Cringe-y Christianity

Today I issue a formal apology to all humans who have innocently bumped into a Christian only to be accosted with offensive or perplexing language that feels, at best, nonsensical or, even worse, makes sense, but is flat-out weird. We have our own language. Some of us also have wine.

If it’s been a while, you should at least try church again. It’s not the pearl-clutching society of old bitties it once was. I swear. I have a tattoo on my neck. You can trust me. But I digress…

Hi, welcome to church! If you’re not washed in the blood, maybe you need to come to the river and drink. Hey, while you’re there, have you been baptized by water? Fire? Are you filled with the Holy Ghost, as evidenced with the speaking of tongues? The great cloud of witnesses is watching you run your race so run for the prize! Do you want the full armor? We’ll know you by your fruit so we will lay our hands on you before we take up a love offering. First, we’ll eat Jesus’ body and drink His blood. Let’s lift up our hands and surrender. Are you ready to take up your cross and die for Christ? Hope to see you next Sunday! Amen!

As a pastor’s kid and now a minister’s wife, I have seen it and heard it and cringed at it all. I still suck wind through my teeth when we ask visitors to stand up or wave and then 250 people turn and stare, clapping wildly as they try to shrink into their chair and maintain a brave smile. The thing about Christians is that most of us are all so genuine in really, really wanting to show people what joy we have found in Jesus Christ that our unbridled enthusiasm becomes clown-with-yellow-pointy-teeth-and-drippy-makeup scary. Please stop.

Christians speak their own language, it’s true. How did that happen?! Do we know how we sound to the rest of the world? I’m guessing we don’t, not most of the time. Paul got it. He wrote, “…I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save them. This I do for the gospel’s sake…” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23) Let’s all agree that telling people things like God will “take the coal and cleanse their lips” is not the way to interest them in learning more. Let’s stop saying weird things about an enemy shooting fiery darts and crouching at their door seeking to devour and instead invite them to coffee and just listen and say things like, “Can I pray for you?” (We can tell them about the foot washing once we’ve got them in our clutches.)

###

Sheep with Teeth

The first non-family member I ever punched was a 70-year old lady, but in my defense she hit me first. She was my boss and, inevitably, I was fired on the spot. Ironically I was not fired for my workplace brawl with the old rooster who had it coming, but for not being tough enough in the newsroom or having a killer instinct to “scoop” everyone else in the pressroom. Am I proud of that experience?

Well, she knew I was a Christian and I had just made it abundantly clear that I do, actually, have a killer instinct, aaaaand it’s not on my resume so… being proud of something isn’t the same as having no regrets. I’ll leave it there. Unfortunately for Jesus, I don’t make it a secret that I am a follower of His, for better or for worse. I preemptively apologize to Jesus, daily, in case I do something that makes His spear wound throb a little. Dear Lord, why is it that the worst in us is brought out by other people? Jesus wants us to love other people, but let’s be honest, most people are not love-able! Mary did you know?! 

Have you ever noticed that the sheep who follow the Great Shepherd aren’t so much, well, sheep, as we are more like Lamb-o? 

“Hi, I’m a Christian! Jesus loves you! Hey, wait. Did you just rear end my new car/yell at my kid on the playground/cut in front of me/give me a dirty look when I asked you to fix me a new latte because the first one was nasty? WHAT DID YOU JUST CALL ME?! It happens to the best of us…

My point? Christians are not immune to the desire to react negatively when the world hands us a less-than-desirable set of circumstances. Yes, Jesus was right, “Blessed are the peacemakers”, but it’s also okay to be at peace with the fact that not everyone is at peace with you. Regardless, you stay classy. You know, Jesus was well aware He was going to be spat on, kicked, stripped naked, beaten within an inch of His life, nailed to a cross and then run through with a spear. And yet, there He was telling His disciples stuff like, “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44) Sigh. This is why He is God and Alicia is not. THIS IS WHY.

Pro tip: You’re going to get “spitefully used” at some point.

Whatever it takes to get you in a fighting mood, Satan will gladly lay at your feet. I kid you not, I’m making out my “spitefully used” list today, and, without an agenda, I’m going to pray for the numerous punks in my life. Why? Because Jesus also said, in the same breath, “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the [NYS politicians] do the same?” 

And He was right. If He can do it, so can I. I did actually pray for my boss, you know. I prayed that she would come to know Christ in spite of me and that I would never, ever run into her again. So far so good. Amen.

###

An Everyday Kind of Jesus

It has been the kind of week where I woke up almost daily thinking, “If someone comes at me today, I’m going to cut them.” Hi, I’m a Christian. More specifically, I’m in the ministry and I run a blog and write books on the subject of worship. It’s been a rough week and I didn’t take it well. Want to come to my church? Oh, and by the way, you should know up front I’m a very, very real person. A human, actually. Sometimes a little too real, I’ll admit, but still out there being me and trying not to embarrass Jesus when someone whips into my spot at Target even though my directional was clearly blinking…..

Right up front I’m going to tell you that being a real person and being a Christian aren’t two conflicting states of being- at least not in my world. I hope you’ll join me here as I, a real human, navigate life in light of the grace of God. Whether or not you believe in Jesus, accept Jesus, like Jesus or think you’re Jesus, I am looking forward to sharing some thoughts, lessons learned, regrets (maybe), insights, challenges and other sundry real-person, life-actually wisdom that will hopefully inspire or at least entertain you.

All that to say, hi.

Here’s a thought I’ve been mulling over during my week-from-literal-hell (no, not literal). In Philippians 4:8, the apostle Paul, arguably one of the baddest Bible characters in the whole book wrote, “Finally, brothers (ok, and sisters, you know what he means!) whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, think on these things.” He wrote this while he was in prison, by the way. (Oh, and he was thrown into prison for being a Christian, not for all the people he’d murdered in the years before his conversion, but I digress)

I have found that the wisdom of the Word of God sustained me, kept my focus away from the storm outside and helped me redirect my energies into the things that really mattered

So, I’ve been challenging myself to try, to just try, for crying out loud, to think on things that keep my mind in a state of spiritual peace, that don’t get me “in the flesh” as a Christian would put it. And you know what? Things that are pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and praiseworthy are great things to think about. Mind over matter! Did my situation change? No, not really. (Actually, it got worse.)

But I have found that the wisdom of the Word of God sustained me, kept my focus away from the storm outside and helped me redirect my energies into the things that really mattered, the things that did bring me joy. What are those things for you? Food for thought.

So, let’s move forward with Jesus at the wheel! (Still don’t take my spot at Target though.)

###

Christians Behaving Badly

Christians are some of the meanest people I know, myself included. Oh yes, if you’re honest you know we’re right up there with prom queens, Mayan ritual priests, soccer moms and toddlers. So, bygones. I’ll speak for myself and say I have always had the innate ability to use words the way a surgeon might use a scalpel or how an inmate might use a sock full of pennies in gen-pop when someone takes his smokes. Words are my signature method of expression, for better or for worse. This gift has been a two-edged sword- having served me well and kicked my trash all over the place when I am having one of those days where a colonoscopy sounds like a nice way to get some R&R. Fun fact: Christians are human beings.

However, Jesus’ name has never been a get-out-of-hell-free card to let people off the hook when you join their pricey MLM and then they stop responding when you have a bad reaction to their essential oils. 

If you run into one of my personal no-fly zones, you may trigger my emotional Neanderthal and she is hideous. But I hope I remember to think about things like: Would Jesus be proud of how I’m acting? Of what I’m saying? Would someone look at what I’m doing right now and see Jesus in me? These are important questions to ask every day, all the time. When someone dies for me (granted, it’s just been that one Person), I really do my best to try and honor that sacrifice with how I live. 

Romans 3:23 says (I’m paraphrasing here), that everyone, Christian or “other”, is a jerk and deserves to be punched in the face at some point or another. Myself included. I am one of those “nobody puts Baby in a corner” type of personalities. (I’m a hoot at parties though). In the Bible, James, the brother of Jesus called the tongue, “…a fire, a world of evil.” (James 3) Preach.

King David wrote the following: “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.” (Psalm 141:3) And this: “I will take heed of my ways so that I do not sin with my tongue.” (Psalm 39:1) And this, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord.” (Psalm 19:14) Sounds like he may have had an Alicia-level mouth on him, amen. 

Let’s be honest, there really isn’t anything a Christian can say or do that someone, somewhere won’t give Jesus the “credit” for- whether you flip the bird while driving with a Jesus fish on your bumper or overreact when someone moves your blankets at the Plaza when you were saving spots for your church group’s 4th of July shindig. Even so, we are representing Jesus to the world and I hope that when you take a super long time fiddling with your 1,001 coupons at Price Chopper, I remember that while I’m waiting behind you. 

###