Leaving Church quotes by Barbara Brown Taylor

For a book club, I was asked to share some of my favourite quotes from Barbara Brown Taylor’s book Leaving Church. The book is the author’s journey of becoming an ordained priest, taking a small town parish, and leaving five years later. The book club facilitator was interested in my perspective as one who married a pastor and nearly two years ago, we left pastoring our church. In no particular order, here’s some of my favourite quotes from Leaving Church:

“Think hard before you do this,” one said to me when I told him I wanted to be ordained. “Right now, you have the broadest ministry imaginable. As a layperson, you can serve God no matter what you do for a living, and you can reach out to people who will never set foot inside a church. Once you are ordained, that is going to change. Every layer of responsibility you add is going to narrow your ministry, so think hard before you choose a smaller box.”

“Sometimes, when people were busy adoring me or despising me, I got the distinct impression that it was not about me at all. I reminded them of someone else who was no longer around but who had made such a large dent in their lives that they were still trying to work it out.”

“Because church people tend to think they should not fight, most of them are really bad at it.”

The following quote from page 120 comes after Barbara Brown Taylor was finally thrown in the swimming pool along with everyone else:

“I never found out who my savior was, but when I broke the surface, I looked around at all of those shining people with makeup running down their cheeks, with hair plastered to their heads, and I was so happy to be one of them. If being ordained meant being set apart from them, then I did not want to be ordained anymore. I wanted to be human. I wanted to spit food and let snot run down my chin. I wanted to confess being as lost and and found as anyone else without caring that my underwear showed through my wet clothes. Bobbing in that healing pool with all those other flawed beings of light, I looked around and saw them as I had never seen them before, while some of them looked at me the same way. The long wait had come to an end. I was in the water at last.”

“Although I never found a church where I felt completely at home again, I made a new home in the world. I renewed my membership in the priesthood of all believers, who may not have as much power as we would like, but whose consolation prize is the freedom to meet God after work, well away from all centers of religious command, wherever God shows up.”

If you haven’t read Leaving Church, I’d recommend it. Barbara Brown Taylor is an incredibly gifted writer. In the sharing of her story of Finding Church – Leaving – and Finding life again she has given us a gift. If you’ve read it, do you have a favourite quote to add?

3 things the church could be more mindful of: introverts, singles, and the coveting of young families 

The following has been on my heart and mind for some time. In no particular order, here are three areas that the church could be more mindful of in 2018:

Introverts.

Image result

I’ve heard it said that our school system is designed for the kids in the middle of the bell curve. This means that there are lots of children who struggle to learn in an environment that wasn’t geared with them in mind.

Most churches would fall into a similar camp. Historically, the Sunday morning church service and the weekly church activities have been designed for a certain type of people: the extrovert.

In the past, it’s been thought that only 25% of the population are introverts. More recent studies are showing that the general population is closer to 50/50 (50% extroverts, 50% introverts). Real quick – introverts = people who recharge their energy best by being alone; extroverts = people who recharge their energy best by being with others.  Please keep in mind that an introvert can be very outgoing and an extrovert could be shy. Really.

Now let’s think about church. Sunday morning church service can be very energizing for an extrovert (lots of people/small talk opportunities). Since large, group activities are plentiful and promoted in the life of the church, extroverts can easily fuel up, while introverts may end up feeling drained and inferior. When is the last time you heard a sermon encouraging you to experience God in nature, or meditation or solitude? When is the last time you were told that meaningfully connecting with a believer 1:1 is just as holy and important as being involved in a small group? (Introverts tend to prefer 1:1 – Jesus did say that when 2 or 3 are gathered it is legitimate church.)

Now is a good time for us to remember, “not wrong – just different.” 🙂 The church needs extroverts. The church needs introverts. We need all. But what the church must stop doing is catering church services and activities for what would recharge an extrovert only. Nearly 50% of the congregation may be introverts, and if it’s not, then has the church lost its introverts? In 2018, let’s learn new ways that we can experience God by inviting more introverts to church leadership and planning.

Singles.

While I currently attend church with my husband and child, one day my husband or I am likely to attend church alone. My child will grow up and one day, my husband or I will walk this earth without the other. Hopefully this happens later rather than sooner but when that time comes, will we feel that we fit/have a place at church just as much as when we were attending as part of a young family? Months ago, when my husband and I were looking for a new church, a single friend said to me, “Churches will want you – you have a cute, young child. Try looking for a church as a single woman. No one knows what to do with me.” This statement opened my eyes and broke my heart.

If you attend church with your significant other, I’d challenge you to attend church some Sunday attempting to see it through the eyes of someone who attends church alone. Look in the bulletin or on the website for upcoming events. How many are excluding or inviting to singles? And what is the language like on the website or at church? Would someone who doesn’t attend church look at the website/promotion materials and conclude that this is a church for families and not a church for someone without a family?  This leads to the third area the church could be more mindful of in 2018.

Coveting young families.

The other night, an advertisement popped up on Facebook saying, “Every church can and should have lots of young families! Let us help you reach your goal.” As my husband read this to me, we both cringed. Many churches place a strong emphasis on wanting to be attractive to young families, and while every church can do some simple things that go a long way (like ensuring that the nursery is both clean & safe), I don’t feel comfortable with making young families the ultimate prize. All people matter to Jesus. Seniors. Singles. People with developmental disabilities. All people. When we prioritize one demographic (young families) above all the others, we should stop and ask ourselves why. Is it because we feel more warm and fuzzy about a young family joining our church than a single man? Are young families prized because we hope to ‘get more’ out of them in terms of money or volunteer commitments? And do we desire having more young families when we don’t even know what our neighborhood demographics are? Please hear me out, I have nothing against young families (I am one of them). What breaks my heart is when a church puts such an emphasis on getting young families that other people who aren’t in that demographic (who matter just as much to God) are missed.

For more on this topic (one of my most favourite blog posts ever) click here:
https://achurchforstarvingartists.wordpress.com/2015/02/19/when-churches-want-a-pastor-who-can-bring-in-young-families/

In 2018, can we be mindful of the above, and in our churches, can we be more inclusive of singles and introverts while discontinuing the coveting of young families? How do you relate to any of the above? Please don’t be shy if you have something to add to the conversation!

Stop and reflect: October

IMG_20171027_080843_207
One day you’re waiting for the sky to fall. The next you’re dazzled by the beauty of it all.  – Bruce Cockburn

The start of October 2017 was full of tragedy. The world felt very dark. As the month went on, more cracks of light started shining through. Here’s some short reflections from the month:

Music: Switchfoot was my go-to (in particular, their Beautiful Letdown Album was my anthem for the month).

Reading: Rob Bell’s “What Is the Bible?”, Steven Curtis Chapman’s Autobiography & Brene Brown’s “The Gifts of Imperfection.”

Writing: examples of some of my thoughts shared on Instagram & Facebook that received meaningful feedback:

October 5th – on loneliness being the worst type of poverty
October 8th – a confession and encouragement
October 12th – on getting to know our literal neighbours
October 13th – on allowing people to change
October 19th – forgetting about numbers and helping one person at a time
October 29th – what the heart knows by heart, heals the heart

Travel: we took advantage of good weather days and did a couple day trips. The picture above was from visiting Brockville for the first time.

Theme: Today will soon be GONE (Switchfoot) & am I living scared or brave? The latter has been a new thought that arrived at the end of the month. Going to chew on that some more.

Tip: If you’re hungry for community, be willing to put yourself out there. Example: ask someone new to go out for coffee.  You just never know when it will be the start of something beautiful.

What was October like for you? Would love to hear your reflections. Ready or not, November is here. Together, we can face it and maybe even have some fun.

Letter to my daughter after the Las Vegas shooting

Dear Daughter,

On Sunday, we asked you how old you are and you happily replied, “I’m two years old!” Later that same day, a mass shooting occurred in Las Vegas at a country music festival. Many lost their lives and many were injured.

You are only two years old. As you grow, you’ll begin to understand things like hate and tragedy and injustice. You may wonder if it’s better to “stay home/play it safe” or live your life and risk being caught in crossfire (these hate shootings have happened at school, at a movie, at a concert, etc). And how do we respond after tragedy? Baby, your momma doesn’t have all the answers. But I want to share with you what I do know to be true.

After first learning of the shooting and through out the day, I couldn’t help but cry. As Glennon Doyle says it best: “you are not a mess. you are a feeling person in a messy world.” That describes me well. Your momma feels things deeply. You may too. Despite what society may tell you, this is OK. The Bible even instructs us to “mourn with those who mourn.” After tragedy strikes, you aren’t weak if it impacts you. You are a feeling person in a messy world.

Unfortunately, life is not safe. Even for those of us who live in the 1st world. Life is fragile. There’s no guarantee on how our lives will play out. Life is not fair. Bad things happen to really great people. Baby girl, safe can’t be the goal. I can’t even keep you safe all of the time. Despite this reality, we can be brave (doing the right thing scared). And we can focus on the things within our control like living and loving well by doing “small things with great love” – Mother Teresa. With whatever number of days we are given, we can love God and others more and more, and we can find joy in ordinary moments. Life is short but we can live it well when we live with this understanding “there’s a reason I’m alive for the blink of an eye” – Mercy Me.

Lastly, when tragedy strikes, remember this quote by Mr. Rogers. And in addition to noticing all the helpers, be one of them.

Rogers

I love you baby girl. Always & forever.
-Mom

Life update

Do you hear the crickets? It’s been 4 months since my last post. This has been the longest gap in writing since I started this blog back in 2013. Life has been full, mundane, busy, exciting and simple. Working full-time (with a 40 minute commute each way) while raising a toddler is the season that I’m in. And I’m grateful . While it doesn’t leave much room for hobbies like writing, I’m learning to be OK with that. Often, the most meaningful thing that you can do is to choose to be present for your regular life and in doing so, joy is found in the simple and ordinary.

Since I last wrote, we’ve been to work conferences — both for me and for Derek. While Derek remains home full-time with our daughter, he attended General Conference for the FMCiC, is a member on S.C.O.D., led music at Wesley Acres for 3 weeks in July, and was the camp speaker for Pine Orchard Family Camp this past week. He’s been busy for a stay-at-home dad!

It’s been just over one year since we left pastoring our church of 6 years.  The processing of that could be a whole other blog post (or book!). A year later, we are doing well. We are happy and healthy yet remain to be committed students of healing and learning.

In recent months, many have asked what’s next for Derek. He would tell you that a year later, he continues to enjoy being home with our daughter. That he’s enjoyed serving in various ministry settings over this past summer. But what’s next regarding full-time pastoral ministry or something else? We just don’t know. A year later, there’s still a lot of question marks. While that seems hard for some to understand, we aim to be OK with that. We firmly believe that God cares more about who you are than what you do (as in a title or position). Our current season has helped us to really embrace this truth. We are the better for it!

A whole year later, our motto is still the same. We are enjoying this season (our baby girl will only be this young once!), while also attempting to live this:

Posted @ QUOTEZ.CO
Posted @ QUOTEZ.CO

 

A Year Later: On the Shore with a Towel Ready for You

This Easter, I read Jen Hatmaker’s post entitled My Saddest Good Friday in Memory . Her words broke my heart and I sat with them all weekend. I thought of her during a song at church on Easter Sunday and choked up.

First, and always first, I’m sad for Jen. This is her unique story. Yet, I could also relate to what she was describing in my own way.  A year ago, the following was my story, too:

“I’ll tell you a bit of how loss and grief and rejection will pulverize your heart and deliver you to Good Friday in pretty bad shape, or in any case, in the throes of recovery. ”

“Good Friday is about death – even a necessary death – and that makes more sense to me now than maybe ever. It speaks of a dark day and broken hearts, unmet expectations, mob mentality turned brutal.”

“I experienced betrayal from people I thought loved us.”

My reasons for why I arrived at Good Friday 2016 in pretty bad shape are varied and unique. It was a perfect storm. Any one stress or hurt on their own wouldn’t have taken me down, but gradually, I began to sink. I clung to the following quote in those dark days:

sometimes-good-things-fall-apart-so-better-things-can-fall-together-quote-1

2015/2016: I’ll never fully understand why things happened the way they did. Some of it was part of life – my best dog dying of cancer, newborn sleep deprivation, and a natural disaster. I can’t say that all of it was God’s plan. God has given us free will. Some people know the path that leads to life and light and they choose the one that leads to destruction and darkness. Thankfully, while I don’t believe that all of my loss, stress, and pain were part of His plan; I know that God can work things together for good and that He’s in the business of resurrection.

“I believe in the resurrection, so I know it will come. It always does. God wrangles victory out of actual, physical death. The cross taught us that. You can’t have anything more dead than a three-day old dead body, and yet we serve a risen Savior. New life is always possible evidently, well past the moment it makes sense to still hope for it. The empty tomb taught us that. I have enough faith to live a Friday and Saturday existence right now without fear that Sunday won’t come. It will come. I am nearly certain the way it will look will surprise me; I’m watching for the angel on the tombstone. ” – Jen Hatmaker

A year ago, I was attempting to keep my head above water.  This Easter, I realized something. I’m no longer in the water but on the shore! On Easter Sunday, I got choked up for Jen instead of myself (when you’re in a dark place you’re rather near sighted). From the shore, I’m cheering on those who have experienced loss and grief and rejection. I’m here for you and I’m saying: “keep treading water! Your feet will touch ground again. It will. I’m here! I made it. You will too. Keep breathing. I have a towel ready for you.”