Monday, November 24, 2014

Conversations during coffee "hour"

At the old church, there was a young man who consistently sought me out, or at least it seemed that way. He made a point of greeting me cheerfully, asking me how things were going, and engaging in conversation for several minutes.

Want to hear something sadly funny? I often wondered why. I mean, he was nice. He was related to one of the leading families in the church. Unlike a number of the members of the leading families themselves (seen in retrospect), he was one of the kindest people I knew there. (Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying the people there are evil, somehow. But I certainly was deluded. I thought I was a part of something, but as I keep thinking it through, I get the feeling I really wasn't.)

I bless that young man. I'd call him and invite him to dinner with our family, but for the fear somehow our taint might rub off on him and cause him problems at the church. Is that paranoia, or what?

Oh, they were friendly enough, amongst themselves. There was always cheerful talk and laughter during the pause between the early teaching ("Bible study," some might call it Sunday school except that it was age-integrated) and the worship service. If I confined my interaction to visitors, or stuck with the same handful of people, I could have conversation, too. Trying to join a conversation with any of the core group was always something of a strain. Some were more gracious than others, but it definitely felt like labor rather than natural conversation. Sort of like standing on the edge of the group of popular kids on the school playground. Now I know how those poor ostracized kids felt.

I never bought into the school bullying that put forth the message, "If you are friends with so-and-so, if you even say a nice word to her, you'll be an outcast, too." I would interact with any of the kids, popular or unpopular. I wasn't part of the "in" crowd but I wasn't an outcast, either. I lived somewhere in the middle. I never could quite figure out what made someone "in" or "out." It was the kids in the "in" crowd who made the determination, and I wasn't a part of those conversations.

I admit that I never did catch on, even as an adult. I look back at years of loneliness at the old church, of never quite fitting in, no matter how I tried, never being accepted -- and never knowing why. Is there something fundamentally wrong with me? With our family? What did we do to earn this (social) death sentence?

We were just "good enough" to attend that church and the church-wide social occasions, but never "good enough" for closer friendships. I always had the feeling of being held at arm's length. I still don't know why. I was overweight, dressed kind of dowdy, had allergies that prevented me from wearing jewelry and makeup. But there were overweight women in the "in group." There were dowdy women there, too. How did they do it? How did they win their way in?

I don't think it was entirely "me." I had this weird divide in my life: being a respected leader in our local homeschool group, and an active member of a lively online homeschooling community, versus someone on the fringe at our church even after attending there more than two decades. Looking at it in retrospect, something was out of whack. (Someone in the online community said something once that maybe it was the church, that some churches just aren't "a good fit." Seems she was right.)

I kept thinking if I could just get it right... But maybe I wasn't the problem. At least, not the main problem.

Still, the bewilderment hovers in the back of my mind. (Was it something I said? Something I did?)

Monday, November 10, 2014

Monday Morning Quarterback (thoughts to ponder)

You know what they say about hindsight. (It's 20/20.)

Looking back, the signs are so clear.

Now. They're clear now.

When we were in the middle of it, we didn't see it. Or rather, we put another interpretation on it, the interpretation that we had been taught, the interpretation that fitted the community we'd been living in for two decades, the Christian homeschool community.

What were the signs, you ask? (What am I talking about, you ask. Well, I'll tell you.)

The teens didn't want to go to church. Actually, they'd been reluctant to go to church even before turning teen, but their clueless parents (yes, raising hand) didn't realize that it was because of the poisonous social situation we had elected for their immersion.

(We had been taught by various persuasive and entertaining speakers that there is no such thing as a teen, and also that any kind of resistance on the part of our children is rebellion and needs to be stamped out. Do you recognize that teaching? But that's a post for another time.)

One of them, whose health is truly a concern (asthma, migraines, to start), was sick. A lot. And often the sickness happened on Sunday. Oh, it was explainable, because our schedule had us in a large crowd of people with just the right incubation time to wake up sick on Sunday. So it wasn't until she confessed, after we'd left the church for good, that a part of the time she'd faked it, or exaggerated her symptoms. Sadly, as a result of what might be PTSD (not diagnosed by a professional, but fitting the anecdotal evidence provided by others coming from similar situations, and online checklists... okay, so sue me for diagnosing via internet search engine), even when we were trying new churches, and she really wanted to go, she still woke up sick -- I mean, with real, physical symptoms, like vomiting.

We knew they were reluctant to go to church, though it wasn't acceptable for them to express those sentiments too strongly. (See italicized paragraph above.)

Let's cut to the chase, shall we? It's a beautiful Monday morning, the sun is shining, I've got lots to do before the "winter precipitation" predicted to slam us in a day or two arrives. Here is the upshot:

If your children don't want to go to church, maybe the problem is not with them. Maybe it's not rebellion, or sin. Maybe there's a problem with the church.
  
Sounds simple, doesn't it? Sounds obvious. Perhaps you're even asking, How could she be so stupid?

Or, perhaps you're thinking I'm deluded. Sounds like we've let our teens take control of our household. Either that, or we've been remiss in winning the hearts of our teens so that they would happily go along to our solid, Bible-teaching church with us.

Perhaps you have another think coming.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Why people are leaving the church, take 3

It seems fitting, on a Sunday morning, to continue pondering why people would feel the need to leave churches. It couldn't be the fault of the church, could it? (Reminds me of an old military cliche, used to meet any type of criticism: "Sounds like a personal problem to me.")

Here is yet another series of posts for your consideration (three in the series) where a pastor examines reasons why churches are losing members.

Part one seems aimed more at the glitzy, modernized churches, you know, the ones with light shows and electronic effects -- I am describing something I've only heard about, never seen, so bear with me if I'm "off the mark" on this.

Part two speaks a lot to soul-winning churches, whose people hand out tracts in the grocery store and other public places, where (so far as I can tell) there's little or no follow-up or relationship-building. There is much rejoicing on "souls won" but not a whole lot of practical help for walking out the faith afterward. Toward the second half, the article starts to speak to the "problem" of people in the church with problems... and the attitude that they are a problem, rather than living, breathing, feeling people. (Living, breathing, feeling people can be awfully inconvenient and time-consuming.)

Part three, continues the theme from the second part, expanding on it, and then moves into new territory: from blaming the victim, to people seeking challenge, where they find a clearer path to following Christ outside the church, curiously enough, than inside.

What do you think? Are you happy at your church? Have you left church behind for any one of the reasons laid out here? Will you try to find another church, or are you gone for good?

Friday, November 7, 2014

Why (young) people are leaving the church, take 2

While reading the comments at Spiritual Sounding Board (SSB) on the post I linked here yesterday, I followed a link to a commenter's own post, written some months ago, on the same topic. So if you're interested in some more food for thought, check out:

Why Young People Are Really Leaving Church

The link says it is "part 1 of 2" and as I have no time to read part 2 today, I'll leave that for another time.

While reading the comments at SSB, I found out that not just young people are leaving the church. Women are leaving as well, as they are feeling marginalized by growing trends that limit a woman's ability to participate and contribute within the church community and worship. But that's a topic for another day, as well.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Why don't young people go to church?

Julie Anne at Spiritual Sounding Board has been very helpful to me in working through some issues the past few months.

Today she has a guest post from a pastor* who often comments at her blog. This is a man whose words give evidence of a heart for the Lord, as well as a heart for people.

He ponders this question:

 Why don't young people go to church?

I have read other takes on this topic. Most of them have to do with not teaching the right basics, or the basics right, with emphasis on content rather than presentation (or perhaps I should say, instead of "presentation" which implies keeping a crowd entertained while educating, the "walk" or living out what is being taught).

And while we're on the subject of walking... you can live out what you're teaching from scripture, but if you do so without love, the wiser youth will walk away... eventually. See 1 Corinthians 13 for more.

The article rings true, and the comments made by the readers supply excellent food for thought.

++++

*"pastor" is a word I have almost stricken from my vocabulary. I'm not sure what to replace it with. "Minister," maybe. Julie Ann calls the author of the post linked here a pastor, and so I include it as a term of respect, for a man who certainly sounds pastoral (having a shepherd's heart that reflects the scriptural Good Shepherd), from what I've read of his writing.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Back after long absence

We've gone through some changes over the past months. Some? Maybe more than "some".

Changed states. Changed houses. Changed churches. Transitioning slowly out of homeschooling. Transitioning out of editing for a homeschool magazine, and gone (for a while, actually) from writing reviews for another homeschool magazine. Changed dogs. (Not by choice.)

I might have been pondering on the changes as they were happening, but some of the change was too painful for public reflection.

Anyhow, writing is a good discipline in ordering thoughts, and as I have missed the first week (!) of NaNoWriMo somehow (how did November sneak in without my noticing, and where did that first week go?), I suppose this is as good a place as any.

So, hi. How have you been? What changes have been happening in your neck of the woods?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Paleo update

Still sticking with paleo (I suppose you might call it "primal" as I still use a bit of butter on occasion), with auto-immune tweaks. My joints still hurt, but not as much as they did before I started this. Other benefits: I sleep better, waken refreshed, have more energy than I did, and am never hungry. In fact, I'm having trouble getting enough calories in.

I'm tracking my food and exercise at myfitnesspal.com and sometimes I have trouble reaching the "minimum" of 1200 calories -- MFP warns me when I don't, that I might send my body into starvation mode, where weight loss slows because the body is conserving all it can. I can go hours without eating, and without my blood sugar crashing. It's a far cry from not so long ago, when I felt like I had to eat protein at least every three hours, or get the shakes. (Being off all caffeine may be helping, too.)

Anyhow, if you're interested, here are a few websites to explore:

http://www.marksdailyapple.com

http://whole9life.com/
(This is the home of the Whole30, a kind of 30-day healthy-eating challenge)

http://robbwolf.com/

http://www.thepaleomom.com/
(check out her info about the autoimmune protocol)

http://autoimmune-paleo.com/

Next time, I'll post some of my favorite paleo/primal recipe websites.