Thursday, November 18, 2010

My Church - A Prayer Request

Many of you know how much I love my church here in DC - it's probably my favorite thing about living here. The level of welcome I've experienced there, coupled with a deep love for Jesus and His gospel, have truly made it a church home.
However, the church home that God led me to came with some baggage when I walked into it. After a lot of prayer and discussion, the church decided several years ago that it could no longer try to reform their denomination from within. There were too many signs of going down a path that permanently rejected key tenets of the Christian faith (most notably, the uniqueness of Christ's salvation... kind of Christianity 101 :)). The church voted and decided to leave that denomination. Along with several other parishes in the Northern Virginia area, our church decided to place itself under the authority of the Convocation of Anglican of North America. This is a missionary district of the Anglican Church of Nigeria-- so basically, the English brought Anglicanism to Nigeria, and now Nigeria is sending missionaries to America to reinstate Biblically based Anglicanism. My archbishop is Nigerian- so cool to be connected to the international church so closely!
Anyways, all this to say, when the church decided to leave the old diocese, the former bishop worked with our church along with several others to negotiate a peaceful separation, where everyone could walk away as happy as possible. However, right before we were about to wrap up and walk away, the national denomination leadership ordered the local bishop to stop negotiations and instructed their lawyers to sue all the churches in our area who were leaving for possession of our buildings.
Now, if you know anything about our facilities, you will know that George Washington commissioned the building we hold many of our services in. The property actually predates the existence of the denomination our church was leaving. We have paid all the bills, taxes, costs, etc. associated with our building- the entire campus has always been funded by the congregants, not the national church. Yet, because of a church act passed in the 80s, the old denomination is claiming rights over the property.
Our church, along with the others, has been engaged in a long bout of litigation to keep our property. The initial judge ruled in our favor, but the Virginia Supreme Court overruled his decision and remanded it back to the first judge. This new wave of proceedings is gearing up this week.
To all of you out there who do pray, I would ask that you think about our church and lift up your prayers for these things:
  1. That the national leaders in the old denomination would see their hardness of heart and seek reconciliation. The various churches have tried numerous times to discuss negotiations and have been categorically rebuffed, with the answer of "The only discussion we're interested in is when you will turn over the keys." The head bishop gave testimony and essentially said that she would rather see our building turned into a saloon than ever see us worship there again. I feel comfortable giving these examples because they were shared with our church body- they are only meant to illustrate the spirit behind the proceedings from their side and why I perceive them as being hardhearted. For people who are supposed to be in the same body as us, and whose theological predilections are supposed to be more progressive than ours, these reactions are very harsh and very hurtful, especially in since our leadership are former colleagues of these folks.
  2. That funds to continue this legal battle would be made available. We have spent an incredible amount of money trying to keep our property, money that had been allocated for other uses. Our church has also helped pay for the legal expenses of other, smaller sister churches.
  3. That our leadership would continue to hear from the Lord on when to push, when to retreat, when to press forward, and when to concede. That Jesus would be glorified by the actions of every church representative, whether they be a lawyer or clergy.
  4. That the judges who hear our case would be equitable and fair, seeking justice above political drama. This case is an important one for setting precedent and one that should be very important to other religious bodies, Christian or no. It is a question of whether or not a congregation has the right to keep its property if it has a theological disagreement with the body it has affiliated itself with and wants to leave. 
  5. That the American church as a whole would be gearing itself up for continuing conflicts like this. However small this suffering is in the grand scheme of things, this is an intra-church instance of persecution. The church is being punished for defending its position to adhere to the truths that Jesus taught as they are laid out in the Bible. This is not an isolated incident and will continue to spread as every church is forced to decide whether it will succumb to secular pressure to be PC or continue to stick by orthodox theology that has been with us for 2,000 years.
This Sunday, we watched a video from one of our Nigerian bishops as he described the bloodshed his congregation has endured for their faith. Their businesses and homes have been burned, their families killed- his own wife was brutally raped, beaten, and left blind as a warning to him. One of our bishop's main roles there is to remind his people not to react in anger but to endure these attacks without hateful retaliation. He himself was dragged out into the streets to be killed- he began to pray and his attackers left him lying there. He says that he doesn't know why he was spared- he knows one day he will be killed but that "with every breath I have left, I will proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a gospel worth living for, and it is a gospel worth dying for." As we here in America begin to get such a tiny taste of the systematic suffering of the body around the world, let's pray that we continue in the example of our brothers and sisters- to proclaim the gospel boldly, to live in peace with our neighbors so far as it depends on us, and to not back down from serving a Savior who is truly worth living for.

    Monday, November 15, 2010

    Just a Middle School Love Song Playing on the Radio...

    To keep things festive, I like to change up the music I listen to when I'm up in the gym working on my fitness. I used to stick primarily to those crazy rappists of Lil Jon and 50 Cent variety, due to their infectious beats and emphasis on dropping and shaking, which are 2 essential movements in exercise. However, after I "fasted" from secular music for 40 days, my taste for that genre has decreased. If I wouldn't allow someone to talk about my womanly figure in those terms in real life, I should probably not allow someone to talk about it that way in song form. I digress.
    This reevaluation of music choice has led to a great expansion of my music when I'm sweating. First, I explored running to Frankie Valli, the Rolling Stones, and the Temptations, which was a success. I ventured further into the 70s and 80s, with equal enjoyment. And then I hit a playlist I call "Middle School to College." I created this particular playlist so that when I'm old and gray, I can reminisce about the good old days when I had all my teeth and danced the night away to such classy ditties as "The Cupid Shuffle", "Buy U a Drank", and "The Macarena."
    On my first foray into this playlist, however, I was greeted primarily by songs of my early middle school days. As I listened to the pop songs that brought up my age group, I was struck by the messaging that we were formed by. Well, at least most of my peers. I was "that kid" when it came to this genre of bubble gummie goodness. Having been brought up on the likes of the Beatles, Sly & the Family Stone, and even those pop pioneers, Abba, I could hear the crassness of the music of the late 90s from a mile away. This ain't the kind of music that lasts. And I would smarmily inform my peers (yes, I'm looking at you, Michelle and Kayla) that in 5 years, they would be very embarassed about their obsession with the likes of BSB and NSync. Now, I was right that they were embarassed (or maybe not, I don't know- they can speak for themselves on that score). What I was wrong about, however, was the lasting impact of those groups. Not only on music, but on pop culture.
    So I started listening more closely to the lyrics of all these songs of my generation and realized that there were some interesting thoughts underlying the snappy tunes. Here are some musings on a couple of these sugary confections:
    1. "As Long As You Love Me" - Backstreet Boys... This particular delight has all the beautiful melodies one would expect from the group who arguably got the ball rolling on the boy band movement. Underneath the smooth harmonization, however, I can't help but be rather disturbed by the words that are being so tenderly crooned. One assumes that the intended message is that you should focus on who a person is now rather than dwelling on the past. A debatable position, but at least an understandable one. Unfortunately, the way this message is conveyed is "I don't care who you are, where you're from, what you did, as long as you love me." If someone loving you is truly the only criteria for select amorous partners, we may quickly run into trouble. On this logic, stalkers make the ideal mate. Their all-consuming passion is to love you. My advice, gentle reader, is to focus on who a person is in the present... but if they have some kind of violent felony conviction in the past, maybe that needs to factor into your decision making process of whether or not to date them. Just a suggestion.
    2. "Bye Bye Bye" - N Sync... This is one I can pretty much get on board with. If someone's treating you badly in a dating relationship, probably time to move on. A good message for all the tweens out there today who are obsessed with Twilight ("We'll be together forever- you don't understand our love!").  I do wonder how this translates into our generation's overall view of marriage/the purpose of having relationships in general. He doesn't ever really seem to explain how she's been making him a "fool in this game for two." Cheating? Not paying him enough attention? Eating the last of the tortilla chips? More information would make this easier to judge. Anyways, this gets a passing grade. 
    3. "Case of the Ex" - Mya... Again, I'll give this one a big pass. I was surprised because I think this was one of the only songs I heard all morning from this era that I thought was a genuinely empowering song. Basically, check yourself before you wreck yourself. The possible exception is the end of the bridge- not sure that threatening to reciprocate with your own round of infidelity is the best way to keep your man.  Or maybe it is... I'll let the seriously committed gals of the world school me on the most effective threats to encourage fidelity. 
    4. "Nookie" - Limp Bizkit... Well, there's not really a whole lot of ambiguity on this one. Or need to explain why it might be objectionable for tweens to listen to it. But what I find interesting is that in the midst of the declaration that he "did it all for the nookie," the bridge reveals the hopelessness that old Fred has from this kind of life style: "Leave me alone - it'll always be the same, ain't nothing going to change, it'll always be the same, I'm just gonna stay here." So actually, I have less of a problem with this song than with others on this list. It seems to be a pretty honest presentation of where the guy is in his valuation of sex over the simpler pleasures, like a woman who doesn't cheat on him. Though, I still would argue that this is not 12 year-old appropriate, TRL. That's right, I'm looking at you, Carson Daley.
    5. "Baby One More Time" - Britney Spears... Okay, yeah, so this may be one of the catchiest songs of all time. Even now, if it comes on, the windows are rolling up and I am belting this out at the top of my lungs. And how many tunes boast a mid-song pause for dramatic wind noises? But where to start with the problems it presents? First of all, this is a song about indecisiveness. You had a reason you broke up with him, sister. Stick to your guns! Basically, at the first sign of loneliness, she's ready to do whatever it takes to get an old relationship back. Not only that, he's evidently the "reason she breathes." Wow. This reeks of codependency. But finally, let's talk about the chorus. "Hit me baby one more time." I have no idea what this means. Domestic abuse? Get back together again? Dominatrix? He's a bartender and she's asking for another shot? Love her again? There's really no way to know. And if you don't know what something means, you shouldn't say it. I learned that with "Milkshake." Ick.
    Ah, middle school.

    Friday, November 12, 2010

    About to Die

    I am justing putting this out into the hazy gloom of the world wide web... I am about to die at work right now. Imagine someone standing over your shoulder for 13 hours a day say, "No, do it this way, change that, do this, now, now, NOW." Now multiply that by 5 days a week. Now multiple that by 8 weeks of your life. All of this equals a very tired and tense Frankie. Ah, the joys of being simultaneously micromanaged and firedrilled. It's the American dream.
    That being said, I am hoping that things will ease up soon and that I will return to some semblance of a life. I really want to get the hang of this insane rhythm and actually be able to thrive and serve the people I'm working with. I am hoping for renewal this weekend. Here's hoping!
    And here's hoping I can get back into my writing schedule. I really want to dig in over the holidays!

    Monday, November 8, 2010

    Batteries- Recharged (Or a Word on Joy)

    Whew! This weekend has really been a whirlwind. I have been anticipating Kayla's wedding and accompanying hoopla for so long now, it feels surreal that it has actually come and gone. I won't go into all the details, the personal jokes, the small moments that would likely mean very little to anyone outside of myself. Suffice it to say, I was fed by this weekend. The word I would use to describe the entire time would be joy. Every moment was so filled with joy for me.
    Joy for Kayla and Austin, as I watched a couple that I have sincere admiration for and that the Lord has used to minister to me. I can truly say that I love the Lord more for having been a part of their relationship- as He has taught me this year so much about the Church as His Bride and the tension of already/not yet in our relationship with Him (and how that mirrors engagement!), He has consistently used their ups and downs as a tangible example of the spiritual metaphor that romantic love was designed to be. I am so thankful to have had these experiences before I have to try to do all this marriage stuff myself!
    Joy, also, to relish time with sweet friends, old and new, who give me energy. It's been so long since I've been so completely at my ease that at times I was a little overwhelmed- I had to battle not to go internal. I got such peace from basking in the presence of friends who know me so well and with whom I laugh so heartily. Is there really any sweeter sound than laughter between friends long separated? I'm sure there are, but it was the sound that I have been longing to hear for many moons. It's so strange to me- the time that I spend with these old friends completely reenergizes me to invest more in my new friends in DC. I think it's because my old friends remind me that (prepare for me to toot my own horn) I am fun- I do have things to offer to people. I am a good friend who is loyal and therefore has loyal friends. They give me the confidence to build relationships with people who are still learning these things about me. And then there's just the relaxing state of non-work... my relationships with old friends don't demand all that work, at least when we're face to face. It's plenty of work to keep up over the phone/Facebook/Skype- but when we're in person, our relationship is easy, comfortable, and known. In other words, it is the things that a friendship is after an extended period of being hard, a bit awkward, and unsure.
    Joy to spend time with my family. The heart truly has grown fonder in our distance, and things that I wanted or needed from them at one time don't seem as important. They certainly would crop back up if I was to spend an extended period of time with them, I'm sure :), but I am so thankful for the gift of being able to be in the moment with them and fully enjoy the security and love that they unwaveringly offer me. I love giggling with my mom, debating with my dad, hugging my sister, and playing with my niece. They are so dear to my heart and it really is a blessing to have the perspective to fully engage and enjoy them.
    And finally, joy to be in the landscape that I was raised in. As I descended into the McGhee-Tyson airport, I gazed out the window at the Smokey Mountains. It had been raining earlier in the morning and it was still misty over the mountains. The eponymous smoke had settled on them- through the wispy veil, I saw the oranges and reds of the autumnal trees, and the beauty of the green meadows that stretched around their base. The small country houses and churches that dotted the grassy expanses looked so much like a Thomas Kinkade painting it could have been a little nauseating. But it wasn't. It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen and I realized that I was crying a little as I continued to watch the tableau get closer and closer. I felt so silly- they were mountains I've seen all my life. But as I've been away, I've discovered how much the external landscape that you grow up in becomes a very important internal landscape. Others who have moved away from where they spent all their formative years have echoed this to me- I think you can never really feel at home anywhere else. I, anyways, believe that I will never feel completely at ease away from the mountains. I'd like to think my heavenly house will be settled at the top of a mountain. Anyways, between the mountains and it being my favorite time of year, fall, my thirst for aesthetic comfort was thoroughly satiated and I drank up every visual glass of water greedily.
    Anyways, this was a little sappy, looking back, but I guess I'm in that kind of mood. I always return from my hometown with a renewed vigor for engaging in the present tasks at hand. Next on the agenda- exploring how God is calling me to serve others and give more. I've really been mulling over what it means to seek to give more generously versus to seek to live more simply and therefore give more generously. We'll see where He's going with this...