Word of the Week

As a child, I was taught that prayer was talking to God, but because God was God prayer came with a lot of rules.

Rules like:

1. Always start with thanksgiving.

2. Always confess your sins after that.

3. Don't be surprised if God doesn't hear your prayers if you have unconfessed sin.

4. The best prayer you can pray is the Lord's Prayer. Learn the words. Say them often even if you don't know what the word "trustpasses" means (really that what I thought the word was as teen!)

5. Don't treat God like Santa. Consider carefully what you ask for.

I got disillusioned from all this rule keeping when it came to prayer about the time I entered seminary.

I took a break from prayer for many years in my 20s, at least serious prayer that is. I didn't know how to follow all the rules anymore. I didn't know if the rules really mattered. I didn’t see the point, especially as I walked through difficult situations and nothing about my situation seemed to change . . . Was God really listening?

But then, a  shift happened several years ago. New friends came into my life who seemed to have a whole other relationship with God than I did that had nothing to do with the rules. They loved me more than I'd ever experienced before in my life. And I loved them for it. My baby steps back toward prayer centered on praying for them.

I don’t know if you are like me or not, but when I love, I fiercely love. I love my husband. I love my dears kindred spirit friends. I love dear ones of all kinds that find a way to intersect my life in unique ways. And for me, sometimes, it is hard to know what to do with that love.

I truly wanted the best for them. I wanted to see them thrive. I wanted life to be as good to them as it possibly can.

And, so I’ve learned to pray– love by praying. To ask God, who I believe is the divine parent of us all– to watch over those I know are in need of peace, support or wisdom in their daily lives.

A funny thing happened along the way. I found myself wanting to pray more. It wasn't a  chore, but a sweetness.

While many might think, it’s shallow– to just pray for people who you love– I say, don’t judge too quickly. In getting the conversation going again, God came near to me in other ways. I’m began to get back to all the other stuff too like “Oh, God I have fallen short of your best for me in this way” or “Oh, God bless those in need in far away places” or “God bless so and so who really annoys me.”

So, I began to pray out of relationship. I prayed for relationships.

But, now sometimes such doesn't even really work anymore. I don't have that warm and fuzzy feeling about people enough to even get me to pray. So what does prayer look like for me now?

I am learning to pray all over again as I just sit. Sit in silence. Sit to remember. Sit to honor all that I was created to be. Sit and hope for the Divine to show up in a way I can't control or even predict.

I am relying on the discipline of sitting and BE-ing.

Though my more evangelical friends might tell me that I am doing it all wrong again, it's ok. I'm ok. God is most certainly ok. And I'm going to keep learning about conversing with the Holy for many years to come.

urlI grew up in an evangelical, Bible-belt household.

I was taught that females shouldn't lead churches (though being international missionaries was ok-- out of sight out of mind).

I was taught that being gay was a sin. I was taught that the Bible was the infallible word of God. To be angry with how Paul referred to women  was disrespectful.

To be a good Christian, I needed form myself into this mold. And who doesn't want to be good?

Being a good Christian was about following rules. Being a good Christian was about doing good to others, especially those who had not yet prayed the sinner's prayer of forgiveness (because maybe one day you could lead them to faith). Being a good Christian was about keeping your life close to those who believed just like you-- for to spend too much time with those who were not Christians could pollute your own relationship with Jesus.

For many years, I did well at this gold star obtaining way of faith. I read my Bible a lot. I went to church a lot. And I even tried to evangelize my unsaved friends (you know who you are).

But what happens when a girl like this grows up and begins to ask questions?

What happens when a girl like this has a moment one day on a mission trip wondering what in the heck she is doing trying to force a 7-year-old in a park to ask for forgiveness of sins?

What happens when a girl like this has a calling to actually LEAD a church (and the gifts and education to do so)?

What happens when a girl like this meets some of the most Jesus loving people she's ever met who happen to be gay too?

I guess there were two choices.

1) Become disillusioned to the whole Jesus thing saying Christians were stupid and I wanted no part.

2) Seek out a path of different kind of Christianity, even if it might leaving behind the church that raised me and my most familiar tradition behind.

Obviously I chose the second path.

Without shame, I took preaching classes at seminary, sought out a job that would allow me to preach and became ordained.

I read scripture with an open mind and have continued to do so.

I led a church that welcomed all kinds of people-- those in AA, those with criminal records, those who were gay, soccer moms with drug problems and even me, a pastor with more questions than answers. (Because we are all really broken in some way).

And here's my current challenge: I find myself as a "Preacher on the Plaza" (i.e. a pastor without a church) where the powers that be around me would love me to bow down and become more "that kind of Christian."

Don't I know my place? Couldn't I be more submissive? Shouldn't I be more accepting of those who who might just need more time to be more loving?

I can't, my friends. I can't.

I can't because I believe the love of God is wider than we could ever imagine.

I can't because I believe this world needs voices louder those of Christian majority-- voices that embrace before they judge.

I can't because I believe that revelation of God is finished; we're all a part of a living and active story.

The best is yet to be! And I want to be a part of it. I want to be a pastor to those who have been hurt by the church and its messages the most.

So, here I stand as not that kind of Christian. But a Christian nonetheless.