Wrestling with Sunday Mornings

14597764532_57904b2b45_zThis past Saturday afternoon I warned my husband, “I’m not going to church tomorrow.” In the morning when he went off early to help with music for the service, I went for a walk, made bacon and eggs, sat by an open window, and read every single page of the New York Times.
I really, really enjoy not going to church.

I’ve been going to Sunday services nearly every week as far back as I can remember. I figure that between ages four and forty-four I’ve been to around 1600-1800 church services, subtracting vacation and sick days and adding the years I went twice on a Sunday.
That’s a lot of church services. I feel like I need a break, at least from attendance as my default setting, and while I feel relieved to come to this awareness and sense that it might be okay to take a break, there’s also sadness and a pinch of fear.

The sadness is because my identity as a churchgoer is such a longstanding part of me—I literally don’t know a life without it. The thought of changing that brings with it a sense of loss of something that has mattered a great deal to me at various points in my life. There’s also the sadness of thinking that perhaps the entire experience of church as I know it is a failed experiment in Christian community that got off track long ago. I’m not saying it is (and I’m not saying it isn’t), but even entertaining that thought makes me sad. [Read more...]

Airbnb and the Art of Hospitality

Zarr photo IMG_4518As I write this, my husband and I are on our twentieth day away from home as we travel through parts of Europe and England on holiday. It’s a celebration trip for us—as of this August, we have been married twenty-five years. Though at one point we envisioned six or eight weeks abroad, neither of us has ever been outside of North America before so we kept the scope of the trip manageable and will be headed home in another week.

To save money, we’ve used Airbnb for lodging in a couple of places along the way. If you’re not familiar with Airbnb, it’s a network of people around the world who have rooms, apartments, houses, treehouses, houseboats, RVs, yurts—and any other type of space you can think of—on offer for travelers to use instead of hotels, motels, hostels, or other managed properties. Property owners (or “hosts” as they are called on the site) list descriptions of their spaces along with maps and pictures and, perhaps most importantly, reviews by previous guests.

We booked an apartment in Amsterdam (our first stop on the trip) and a converted shed in someone’s backyard outside of London through the site. Leading up to our arrival in Amsterdam, our host, Camille, provided helpful and detailed instructions about how to get from the airport to the apartment, just as a friend or family member would. He was there to greet us when we arrived. Hanging from the staircase was a heart-shaped chalkboard on which was written “25 years together! Wow!” just for us. [Read more...]

Is the Gospel Good News or Bad?

Kintsugi-bowl-honurushi-number-32Continuing a little bit what I started with my essay “What Is a Christian?,” I’ve been thinking about how I might articulate the good news of the gospel to myself and perhaps begin to comprehend it.

Theologically, I know basically what the gospel is. And if you ask Google, it returns a Wikipedia page that describes the Christian gospel as “the news of the coming of the Kingdom of God…, and of Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection to restore people’s relationship with God. It may also include the descent of the Holy Spirit upon believers and the second coming of Jesus.”

That seems pretty straightforward and would fly in any church I’ve been a part of. But sometimes for a lifelong Christian, this can feel more like old news than good news. Occasionally, it even feels like bad news when I’m overwhelmed with questions. [Read more...]

What Is a Christian?

5602081913_30b82fc2e8_mAccording to recent survey by the Pew Research Center, the number of U.S. adults who identify themselves as Christians has declined—a lot—since the last such survey Pew did in 2007. This information comes out just as I’m in the middle of reading Rachel Held Evans’s latest book, Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church, a book about Evans’s own frustrations with and hopes for the church and what it means to be or identify as “Christian.”

Though Evans is mostly known as a voice for the generation often referred to as the Millennials, and I am solidly Gen-X, I’ve found myself much in sympathy with her experiences and opinions. Like her, I grew up in an evangelical setting, and in adulthood have struggled with how to categorize, prioritize, and examine (or surrender) my doubts. In a passage that describes almost exactly a process I’ve been through myself, Evans writes:

Evangelicalism gave me many gifts, but the ability to distinguish between foundational, orthodox beliefs and peripheral ones was not among them, so as I conducted this massive inventory of my faith, tearing every doctrine from the cupboard and turning each one over in my hand, the Nicene Creed was subjected to the same scrutiny as Young Earth creationism and Republican politics, for all had been presented to me as essential components to a biblical world view. [Read more...]

Sugar, Sugar, Part 2: May 8, 2015

Continued from yesterday

2629206224_7d8554b1d8_mWhen the editors of Good Letters first asked if they could rerun my 2011 post on my sugar addiction, which was posted yesterday, I couldn’t even bring myself to read the old post before saying no. I felt too weird and vulnerable about what I’d written and preferred that it stay buried in the archives. So I wrote other stuff, until I found myself coming back around to this topic in my life. Addictions don’t tend to go away. They are either active or in remission, rarely cured.

A new twist for me: Weeks after I wrote that original post, I had some medical tests done and got a new diagnosis and learned that in fact I’m a type one diabetic, not type two as originally pegged. Type one is an autoimmune disease and typically has an onset in childhood or adolescence, but it can also hit people much later in life, as it did me. Once properly diagnosed, I got some basic training on how to calculate and inject insulin and was on my way. [Read more...]


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