Monday, January 30, 2006

Weeping Willow

Ok guys, this is gonna be a long one. Sorry. But I'm using it to get things down that I am thinking about, and trying to understand...
So, yesterday was an interesting day..... it was the first Sunday in forever that I actually relaxed and enjoyed myself. And that in itself is odd because of what I did. First of all, let me just say that I didn't blow off any responsibility at my church. They chose to "not use us" this week, so I chose to not go. Uh-Oh...bad attitude showing. I'm just frustrated with the whole thing...
Anyway, that is really beside the point. Yesterday. I got up and went to church with my friend, D. I have been a little resistant to it, because she goes to Willow Creek. And I often let my biases dictate how I feel about Willow. This time I was determined not to let my preconceptions get in my way. So I went with her, and it was the most amazing and relaxing day that I have had in a long time. I know. I thought it was weird too....
Maybe it was because, for one Sunday, I could be anonymous...I don't really know.
I also have to admit it wasn't without emotion. In fact, it was very emotional for me due to some things that have been going on in my life recently.
The service started very low key - the band was playing music - no singing, just music. And then the service started. No singing. That in itself is odd to me, I guess I am more bound by tradition than I know! But it was good. The pastor came out and started right off with a little monologue kinda thing about touch. The series they are doing right now is 24 - a day in the life of Jesus. It is obviously a take off on "24." Kitschy, but it worked pretty well, and remember this is a seeker service. But the topic they zeroed in on was that of touch, and the healing of the leper in Luke 5: 12 - 15. Touch. Such a foreign concept to many people. We are made to connect, to touch, and yet we so often don't, for whatever reason. There were interviews with three very lonely people who longed for compassion and someone to just give them a hug - the son of an elderly father who lost all his friends because of his illness and was very lonely. A student in a new environment who longed for friends, and a woman with breast cancer talking about how people treat her, and the way it makes her feel. I was already beginning to tear up by this point. Hard stuff. Then they did this song about a young girl with cancer, and it was beautiful and so sad, yet so compassionate. Now if you know me, you know I am a very" in control" of my life person, and rarely let anyone see what I am feeling deep inside. But yesterday I had tears running down my face and I just couldn't stop them. D felt so bad. She just kept saying, "I am so sorry, I didn't know." Of course she didn't. And it was ok.
We moved on - thank goodness - to a very thought provoking skit about AIDS and how people react to it. Misconceptions, biases, stereotypes, and now we so often have great compassion for the children in Africa, and yet we judge and shy away from those with aids in our own country. And then this went from there into the sermon, which challenged us concerning who we CHOOSE to take compassion on. Who we choose to love. Who we choose to help, befriend, and live life with. It was quite convicting. And so very true. During the course of this message, Mike Breaux drew in the story of Dr. Paul Brand and the lepers in India - something I have been thinking a lot about lately (remember me talking about this Anne?) Also thoughts from Sue Monk Kidd, John Ortberg, and Philip Yancey. He also talked about how Christ chose the unwanted for his disciples to sit under his teaching. The very ones rejected by other rabbi's as not worthy were the ones he believed in and took into his school or way of thinking. (Hmmm Darla, sound familiar?)
It was just one thing after another yesterday - stuff I have been dealing with, or mulling over for sometime. And I could just sink into my seat and take it all in. Be spoken to, ministered to. I could actually concentrate, listen, and not worry about people knowing me, watching me. I could worship my way. No one cared yesterday who I was - or about my background. It was just God and me - I was so focused. Every week at "home" I'm so on guard. So fearful of being "found out" so to speak. So afraid of criticism, rejection and judgment. Yesterday I could just be me.
And it was also relaxing because I wasn't trying to reconcile sermons and actions on the pastor's part. I wasn't looking for glimmers of hope in the message hoping the pastor is starting to get it. I wasn't ducking dogmatisms, or intimidation. I wasn't being manipulated or coerced. I wasn't being made to feel questions and thinking for myself are bad. And I may not in the long run like a setting like this. All I know is that yesterday I felt relief; I felt relaxed. I felt calm, and joyful. I felt weight lifted off my shoulders; it was like I was able to finally take off a suffocating mask and breathe freely again. And that was incredibly uplifting and liberating. I was always determined not to like Willow. But I did. At least yesterday. I was leery of "big" but I was spoken to, challenged and yet comforted.
On the flip side, I hate small too. Yet Mike's church in Yorkville is appealing in it's simplicity and it's mission. It's sense of community. Willow has the resources to help the hurting, the poor, to help developing countries etc. in an awesome way. Yet Yorkville is a community. Small. Intimately involved, invested in one another, living the messiness of life. I can see myself desiring both. But I can't really do both. I'm confused. I'm not sure which way to go here. Whether to stay where I am, or make a change, and if I do which way to I turn? I need wisdom. I also need to let the guilt go. I need to trust God implicitly to show me the way, and then I need to do what he says. I need to let Him move me and not worry about what other people think. But I'm afraid to burn bridges. And I feel obligation to all those I have had a hand in keeping at my church - now I'm gonna turn tail and run? Maybe it's like living at home all your life, you know nothing else. You need to stretch your wings! I need to find out what else is out there. That doesn't mean I won't return to my church. At all. It just means I need to know that's where I really should be. Am I being pushed to go? I feel I am, yet it in some ways seems very suspect to me. Why would God do this? Maybe because I wouldn't choose to do it on my own, and he wants me to move? It's like I need somebody to give me permission to go.....


Kelly said...

Oh - now I don't need a letter to see how you are! =o) I've experienced some of what you described, going to a seeker-oriented church here in town: they have everything well-orchestrated and it's moving and contemporary and I feel good after each service. If I ever have the urge to "go to church", I tend to go there. But it'd be deeply unsatisfying if I attended every week. Because, behind the scenes, all the stuff you're struggling with at your current church is just as prevalent; stuff that wouldn't be an issue if things weren't set up the way they are.

God will answer your questions, Karen. You don't even need to be in a hurry to get the answers, which will come at just the right time. Just be as still as you can inside, and listen... you'll hear what you're supposed to do, or you'll just walk into it. kiss you xo

kingsjoy said...


I don't have your answers (of course). But I wanted to throw out there that moving doesn't necessarily mean burning bridges.

I've had a situation where moving did require burning bridges, but it's not always necessary.

God direct your path.

Blessings. I'm praying.

anne said...

Karen, I give you permission! Oh's not mine that you're looking for, even though I really want it to be. Because I think God is speaking to your heart already in sending you somewhere where you felt so at peace and so relaxed. I read once though that there's more than one right answer...maybe you don't have to leave your church altogether, but you can still attend a place that brings you closer to God. I believe he wants you - and he's not very concerned if you leave a church if it means you're getting closer to him.

A said...

Maybe you need to come to Arkansas and help launch a purpose driven postmodern community called Vintage Fellowship . . . maybe.

Couldn't resist.

Christine said...

Do you have a journal?- Like, pages and pen and all that?

'Hard copy' journaling is a good thing~ I'm hooked on my own, it's the place I can go to work out my most private thoughts on paper, or align what I'm thinking into legible sentences (more or less). The blog often gets the benefit for the journal's sweat ~

Not that you're having trouble being incoherent!~ It's totally understandable what you're saying, here.

Of course, I think you should go where you get closest to God, renegade that I am! :D
Like anne was saying here, I too believe that it's most important to go to a place that makes you feel closer to Him, regardless of what some might tell you. If they tell you to keep going to the same church, through the dry spell, that it's just a self-discipline thing you need to learn to do before reaping rewards, don't believe them. Go where God meets you.

It's how I myself live my spiritual life, and it's working out unbelievably well, for me ~ probably because I went in thinking I would do anything and endure anything, just to get closer to God.

If you'd told me 4 years ago that I would be out of "regular" church, going to a house church and centering prayer group, and in a relationship with God that is hard to describe in its completion, I would be wistful for that relationship, yet aghast at the measures to be taken.

(I mention this stuff so you can gauge it for yourself, and find out where your priorities and goals really are~ and we have to remember, the importance of the will of God can't be overstated! His priorities and goals for you should be your prime focus.

Go where He leads.)

Tammy said...

i cried a lot during the year that i attended a methodist church. the liturgy did something for me, at a time when i was recovering from some stuff. liturgy was nothing that was in my past.

sometimes we need something very different from our past when we are going through stuff.

gerbmom said...

thanks everyone for your prayers as well as your thoughts and insights. I appreciate them!
And Aaron - welcome to my blog! :)

Darla said...

what a great post, karen. i'm so glad you were able to sit back and relax and have some time for yourself. it's awesome that you were able to open your heart - it's so hard sometimes to put aside our preconceived ideas about a place - sounds like you did just that and you were able to really soak in God's love.

i love hearing what God is doing in your life.... i love to see how He moves people... thank you for sharing this part of your life with us. :)

Sandy Mc said...


So glad you went to Willow and enjoyed it. My cousin is a member of Willow and has been for years(she lives out towards Huntly).

I have heard many put downs aimed at Willow, but having grown up in Central IL and having a pretty good *feel* for Chicago...I am convinced Willow is God's plan for THAT place and in this time.

Follow the spirit!


BTW, you have the most beautiful blog:)

ness said...

Hi there...I guess all of AR is coming to visit your blog : ) I'm your cousin's best friends' wife : )

and I know EXACTLY what you are saying. I sat in a different church here and revelled in the anonymity and cried like a baby.

People will say that you got "poisoned" by the books you have been reading. What they don't realize is that you changed before the books ever came to you and gave you a glimpse of all the other people who feel exactly the same way.

We made the easy choice. We left it all to start fresh. Some bridges are burnt and some are better and stronger. I don't know what it would be like to wrestle through staying somewhere.

I try very hard to keep my eyes focussed on the goal: how can I best glorify God with my life? In the time that He gives me, how can I best impact people around me? For me, I realized that I didn't want to waste my best energy at the ladies missionary group, when I could be doing something much closer to the front lines. And if the only thing I was worried about was "what will people say?" then it was definitely time to roll.

You are NOT alone. People will keep coming out "in color" like they did in that movie "Pleasantville."

I'll be back!

gerbmom said...

Thanks Sandy and Vanessa for your comments and welcome to my blog! It's fun to meet new people on the journey! I appreciate your thougts Vanessa. Sometimes I think it would be so wonderful just to pull up roots, and leave this area. To go somewhere else and start again where no one knows me, or my past sounds so refreshing. Where I could believe, and do church like I think I should with out recrimination and being labeled....

The gate is wide
The road is paved in moderation
The crowd is kind and quick to pull you in
Welcome to the middle ground
You're safe and sound and
Until now it's where I've been

'Cause it's been fear that ties me down to everything
But it's been love, Your love, that cuts the strings

So long status quo
I think I just let go
You make me want to be brave
The way it always was
Is no longer good enough

You make me want to be brave
Brave, brave

I am small
And I speak when I'm spoken to
But I am willing to risk it all
I say Your name
Just Your name and I'm ready to jump
Even ready to fall...

Why did I take this vow of compromise?
Why did I try to keep it all inside?

So long status quo
I think I just let go
You make me want to be brave
The way it always was
Is no longer good enough
You make me want to be brave
Brave, brave

I've never known a fire that didn't begin with a flame
Every storm will start with just a drop of rain
But if you believe in me
That changes everything
So long, I'm gone

So long status quo
I think I just let go
You make me want to be brave
I wanna be brave
The way it always was
Is no longer good enough
You make me want to be brave
Brave, brave