Thursday, September 8, 2011

Dead church...Cheesy clichés

I've never been one to bend over backwards to make people happy. You know a, "people pleaser." As a matter of fact I've been known to piss a few people off from to time to time. It seems my lack of willingness to conform to the norm or my refusal to shed the very core of my being is not well liked. And there is probably no doubt I may piss some off with this blog.

Sell outs come in all shapes and sizes, from all walks of life. We've all met them. I almost bet you that we've all been one to some degree. Could I look you in the eye and tell you I have never done it? No. I said I've never done it to make others happy. But for me? That's different. Insecurity. Loneliness. Personal gain. Revenge. Advantage. Who knows. Our reasons are as many as the number of settings in our walks of life.

In the darkest time of my life I reached out to those who I thought would reach back. I expected them to reach back. I opened up. I poured my heart out. My words flowed only to fall on deaf ears. My wife had left taking our children. Soon after I fell into alcohol and was fighting its grip. I turned to my church family and pastor. It was the church my wife and our children attended at the time. It's a large church made up of bodies. That's it...bodies. People who are busy doing programs and church activities. I soon realized my church family did not seem like much of a family.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, "I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."
Something about us turned him off to us. Just the same, I became turned off to my church family. I never received a phone call or an inquiry specifically about how I was handling the separation and divorce and loss of my children. I spoke openly about my struggle with alcohol. Yet I never received the comfort of knowing someone was praying. I was never asked to lunch or over to someone's home. My wife had just walked out taking my kids and my church family didn't react. I never heard the words, "How are doing?"

The church I attended was a busy church. A popular church with many programs and activities in the name of ministry. The pastor was and is very popular with the well known in our town. I'm not accusing him of being self-promoting.

I kept reaching as time went by. Not to make others happy, I but needed others. I needed change. I needed God's grace. Instead I grew to resent the church. The local organized church. It was weak and self-serving. It was blind and in my town it was simply an organized social club made up of cliques that knew no more about God's Word than empty clichés.

I hate clichés. It doesn't matter what they are about. If you have something to say just say it. And if you prefer to be cute and vague then tell it to Dr. Seuss. And if you don't know what to say don't say anything at all. I hate Christian clichés the most. They are just a way of saying, "Hey I have no idea what to say or I have no idea what I'm talking about so I'm going to fake it." But each has their own true meaning.

The worst one I heard, “God is in control.” Used by both Christians and non-Christians I hate this saying. What it really means: "I only believe this about overwhelming situations I have no control over. The rest of the time, I believe things are up to us and I act that way. I don't give Him a second thought. And I believe this to mean that everything in the end will work out positively in my favor. But if it doesn't then I will blame God. And I refuse to believe that sometimes life is just life and I'm not the only person on this whole planet that has free will to make choices that lead to mistakes.?

Another bad one-liner: "I'll pray for you." It's not that telling someone you'll pray for them is bad. But when all you say after they have poured their heart out and you really mean is something like, "This conversation is over."  Or, "Please tell me that's all you're saying."

It can be as bad as, "What can I pray for you about?" How many times have you been asked this? "Thanks for asking. You're so kind. My wife is having an affair, my brother is a drunk, and my dog can't control his sexual desires." More juicy tidbits of your life to spread through the prayer gossip grapevine.

I actually heard this one, "Lord willing..." "Are you serious?" What they really mean, I feel uber-spiritual when I say this. And honestly I have no idea what it really means. I'm just saying it in the awkward situation to make you feel like I care."

And this one....the one that really pissed me off, "What's God doing in your life right now?" "Did you just ask what I think you just asked? I think you just did." Because what you really mean is, "I'm getting ready to judge you. Because if you were really living for Jesus He would be using you in some capacity. Your wife left you and took your kids. And if you can't answer my question then you must either be a heathen or a hypocrite." Seriously?

I can't forget, "The Bible says so." It's the foundational belief that all other Christian clichés are based on. But what does it really mean? "I have no clue what that big book I'm in love with really says. I just hear what the preacher says on Sundays. I don't speak ancient Hebrew or Hellenistic Greek. And I only vaguely remember what I have been told, and I don't care either, because it's God's Word, and if God said it, it must be true.

"Wow, I appreciate your shallow responses. Which in case are unacceptable responses, “It also says to kill your children when they talk back. Have your children ever talked back?” Did you talk back?! It also says, to stone your wife if she has committed adultery. Jesus says that if we even look at another person with the wrong intentions its adultery. Are you ready to stone your wife? Or, “Explain to me the authorship and transmission of the Bible, and why you think it’s God’s Word.” Or especially, “Jesus said to give anything to those who ask of you – and not only to give what they ask, but more. So please give me your wallet and your car.”

Am I anti-church? By no means. Anti programs? Not at all! Expect us Christians to be perfect? God forbid. We live in a world that calls failure a weakness, and weakness a flaw. We are taught to mask the truth because, "it's better if you keep that to yourself."

If I can be honest, as if I already haven't, I think our world has built itself on a shallow and narrow foundation, ready to break any second. Let me make it more personal. There have been times when I have been shallow and built a narrow foundation.

I'm guilty of uttering those fake words, "God is in control" and "You're in my prayers" only to walk away and seconds later forget what we were even talking about. Who's the hypocrite now?

The good news. I believe in a God of Grace, love and many chances. And if it wasn't for those divine qualities working together, I wouldn't be standing here today. Oh I've done worse than speak shallow declarations.

Grace is not something that should be hoarded or hidden, but rather the very presence of grace in our lives requires us to show grace to others. Why? Because that grace is there in response to the cause we first exhibited, a cause we all share.

Grace sees past the faults, the struggle, the pains and the failures that threaten to define us, and the cuts to the heart of the individual, their circumstances, and their timing. We've all needed second chances, whether it's with our career, our family, our dreams, or our entire lives. And the vision of grace is to see us live it, apart from color, religion, gender, or even the amount of grace we have for other. Grace only sees the need and moves towards it.

Have you heard words that left you feeling like you weren't enough? Have you been in conversations where you've been run down? Where didn't get out of what you desperately needed?

How often are we the one's quick to judge? How often do I make assessments about someone before I know the whole story?

Do I freely give grace and second chances?

Love never fails.

Making someone feel

Making someone feel less than

Love never fails.

There is something going on in our church culture these days. It's something that really needs to change. It's something that I was guilty of in the past. It's this.

We have a tendency to throw people away because they do or say or even write one thing we don't like. Just one thing. That's all it takes. One moment. Or even something they didn't do but we think they should have done. I didn't hear what I needed or what I what I wanted. So I disqualified them.

Gone. That person isn't worth my time. Really? One thing and the world knows us as a people of hatred. Let's face it, every single person in the world could and will do something you aren't going to like at some point in their lives. We are broken people. We have a natural tendency to hurt and be hurt by people.

Yet we walk around with these little tests all day. A guy cut me off...I hate him! I don't know him, but I know I hate him. Yet I've done the same thing in a rush for time.

I still hate clichés. But I hate safe grace even more. It's not really grace at all. 

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Where my inspiration comes from

A Recycled-Dad with Bipolar & Parkinson's, reflections on fathering and family life and other stuff thrown in'll love my Soap Box Rants

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Why I call myself a Recycled Dad

I call myself a Recycled Dad because of the struggles with remarriage and being a step-parent and weekend dad. This is also about my life living with bipolar and how it affects me personally, my family and my job. It also reflects on the grace God has poured out on me throughout recovery from alcohol and an eating disorder. Recycled Dad is about my reflections on the wisdom God teaches daily on fatherhood and being a better husband in spite of being bipolar.

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