Markley

homework

The hours between 3 and 7 pm are the worst in my house. And I imagine our family is not alone.

When my girls were little, those same hours were bad as well. Any parent of toddlers can commiserate. When all of the stimulation of the day unloads, so do the bad behaviors. Toddlers throw tantrums between three and seven in the afternoon, and I’m learning, so do eight-year-olds when presented with homework.

And eight-year-old tantrums can be much louder and smarter than toddler tantrums.

“Why do I HAVE to do homework?” She yells. Even screams once in awhile.

I get it. She’s been in school for six plus hours and still seems to have “school” left when she gets home. I might throw a tantrum in the same situation.

But homework.

So we sit down and she gets angry. She might get up again, then, and stomp around the living room for a bit. I usually just watch, wait until she calms down and tell her I’ll wait until she’s ready to begin. She doesn’t like that either. She might run toward the bathroom and slam a door.

“If I was the mom, I wouldn’t make anyone do homework.”

At this point she might break her pencil tip on purpose or throw it across the table.

“When you are the mom, you can make your own decisions. But right now you are the child and your job is to do your work. Come on now, I’ll help you.” I try to remain calm.

And eventually, depending on the day, she will sit back down next to me at the white table in the kitchen and together we will finish her work, both of us exhausted from the fight of it all.  

She might cry a little. She’s embarrassed and tired now but she’s underlining the adjectives and pointing out the letters that need capitalized. But there is no shame: just sweet, small fingers doing good work and my arm around her tiny shoulders.

Because when she does grow up, she’ll have to learn that life is filled with both responsibility and fun, with both work and joy, with difficulty and freedom. And I hate that I can’t let her run free whenever she wants it because all too soon she won’t be able to.

That’s the tension of adulthood, isn’t it? We have autonomy over our persons, over our lives, yet we choose to be responsible for things.

Because I am the mom.  And I would rather not fight. And I would rather have an easy afternoon on a Thursday than chase a second grader around the house with her grammar homework.

But I have to choose responsibility. So I dig in my heels both gently and firmly ask her to obey. It makes me so tired. It makes us both so tired.

And as we turn the page over, I wonder if God gets tired of me sometimes.

He is both gentle and firm and so much of the time I run circles around the world testing his patience.  I break my pencils and throw things across the room. And then I am glad He’s a God who doesn’t get tired but instead tirelessly waits for me to stop the mania.

He says, “Come. Sit. We’ll do this together.” He puts His arms around my shoulders and bears the weight with me. And there is no shame.

 

image credit

Divided We Fall

by JessicaB

walk away

“There are several things in your life that I’m not for.”

 

That’s what she said. “I just can’t let them go”, she said. “I don’t think we can walk hand in hand like we are on the same paths.”

 

And then she refused to tell me what those things were.

 

This went back and forth for months via messages. Me reaching out, asking to talk things out, asking for anything concrete to apologize for or explain or defend.  But she wouldn’t tell me her specific grievances. She wouldn’t cite examples that I could clarify.

 

“I need to focus on keeping things out of my thoughts and mind that I don’t believe are biblical truths.” she said.

 

And that was that. One of my oldest friends, at one time my very closest friend, was unceremoniously done with me. And there was nothing I could do about it.

 

I wasn’t hurt. No, I was too mad for that.

 

I did everything right for reconciliation. I truly attempted to be sincere, humble, graceful and apologetic. And yet I was refused a true, healing reconciliation.

 

How could someone be so unfair? How could I be judged so “off base” so as to be quarantined from someone’s entire life? Without even the courtesy of a decent explanation? Me, my family, who have given up everything to pursue God in the hard places, who are leaving to live and work in South Asia.

 

It stings in a dark, indignant part of my heart that needs to be liked.

 

It remains one of the most hurtful, most unChristian things that anyone has ever done to me. Made all the more hurtful by how very confusing it is.

 

“I’m not trying to be cruel” she said. “I respect you” “It isn’t personal”.

 

Poppycock.

 

When you burn someone out of your life for no good reason and throw up a hedge of protection to keep them out – it’s personal. It’s cruel and it’s disrespectful. Saying otherwise doesn’t change that reality.

 

Saying you’re not trying to be mean does not stop your actions from being mean. Saying you respect someone does not make your actions respectful.

 

And so I mourn for a lost sister. Mourn for a church divided.

 

How long will we go on wounding each other with friendly fire? How long will we hide in our bunkers with others exactly like us and refuse to engage the real war?

 

    There are those who do not want this wholeness, who want to continue the process of fragmentation, and this has to be fought, with Michael and his angels by our side. If we care about wholeness, about unity in diversity, we are in battle.

 

- Madeleine L’engle

 

How long will we give the devil a foothold?

 

Related Reading:

Unity in Diversity. On Defending Madeleine

Perfect Unity in Christ: You’re Doing It Wrong

Bearing With One Another In Love

 

 image credit

The Old Timer

by JessicaB

Small church

“We’ve given ‘em everything they want” he says.” They complained that there was nowhere for the kids to play so we built them that playground. We just can’t get young people in here.”

I nod sympathetically, shift my weight, look at the floor. An unanswered question hangs awkwardly in the air and I’m refusing to take the bait. You see, we were members of this church once. We spent a few tired, spiritually unfulfilled years here with our babies before leaving rather abruptly.

We’ve never explained ourselves and I know it was confusing for these old timers. But that story is not mine to tell. The former pastor is tangled in the events surrounding our departure and it’s his place to explain the Bowman shaped hole we left in the wall.

“I’ve given it a lot of thought” he says, and I think I’ve figured it out. The young people want to go to the churches where there are other young people. It’s like a social club to them, they’re not here to worship the Lord.”

I nod half-heartedly some more. There’s a bit of truth to this statement. But I don’t think it’s particularly fair or inherently wrong. “That’s easy for him to say”, I think. He’s always gone to a church with his peer group. This place is crawling with white hair, life-long pew warmers.

During our time at this church my husband and I often marveled at how often the seniors got together. The various groups and Sunday School classes seemed to have endless monthly gatherings outside of regular service times.

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And the handful of us young families? Well, you know, most of us were stuck “serving”. We had no real gathering of our own. Sure, we could have initiated something for ourselves (and my husband and I often tried) but you know us whippersnappers in the prime of life. We’re busy, self-absorbed, overbooked.

There was a great generational divide in this church. There was no mentoring, no real mingling. I remember distinctly the first Sunday we visited. After inviting the pastor and his wife over for lunch they marveled “We’ve been at this church for 6 years and no one’s ever had us over.”

Don’t get me wrong, they were more or less friendly. But it was very Hi and Bye. Very surface.

But I don’t say any of this to the nice old man. I hold my tongue, wait for the indirect question in the air to dissipate. That’s not why we came here today and I’m not ready or willing to engage the topic.

It’s a huge, complicated mess of an issue. It’s not going to be settled standing in this church kitchen between a couple of stubborn millennials and a couple of set-in-their ways Baptists.

The “problem” in this little dying church and the thousands like it across America won’t be fixed in debate, new playgrounds, or different music.

So we nod. Make understanding noises.

And then go back to our new wineskins.

 

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