Tuesday, January 15, 2013

bandaids....or transformation?

Adam and I went to a friend's church for her baptism on Sunday, and it got me thinking about a lot of things as they relate to our church and some of the pains we been experiencing over the last several years.  Lots of churches emphasize GROW GROW GROW, and there's a lot to be said for a vibrant community of believers. What I really want to know, though, is the WHY.

I don't want to be a church who simply jumps on every trend only to change when the bandwagon makes a turn, but nor do I want to be a church who refuses to change on the grounds that "we can't accommodate everyone" (which is usually code for, "it's comfortable this way").

Well, OF COURSE we can't accommodate everyone's preferences, nor should we compromise our essential beliefs, but if we stay on our current course, those churches which refuse to adjust (or, indeed, refuse to make changes ahead of the curve) will cease to exist.

I'm loving Brian McLaren's Reinventing Your Church; can you tell?

So here are some of the questions I have for my church, in particular, but all churches, in general:

1. Why do we want to grow in the first place?  A related question is, what do we believe the purpose of growth to be?  Is it to spread the Gospel or is it to expand our social network?  Is it to go out into the "dangerous" places or to create a secluded "safe" place for ourselves?  Or both?  Or neither?

2. In our attempt at growing, who are we trying to attract? (a) already-practicing Christians (which may mean, essentially, enticing them away from other churches, which seems counter-productive), (b) nominal Christians who are seeking more depth in their relationships with Christ and who might not be attending a church currently, or (c) unchurched folks and/or non-Christians?  Or maybe some combination of these three?  Or maybe other groups I haven't considered yet?

3. Once we figure out WHY we're doing what we're doing and WHO we're reaching for, HOW do we best redesign/streamline our structures (administrative, worship options/style(s), financial, missional, social, etc.) to best address the needs of those we're trying to serve?

4. What are we (individually and corporately) willing to give up for the purpose of meeting our common goal, whatever we determine it to be?  Are we willing to sacrifice our pet projects, our emotional attachments to programs (or even furniture!), our preferences for worship style, etc.?  How can we go about doing some cost/benefit analysis?

5. Are we actually willing to step out for Jesus Christ?  Are we willing to tolerate (or, my goodness, even invite and embrace!) the occasional person raising her hands during worship?  Are we willing to "suffer the little children to come unto" Jesus rather than being annoyed because they're too loud?  Are we willing to constantly ask ourselves whether what we're doing at any given time embodies our call to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the sick, etc.?  Are we willing to thoroughly examine our theological "hobby horses" with new eyes?  Are we willing to give others the space to experience God differently than we do, and to affirm them rather than criticize?

Is anyone with me on this??

Monday, November 12, 2012

on faith

I've been thinking a lot about faith lately.  Maybe it's because my church is in a bit of upheaval, and maybe it's because Zeke has started asking questions.  Or maybe it's because of my academic nature, and maybe it's because life is hard and I want to know why, and maybe it's because so many people profess a faith which shares a name with mine, but which I don't recognize at all.

or maybe a bit of everything.

One thing I've thought about a lot, especially, is the idea of salvation.  Sometime I think we don't fully appreciate what a beautiful (and completely undeserved!) gift salvation is, because we don't fully appreciate what we've been saved from.  We used to be separated from God, only able to communicate with Him through intercessors, on certain days, atoning with literal, flesh-and-blood sacrifices every time; now we can talk with Him at any moment, in every moment, and we never have to be separated again.  Ever.

because Jesus stood in for all the sacrifices that would have been required.

But the thing I'm struggling with now is the idea of the "sinners' prayer".  From what I can figure, it's based on Romans 10:9, which says, "If you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (NIV).  The Amplified Bible words it slightly differently: "Because if you acknowledge and confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and in your heart believe (adhere to, trust in, and rely on the truth) that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved."

So I get the concept of reciting a formal prayer to officially take the step of "declare and believe".


What about all the connotations of "believe"?  What about "adhere to, trust in, and rely on the truth"?

"Adhere to...the truth" implies action, which in my (admittedly novice) opinion is supported by:

John 15:14--
"You are my friends if you do what I command." (NIV)
"You are My friends if you keep on doing the things which I command you to do." (AMP)

and James 2:20--
"You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?" (NIV)
"Are you willing to be shown [proof], you foolish (unproductive, spiritually deficient) fellow, that faith apart from [good] works is inactive and ineffective and worthless?" (AMP)

Ours is not a merit-based faith but, rather, we are saved by the grace of God.  However, that doesn't give us license to sit around exclaiming about how much we love Him while ignoring the second of the greatest commandments (Mark 12:30-31).

Okay, that's all fine, but what does it mean to "rely on" the truth? "Rely on", how?  By doing what?  Same question for "trust in".  My teacher self wants to know how I can demonstrate reliance and trust, because the text leads me to believe these verbs are supposed to be active.  These are things we do.

I don't mean to question the sincerity of those who have prayed the "sinners' prayer", but I also think lots of us do so (in my case, when I was at camp the summer before 6th grade) because we're afraid of hell, not because we truly understand the nature of sin and how it utterly separates us from God.

And that's to say nothing about what happens after we pray.  What do we do then?  Are our churches and spiritual elders prepared to teach us how to walk in faith by shepherding us after we've made a commitment (1 Tim 5:17)?  Are they mature enough to hold us accountable for our speech and actions (Heb 13:17)?  Are they willing to step out of their comfort zones, even if doing so jeopardizes the church bureaucracy? Can they be examples in  showing us how faith is done (1 Cor 11:1)? 

All this to say, I just don't see how some formulaic prayer encompasses all the nuances of "declare and believe".

What if we've been doing this wrong for years?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

freaking awesome :)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Ezra Daniel Wilfong

From this...

to this...

And now for a birth story…a little long, I know. Sorry.

I wanted so desperately to have a vaginal delivery after cesarean (VBAC) with this baby.
Ever since agreeing to be induced with Zeke, which ultimately ended with a c-section, I’ve wished I had done things differently, and I really wanted this time to conform a little more to the birth I had in my head.

Tons of research assured me a VBAC was, in fact, possible, even considering my gestational diabetes (and even though the GD was more severe this time).
My doctor wasn’t overly encouraging about it because Labor and Delivery at WMC doesn’t have in-house anesthesia, and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (of which she is a fellow) discourages VBAC under that circumstance. She did, however, say that no one would give me a hard time if I ‘happened’ to show up at the hospital already 7 or 8 centimeters dilated and progressing (*winkwink, nodnod*). So, basically, I took this as decent sign.

Fast forward to mid-May, and I’m in excruciating pain. Like, excruciating.

Little guy decided my sciatic nerve was just the place to hang out, and I started having trouble walking (which, as you might imagine, makes life as a teacher and toddler-mom a wee bit difficult).
I was still absolutely committed to a VBAC, but started seriously hoping he would decide to show up a couple of weeks early, both to increase my chances of a successful VBAC and to stop the shooting pain in my right leg. Every morning my colleagues would ask if I was really still here? and tell me I should seriously consider staying home. Apparently I was pretty pathetic.

I hated leaving my students for the last few weeks of school (especially my eighth-graders, the first class I’ve seen all the way through middle school), but there wasn’t much of a choice.
I didn’t come back after Memorial Day, but I still had to keep sending Zeke to daycare and to my (fabulous) mother-in-law because I couldn’t physically keep up with him or pick him up.
At least I got a couple of weeks to get the house good and straightened up, I guess.
The Thursday before Ezra arrived I had an ultrasound to check his size – minimum 9 pounds, according to the OB.
This was how I’d been scared into an induction with Zeke, so I asked the natural question: But lots of women deliver 9-pound babies; why are you so worried about me?

Answer: Most women don’t have diabetes, and most of those who do don’t have it as severely as you. I’m not concerned about his head size; it’s the shoulders we worry about with babies of diabetic moms. There’s no way to tell whether his shoulders will fit or not until it’s way too late even for an emergency c-section, and I don’t want to have to break his collarbone.

So, I was once again scared into delivering a baby in a way contrary to what I believe(d) to be best.

We scheduled the c-section for Tuesday, June 14 at 10:30am and I spent the next several days finishing things around the house and trying to prepare myself for the physical trauma of surgery and the emotional trauma of losing the birth I wanted and expected.
I started taking arnica and hypericum in preparation for surgery, and doing a lot of praying for strength, acceptance, and peace.

Tuesday morning came and we got to the hospital around 8:30am (my mother-in-law had spent the night and stayed home with Zeke when we left). The nurses hooked me up to the monitors for a little while to check everything, and after deciding the baby and I both looked great, as well as being subjected to Adam’s very long story about Zeke’s birth drama, they prepped me for surgery.

At this point I was mostly just concerned about the spinal block, since during Zeke’s birth I was too doped up on Ambien to remember the anesthesia part.
I was not looking forward to a needle in my back. Once in the OR, though, the spinal was nothing. I didn’t even feel the shots of local anesthetic – thank you, Dr. Whatever-Your-Name-Is!

Lying back and waiting to lose feeling, though, I started to get all weepy about the circumstances.
I was still very unsure about whether I’d made the right decision and I told my OB right then that if this baby turned out to be as small as Zeke I was going to be mad!

Adam came into the OR fully decked out in the requisite blue suit, shoe covers, hairnet, and mask, and sat right next to me, at which point I said, I really didn’t want to do it this way and started to cry.
Luckily, the OR staff anticipate this kind of emotional wreck, and tissues were at the ready. Adam had to dab my face for me and, naturally, he stuck his thumb right in my eye.

I didn’t remember how violent a c-section actually is.
No pain, of course, but the pressure is unbelievable and it felt like they were tugging on my lungs. It makes sense for it to be so uncomfortable, I guess, since they’re pulling an entire human being out through a 6-inch incision, but I just don’t remember all of that from Zeke’s birth. It’s really pretty gross, if you think about it for too long.

After a few minutes of someone pummeling my belly and pulling out my insides, we finally heard the best sound in the whole world; apparently, he didn’t even wait until he was completely out before he started wailing. He quieted down almost immediately and got wiped off, weighed and measured (8lbs7oz, 20in), diapered, and handed to Adam, at which point the tears flowed in earnest. He was perfect.

Adam went with him to the nursery while my OB stitched me back together, but right before he left he told me I’d had almost no amniotic fluid.
I asked my OB about it while she was working on me and she confirmed there had only been a couple of tablespoons, which is exactly what it was like with Zeke. In other words, if I’d gone into labor naturally we would have seen exactly the same heartrate, cord, and movement problems Zeke had, and I would’ve almost certainly ended up with a c-section, anyway.

In a weird sort of way, it made me feel a lot better about my decision to go ahead with the planned c-section.
Though it wasn’t at all what I hoped to do and I still feel I got scared into it, I’m confident it was ultimately the right decision. Chances are high that subsequent deliveries will also be c-sections, because it seems my placentas like to start clotting themselves off when we hit week 39 and, frankly, the risk of stillbirth just isn't worth it. I'm okay with this.

After three days in the hospital (and getting really pissed about the way the bed kept moving on its own and why the hell won’t it quit and let me sleep?!), we finally went home to a really good night’s sleep.
Since leaving the hospital I’ve never needed any medication other than ibuprofen, my sciatica is now almost completely gone, and the diabetes disappeared immediately after Ezra was born. Hallelujah!

(By the way, co-sleeping completely rocks. Wish we’d started that with Zeke from day one; we’d have been a heck of a lot less exhausted.)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

splish splash

Day Four: April 21, 2011

All morning Zeke was asking to go outside. Like, over and over and overand
overandover…I managed to talk him into helping me with the dishes first, though, which mostly involved him thrashing around with a wooden spoon as well as filling cups with water and dumping them back out again.

Sometimes into the sink, sometimes not.

We did eventually go outside; I’m a little embarrassed to admit being just plain too tired to go out when he first asked, but I defend myself by saying But he hadn’t even eaten breakfast yet! And I’m PREGNANT!

We hauled the boxwood branches from the other days’ pruning adventure to the brush pile, then went up to get Wednesday’s mail and Thursday’s New York Times. By this point it was after eleven, so we came in for a snack and Zeke subsequently went down for a nap, during which time I took the most glorious shower on the face of the planet.

After waking up it was off to Barbara’s for playgroup! Now, this was especially exciting because we NEVER get to do it; most of the other families feature stay-at-home moms, so they do playgroup during the day. Obviously, I do not stay home full-time, so we usually can’t come, but every once in awhile the stars align and it coincides with a day off. Thursday was one of those days.

There weren’t very many people there: just four moms with their kids plus a few other youngsters who had spent the night at Barbara’s on Wednesday. Barbara and Rebecca hid about 200 eggs in the woods behind the house and, after some brief instructions, they turned the kids loose to find them.

Zeke did not understand this game at all. He was much more interested in the branches, leaves, and rocks than in the eggs, until Sam’s daughter Chloe handed him an egg with jellybeans in it. After that, he still didn’t really understand the concept of looking for eggs, but he was smart enough to keep the candy from eggs the other kids gave him.

That’s my boy.

Barbara has a great backyard with lots of cool stuff: slides, a huge sandbox, a zipline, a trampoline, and a few other things. Zeke was too small to deal with most of them by himself, but he dug the sandbox (groan).

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

get it done

Day Two: April 20, 2011

Wednesday was way different, because we spent almost no time at home (and I also took no pictures whatsoever).

I had a dentist appointment in the morning, so after taking care of basic chore-like things we went over to Miss Robin’s house (Zeke’s daycare) so she could keep him while I got my teeth cleaned and ran a few errands around town.  I told her about Screen-Free Week and she said not to worry, that they’d be going on a hike that day, anyway.

Translation: walking on the Meadowbranch neighborhood trail.  Apparently there were some exhibits there from Shenandoah, including a taxidermied beaver.  Who knew?

Is it weird that I don’t get nervous about going to the dentist?  Like, at all?  Some people seriously freak out, and most people are at least a little bit apprehensive, but the smells/sounds/instruments have absolutely no impact on my psyche whatsoever.  This is not to say that I love the experience (scraping metal against the backs of my teeth = no fun), but it really isn’t a big deal at all.

Of course, I’ve also never ever had a cavity, thus no drilling or novocaine.  This probably helps.

Anyway, after the whole dentist thing there were a couple more things to do, then back to pick up Zeke and go over to my in-laws’.  Grandma kept Zeke while I got my hair cut, and I don’t think there was any lack of things to do.  He visited with his daddy, Pappy, and Uncle Sam in the shop, then played in the backyard with Grandma and Uncle Patrick.  When I got back, they were setting up Patrick’s new basketball hoop and Adam was holding Zeke over his head so he could dunk the ball.  Wish I had a picture of that one.

Then, finally home for bratwurst with red peppers and onions for dinner; I also stovetop-grilled some pumpernickel and topped it with chopped tomatoes (from Linda’s Mercantile), basil, and garlic.  There’s something about fresh tomatoes that just makes me happy.

Monday, April 25, 2011

pruning (or, why i don't like boxwoods)

Day Two: April 19, 2011

Tuesday was a little harder, mostly due to the weather.  It was threatening rain all morning and poured for real during part of the afternoon; this is the part when the TV starts to look really tempting.

But I resisted, and I’m so glad! **polishes halo**

There was a lot of coloring, reading, and singing again, of course, and it had cleared up enough to go back outside when Mom came over around 6.  And it’s a good thing, too, because apparently we’ve produced a child who does not want to come inside.  Ever.

Mom decided this was the time to trim the boxwoods which were literally eating our porch.  She was being very deliberate, using hand clippers and taking off small pieces at a time in an attempt to create a decent shape (according to Adam, the shrub in question looks like, and I quote, “three-quarters of a butt”…sheesh).  Once she’d been going for awhile I started to realize how much larger the porch is than I thought; there’s almost enough room for a rocking chair.  Almost.

When Adam got home he jumped in to help with the pruning, and they eventually got to a point where the branches were too thick for the clippers.

At which point Adam said, “I have something for this!” and brought out the chainsaw.  This is one of the benefits hazards benefits of being married to a man who deals in outdoor power equipment for a living.  The boxwood now looks like this:

But I also no longer feel like my shrubberies are going to eat me when I’m standing at the front door, so I guess it all evens out in the end.

Dad came over with Chinese food for all of us, so Adam went to sleep a happy man.  The End.
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