Tag Archives: church

Start it Right, SB: Day 1

I think it takes a lot to freak me out in church.

Now, don’t take me as cocky.  I believe in an all-powerful God that moves.  But somewhere between John Wimber’s Power Healing in the 10th grade, high church liturgies, charismatics services to Catholic mass, praying scripture, foot-washing services, and purple kool-aid (cause there was no grape juice or wine), it is not that often that I am made physically uncomfortable by instruction given in the church (note the important difference between this and movements of the Spirit).

But tonight was the night.

Not that I don’t have a ton to learn, but I usually bust down the door with a charge and a smile.  I’ve dealt with the awkward moments when you are suppose to pray with the people sitting around you… when it happens to be a big group of guys.

And yeah, I’ve learned how to explain what’s happening to people who know nothing about what it really means to be in a relationship with a living God when something unexpected starts happening.

I’ve navigated awkward group prayers when nobody knows when to end, and have tried to train younger friends how to respond to unanticipated circumstances that make you throw your plan out the window (cause there are times when the Spirit moves and that’s what you gotta do).

But a prayer fire tunnel?  (think that’s what it was called).  I’d never seen that before or read about it, much less participated.  I was a little nervous.

But it was so cool.  A big group of leaders formed two lines and reached out to lay hands on people as  they walked through the middle.  So it was personal prayer, but it really had a cooperate flow.

In the end, prayer is prayer, which is just talking to God, but there is something incredibly cool about praying in different ways.  I love how we always do something different for our prayer weeks at WesCF.  There are countless ways to come before the Father and exploring them as a group is always meaningful.

The way home was amazing too.  Abe and I were dreaming up stories and laughing most of the way back.

FYI: This is how you start spring break 🙂


Dancing to the first number

I couldn’t have been more than ten-years-old when, somewhere in the hour and half stretch between Ohio and Indiana, my father directly broached a subject that probably never would have otherwise come up, at least for awhile.

He took me out on dates a lot, and we always called them dates.  It usually meant lunch, sometimes it meant a day in the city (the city being Fort Wayne, which always seemed exotic and far away.)

In the car, we sang loudly along with the music, or to no music at all.  He always held my hand and stopped to tell me that he loved me.  He said, I was intelligent and that was going to do things he never could do and that I was pretty.

I couldn’t wear anything I knew my dad didn’t think I looked pretty in.  I still can’t.  I care what he thinks.

Arriving at our destination meant nothing, he would keep singing, and being that he didn’t have to focus on the road anymore, he would dance.  In big, loud, exaggerated motions he would take my hand and hold my waist, and with his bellowing voice drawing the eyes of everyone within earshot, we’d dance to White Christmas with the summer sun beating down in the waiting area at Bob Evans (back when we liked Bob Evans).

I never cared that everybody watched, because  I was dancing with my Daddy, and if anybody ever had any problem with that, they would have to take it up with him.

I knew that I was special, because of how he treated me.  I knew that there was a very important difference in how my father honored me and how the whole class got certificates and stickers for doing our homework. I knew that in my father’s eyes, I truly was something really special.  His words were never hallow, because I never doubted them in his actions.

So as I sat in the car on that day, as a little third grader, his words sunk like a branding press on my heart.  He said, “Tori, see how I love you.  See how I treat your mother.”  We talked about Galatians 3:28 and how God loves me.  He talked about the gifts I had and my responsibility to use them to further the Kingdom.  He explained the fall in the garden of Eden and how God created men and women to interact with each other and with Him.

He said that I was young, but that I was a talented leader.  He said that there would be people in the church who would tell me that I can’t lead and that a very loving, God-fearing man, might interpret Scriptures differently.  He urged me to be continually mindful and wise.

He said I needed to step into the fullness of the Word and of the talents God has given me and to never let “you’re a woman” stop me.

However randomly out of place that conversation felt at the time, it wasn’t anything I ever forgot, and as I got older, I investigated my father’s claims.

At my request, he dug out notes from his college classes and gave me all his books on the subject.  I remember trying to understand a technical exegesis on women in ministry in middle school.  The book was least four years ahead of my analytical comprehension skills, but I wanted to know so bad.

I now know what the Bible has to say about the roles of women and not simply what my father taught me it said. But until today, I never realized how incredibly free I have always been because of how my father loved me and taught me.

I’m by no means “there,” wherever “there” is, but from self-led trips in Morocco to speeches in front of massive, emotional crowds and the most pro-active, aggressive career research/networking path I’m capable of pursuing, I’ve clinched to the boldness in who I am because of this freedom.

I cherish this, because as any student in Prof. Grimmer-Solem’s CSS Post-Imperial history tutorial could tell you, freedom’s no end goal.  It is what we strive for, but it’s what we do with it that counts.

Valentines and a Thesis

Valencia, Spain

There’s something about that excitement that puzzles you down in your stomach, like butterflies, but instead of connecting to your heart, it’s connected to your head.

It’s what drives you to abandoned stacks and through dense analysis.  It’s a question, although often one that you can’t quite articulate yet.  It’s the place where ideas come from.

And tonight, my cup runneth over. 

I’ve toyed with thesis ideas since freshman year.  The prospect of spending an entire year and a half, leaned over my own books, pursuing my own interest, and actually creating a substantial original work has always excited me.

My ideas have gotten clearer over the last few months, to the point that I have created lengthy lists of books to read and people to interview and attempted to articulate my exact research question.

I’m still not quite there, but I think I’m freakishly close(ish), which is probably why my mind is fluttering too much to actually take in Jurgen Habermas’s explanation of the role of technology in a rational society right now (CSS social theory reading for tomorrow).  And, being Valentine’s day, the timing couldn’t be more ironic.

In short, my thesis question will generally look at the emerging church movement, political affiliations of protestant congregations, and the rise of female leadership in conservative political movements in the United States.

More specifically, I’ll (hopefully) be dealing with the question of why/how churches geared specifically for ministry to post-modern cultures are often politically left-leaning and generally hold a very conservative few of women in ministry and in relationships.  I will juxtapose this research with churches largely composed of conservative parishioners who hold much more liberal views of women.  Both of these observations will be made in the context of the current US right-wing political scene.

As a conservative, evangelical Christian from the midwest at a thoroughly secular, liberal, New England liberal arts university who’s friends are mostly atheist, agnostic, or Jewish and/or Asian, Asian-American, or African my facebook newsfeed is could give you whiplash.

Political comments are often comical and a mix of the super-far left, conservative intellectualism, die-hard libertarianism, devote socialist, wish-washy moderates, well-spoken and educated (and poorly-expressed and uneducated) tea party-esque remarks, and anything just about anything that falls in between.

Point being, it’s a mix.  Add religion to political discussions with my friends, and you have an atom bomb.  Throw in an ever-dicey question about gender in this mix and the affect is paralyzing (at least to me).

This mess of expressing exactly what I mean and think to an ever diversifying array of friends is quite literally risky business.  One misplaced word, and I really can be shut-out.

That said, I find the mix fascinating.  It is through my relationships that I observe these questions.  I’ve noted that the audiences at academic lectures on conservatism are mostly Catholic and Reformed males.  I’ll never forget the paralyzing look one of these guys once gave me because he thought I was asking him out (I wasn’t, but that’s beside the point).  His look wasn’t because he was that appalled at the thought of spending time with me.  It was because a woman was initiating a relationship (even though that part was just a misunderstanding).

In New York City, I went to a church that was the very definition of the ministry Dan Kimball describes in his book The Emerging Church.  Everything about the ministry of this church was designed to minister to the city’s secularized, post-modern culture.  I found it fascinating that it was here, more than any other place that I had ever been, that the principle of “wives submit to your husbands” was taught to mean a secondary position in a gender hierarchy.

Every blog geared toward young Christian women touches on relationships (gee, can you imagine why?)  But each of these blogs, to varying degrees, teaches the same principles of the New York church.

Whereas, my very conservative (theologically, as well as politically) grandfather, embraces gender equality as a Biblical principle.  So does my father.

The church I was raised in (which is pretty conservative) has always ordained women, but they don’t actually have any women pastors.

The Missionary Church, which I joined at 17, rarely ordains women, even though women in leadership was an important principle to the church when it was founded in 1883.  Having visited every Missionary Church website (it was a part of  my job last summer), I know that there are no more than 2 women pastors in the entire country.  However, there are a bunch of women doing the same job as men called leaders, but this caveat is limited, because there is not a single woman on the denomination’s national leadership boards.

The church I go to now fully embraces gender equality.

Confusing much?

I realize none of those observations/half formed questions are loaded (nah, not a all), but the contradictions and relationships fascinate me.

I know exactly what I think about the role of women in ministry and relationships, because it is a topic that I’ve researched extensively for several years.  (This essay changed my life.)

But I still have other questions, like how can I apply my knowledge to a Biblical understanding of more complicated gender issues?  (Won’t be getting to that in my thesis, but I’m hoping to come across answers in my research)

So, while I had no one special with whom I could celebrate this Valentines day, I found solace in actually articulating my ideas and questions about relationships, the church, and politics.  Probably sounds pretty nerdy, but with that stomach/mind excitement pushing me forward, I got to say, it’s been great.

It makes me even more excited to go to a conference my church is having on God’s ideal for the genders.  I expect to be familiar with a lot of the basic ideas that will be taught, but I hope to use it as a launching ground to delve deeper into a few of the questions that I’m dealing with in this mess of ideas that I’ve officially named my thesis topic.

Here’s to the next year and half… and hopefully a couple of answers.  This is going to be fun.

love and lunch

Sometimes there are people that come out of no where to love you when you need it.

Spain has just been another check on the list of places that I’ve called home for an oh-so-substantive four months.  I’ve commented on this before, but there really is an obstacle when I have only four months to throw everything I got into a relationship with people for whom four months here isn’t a blink in their lifetime.  I’m here, and I’ll be gone.  But they aren’t going anywhere.

All that makes the people that take the initiative to love on me mean even more.

Today, I went out with a couple from my church for lunch.  They’re Americans, but they’ve been doing missions work in Spain for 28 years.  It’s so crazy to meet people who, for example, know Fort Wayne, studied at Asbury and Ball State, sent a kid to Taylor, etc.  But that’s not really what made it cool.

They explained the history of the church I’ve been going to here and shared a little bit about the church planting activities they are involved in here.  It was just nice to have someone to talk to.  They reminded me so much of Doug and Becca Cox.

I needed that afternoon to offset the rest of my day.  I was lying in bed this afternoon when realized that I was literally scared of my law class, which is kinda crazy.  I’ve hated classes, not understood them, stressed about them, but I don’t know if I’ve ever been scared of a class before.

Ever since that weekend I wasted 20 hours on 8 pages, I’ve mostly stop doing the optional homework exercises.  I just didn’t see it as a valid use of my time, especially given that I’m taken the class pass/fail.  But I have no idea how to function in a class when I am not literally throwing my every fiber into being successful in it, or at least knowing everything that was going on.

That stress is boiling with an upcoming test in my language class, which is a great class, although my last test in there went really poorly.  I’m so tired of intaking and spitting out.  I found myself listening to economic debates on youtube today while I copied my law notes, just because I wanted something think about and evaluate so bad.

Read and repeats is so boring, yet a really big obstacle I need to deal with right now.

I can’t wait for classes to end.  All but one will be over in 3 weeks, 3 long weeks.

Done by midnight

Okay, so, no lie.  I feel a little bit like I did in the 6th grade when I finished by pre-algebra homework by 7pm.  Math homework was a multi-hour ordeal that inevitably included a lot of unnecessary frustrations.  If I finished by 7, I could catch the Love Boat on TV land.  I tried to watch an episode of the Love Boat over the summer, and it was so bad, I couldn’t make it through it.  But in the 6th grade, that’s what I was all about.

All this is to say, I finished my essay over orientation in Santiago.  It’s only three pages, but I really hated the prompt.  So getting through it was like mud, then when I finally finished it, I sat down with my host mom for another hour editing.  I’ll get better at that, but there was a lot more editing than usual, because I intentionally used sentence structures and grammar that I’m not yet comfortable with.  So it was good. And now I have a good essay.

And…now I’m going to watch the season 1 finale of Suits, because I have time.  Score.  I was saving it until I finished my homework.

On another note, I went to the MOST amazing church today.  Seriously.  They were the most welcoming group of people ever.  It’s like they completely understood how I felt.  All of them.  The church was so full, you’d a thought it was Easter Sunday.  A nice woman from Australia gave me her number so we can grab dinner next weekend.

And the music!  I knew a lot of the songs, and those that I didn’t were very easy to learn.  It is so amazing to worship in Spanish, because it’s different, yet still the same God and still the most intimate experience ever.  It’s like it’s okay that I don’t know all the words, because God understands what I’m trying to say.

I sat next to a family from Warsaw, Indiana and a girl who graduated from Indiana Wesleyan.  (I say that with hesitancy, because even if there hadn’t been that personal connection/familiarity, it still would have been amazing.)   Can’t wait to go back!!!

The cow might be black and white

But finding the milk, not so easy.

My vocabulary and comfortability with certain grammar structures is limiting, but I think my own timidity is the more serious problem.  I feel like that’s an awkward description, because I can’t think of any other time when shy is an appropriate adjective to describe of me.

The milk here is different.  Somebody said it’s because it’s not pasteurized, and that seems like a reasonable explanation, although I really have no idea.  It tastes a little different, comes in little plastic boxes, and isn’t refrigerated at the grocery store.  On my first day, my host mom asked me if I liked hot or cold milk, and I involuntarily looked at her a little incredulously.  The only time I’ve ever even heard of drinking warm milk was in Bing Crosby’s sandwich serenade to Rosemary Clooney in White Christmas.

Anyways, this morning, the milk I usually drink wasn’t in the fridge, but there was a curiously looking bottle that resembled the packaging of American milk.  I quickly scanned the bottle, saw on the back it said “mix with cereal,” so drenched my big bowl of chocolate lovers cereal in it and figured it’d be fine.   Yeah…not so much.

It was thin like milk, and  white like milk.   But didn’t taste like any milk I’ve ever known.  Going off of the whole none-of-the-milk-here-tastes-the-same and they-drink-hot-milk-here thing, I figured it was just a sweetened variety.

My host parents joined me in the middle of breakfast, and I sat there with a straight face hoping they wouldn’t figure out what I had done, and I just about made it.  I had just finished my awful bowl of cereal and was getting up to leave, when my host mom was started digging through the fridge.  After a minute, her head shot up from behind the door and she looked at me with wide-eyed curiosity.    She held the “milk” in her hand, and asked what I had put on my cereal.

It was yogurt.

My host parents felt really bad, but it wasn’t their fault.  I saw the normal milk on the counter shelf, but I didn’t want to open a new container.  I figured that since they drink cold milk in my house, somebody would have replaced the milk in the fridge when it was empty.  Hence, the “sweet milk” must be what we were suppose to use.  It seemed quite logical at the time.

In retrospect, I should have just told them I had poured something funky and sweet on my cereal.  I am used to eating food that I mess up (crunchy spaghetti, freezer burned hamburger, etc), but I suppose there is a line.  And yogurt with a milky consistency on chocolate cereal probably crosses that line.

Speaking in Spanish when I’m nervous is hard, but it will get better in time.  I left after breakfast for church.  I was really excited because I am always very comfortable in churches in the US, even ones I’ve never been to before.  This was going to be my opportunity to plug into something very normal for me, and do it in Spanish.  Best of all, I found what looks like a great church about 10 minutes from my house.

It might be close, but I still spent an hour walking around trying to find Calle de Víctor de la Serna.  I never did end up making it to church, but I had to guts to ask a woman on the street for directions.  Speaking to strangers always makes me nervous, because they often talk fast.   But with the milk incident at the forefront of my mind, I did it anyways.

I later got chewed out at home for not calling my family and asking for directions, so I guess I’m only taking one step at a time.  But at least my mistakes are making me bolder.  I’ll get there soon enough.

Path on fort in Portugal

Some might call it a closet, I call it an office

I made a near immediate discovery when I moved into the Brazilian Church. No wi-fi.

Perhaps I am showing my youthfulness here, but this was new to me.  Granted, I can remember the day my older brother finally convinced my father to to get high speed internet, and I didn’t discover pandora.com until I was a senior in high school.  However, since I neither buy nor steal music, but still listen to it all the time, I live on pandora.  I am used to enjoying leisurely cross-campus walks with my ipod streaming the online radio station.  Now, I can’t even get internet in my room (at least I couldn’t until Jeff bought a 50 ethernet cable).

Please don’t take my comments for complaining, because I’m not.  Just pointing out differences and explaining how my personal closet  office came about.  There are two places in the church that I can connect an ethernet cable.  One is on the floor above me in the treasurer’s office, an inaccessible locked room.  The other is two doors down from my bedroom in storage room.

After about a week of shoving birthday decorations to the side, I finally organized and rearranged the setup (I should have thought to taken a photo of the room, before I rearranged everything).  Anyways, this large storage closet has now become what I have affectionately termed my office, which if I’m not mistaking must mean I’m moving up in the world.  😉  After all, I’m not even old enough to drink.


Maybe it’s sad, but it’s unlikely that I would have taken the time to create my own little office space if it hadn’t been the only place I was able to access the internet the first two weeks I was here.  But it is rather nice now.  It gives me a separate place to work and rest, which I think is fairly important.

Also, just as an fyi, I promise the post about my experience at church last Sunday is coming.  It just requires far more time and thought then I have the ability to spare right now.   Check back to this blog for updates though.