Liturgical Fidget, part 2 – System analysis

29 October 2011

(Blogger’s note: I should’ve known better than to plan a blog entry for Thursday in the middle of one of the more exciting World Series in recent memory.  Silly me.  Congratulations to the 2011 World Champions of the World, the St. Louis Cardinals.  And if you missed part 1 of “Liturgical Fidget,” click here.  Now, we return you to your regularly scheduled spiritual crisis, already in progress …)

So I’ve been thinking about the possibility of checking out Sunday morning congregational services again — not to analyze the state of the American church, but to be part of an organized body of believers.  Granted that in most Sunday morning services, the opportunities for fellowship (what I discovered I was really missing, as I delineated in part 1) are often limited.  But what fellowship there is, I find I miss.  I’ve been out of the picture for 30 months now, and while I’ve been able to stay in Christian fellowship via a few close friends, plus contact online with other believers, it would be nice to have more.

But there’s something about the whole liturgy of a Sunday morning meeting that still makes me uncomfortable.  It’s also what keeps those fellowship opportunities down.  In a word, it’s liturgy.

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Liturgical Fidget (try saying THAT five times fast …), part 1

25 October 2011

My apologies for the eleven-day gap since my last post.  It’s not that I haven’t been writing (got another couple of chapters of Iron Man fanfic completed), or that I didn’t have anything important to write about, or even that I was just plain lazy (this time).  In fact, I had a few seemingly important issues to tackle, some or all of which I may write about in the coming weeks.  But every time I wanted to forge ahead on one, I got distracted or tired or my thinking started getting foggy, and in the end nothing was done.  Maybe it was the hand of God, maybe it was an attack from the devil.  I don’t think it was the latter.

Anyway, one of the issues came to a head over the last few days, and I’m going to address it here.  It has to do with my own spiritual/religious life, my social life, the history of the Church, and the regimentation of individual churches.  And if God (or anyone else) wants to stop me from writing this, they’d better move fast, ’cause here I go …

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Me and the American church: still off the map

4 September 2011

Several years ago, a Christian teacher named Graham Cooke delivered a message entitled “Walking Off Your Map.”  The basic premise was that if you  follow Jesus for any length of time, there will come points when He will lead you beyond anything you’ve ever experienced — and often, beyond anything the people around you have ever experienced — into new areas of life and maturity in Him.  He made no bones about it being stressful, even frightening — but argued that it was necessary for continued growth in God’s will.  As he put it, “you don’t know where you’re going … but you can’t go back, because that’s killing you!”  It’s move on, or die where you sit.

“Off the map” is where I’ve been for awhile now.  And as far as many people I know are concerned, I’m “off the deep end.”  I’m not a member of any institutional congregation.  I haven’t been to a Sunday morning service anyplace in … (lemme think) … well, at least two years.  I’m bucking the trend of almost the entire American church setup.  And yet I know, with every fiber of my being, that I am where God wants me to be.

Not that that means it’s easy …

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Thinking inside the box(es): the blessing of a schedule

16 August 2011

I’m coming up on three years of being unemployed now.

Now, I will admit there are a couple of asterisks attached to that statement.  I did a three-week temp job riding public transportation for a consulting firm.  I’ve also done a little freelance wordsmithing (business letters and the like) for a couple of friends who needed such things done.  And from August 2009 until last month, I was spending several hours a day caring for a severely disabled child.  But still, I haven’t had semi-permanent, full-time employment since just after Lehman Brothers went splat.  (Probably not coincidental.)

All that time NOT spent on a 9-5 or similar schedule has been rough on me.  I’m someone that needs to be busy — even if I’m doing nothing much, it needs to be a “doing nothing much” that keeps me focused and occupied.  (Prayer isn’t a problem; that’s “doing something,” and I have to be focused so I don’t miss what God might say.  But no silent meditation for me, thanks.)  Which means that I end up finding things to fill the time, but without the requirements of a job, filling the time can end up meaning looking at funny captions on pictures of cats for two hours at a clip.  And that sort of thing was beginning to happen more and more.

Clearly, I needed to get myself on a schedule.

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The anniversary that wasn’t

24 January 2011

Yesterday was my wife Nina’s and my twelfth wedding anniversary.  Nowadays, it seems like spending twelve years married to the same person without committing a homicide is fairly rare, and considering some of the problems we’ve had to work through over that time (internal and external), we do rather feel we’ve beaten the odds.  So it’s kind of a big deal, certainly worthy of a celebration.

And what did we do yesterday to commemorate such a momentous occasion?  Well … pretty much nothing.

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The price of freedom, the reward of freedom

3 August 2010

In April 2009, at the end of my four-month Congregational Journey, God finally got it through my thick skull that He no longer wanted me to try finding a home within a traditional, institutional congregation.  Basically, He made it clear to me that I didn’t belong there, so I should stop trying to pretend I did, or that I could find one where I fit.  Wasn’t gonna happen.

It hasn’t been the smoothest ride since.  It’s been difficult to find a lot of Christian fellowship outside traditional Sunday services (albeit, not as difficult as it is to find Christian fellowship within traditional Sunday services!).  I haven’t discovered a single active “house church” in the county, and the one Christian group I found on Meetup that wasn’t exclusively for singles was already in the process of breaking up when I joined.  I do get together with friends on occasion (one on a regular basis, but he’s going to be out of the country most of autumn), and I communicate with other believers online.  But it’s a subsistence diet at best.

So there have been times when I wondered if maybe I was on the wrong track, that maybe I hadn’t heard God correctly and I needed to strap myself back into a traditional congregation.  Usually I lie down until the feeling goes away, or, failing that, ask the Supermodel how the last Sunday service went where she attends.  (That would be enough to cure anyone of the urge.)  But given the lack of palatable options outside the usual “church system,” I can’t be blamed for reconsidering the unpalatable ones inside it.

Funny thing, though — today I got a solid reminder of why I don’t go back.  And all because I wasn’t sure what to write about today.

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Congregational Journey revisited: “the baldness of the line”

25 April 2010

Yesterday, I was going through some stacks of papers I had allowed to pile up too long, and ran across a folder full of bulletins I had collected during my Congregational Journey last year.  One of them in particular caught my attention, not so much because of what congregation I’d received it from as because of a note I’d made on it.

Said bulletin was from Tabernacle of Faith Community Church, dated February 8, 2009.  (You may want to review my account of that trip, just for reference.)  That visit was one of the more disheartening ones I made (which is saying something), and one of the reasons why was the gap between the size and perceived spiritual maturity of the congregation and the grandiose plans it had for the future.  And by “gap,” I mean “yawning chasm akin to the Grand Canyon.”  A rather bored congregation of eighteen (half of them teens or younger) was supposed to be asking God for a huge new complex in downtown Stockton and “500 SOULS For 2009,” according to the pastors.  How the tiny group was expected to manage such a project or convert (let alone disciple) so many people was not stated and (I suspect) not even considered.

With that in mind, on the cover of the bulletin I wrote: should √ back in autumn, see if closer to goal (heck, see if more than 20 show up)

Needless to say, I was too busy last autumn to even think about following up in such a way (see the gap in my blog entries between August ’09 and March ’10; same meaning of “gap” as above).  But when I found the bulletin yesterday, I sensed a little noodge in my spirit, as if to say, “now is the time” …

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