hidden glory

Friday, September 14, 2007

a gym and the Church

I have a gym membership that I had not used for at least 4.5 months until last Wednesday. I intended to. I really did. But I also go to one of those corporate “image-oriented” type gyms. Great for its breadth of equipment and quality of fitness classes offered, but amazingly intimidating for someone who hated the mandatory phys. ed. classes in middle and high school. I just have never really enjoyed physical fitness. It’s not been an area I ever excelled at, and so at some point I decided to stop trying. I’d rather read a book, write a poem, drink coffee, even go to the dentist. Really. And every time I enter my high-tech super-glossy gym, I feel like I’m in middle school P.E. again. Where everyone is staring at me, picking my physique apart (do any of us have a body we 100% accept?), or at least looking down at me because I haven’t invested a small life fortune in getting “cool” athletic gear.

I overcame my fear and walked in, silencing the imaginary voices sneering at me or the voice in my head condemning me for not being there for so long. And it felt good, once I bee-lined it to my Elliptical machine, sweated for the 25’ish minutes, and arrived safely back in my car. One of the reasons I had not been to the gym in so long is that I felt like I was out of shape. (how ironic, I know) So after walking for a few weeks, I felt more up to facing THE GYM.

It made me wonder if that’s what church is like for some people. Especially corporate, well-organized, high-image-conscious churches where everyone seems to have it together. People feel as if they must first “get it together” spiritually before coming to church. How ironic, isn’t it?

But is it? Do we who represent the Church universal help portray this image? Especially people like me who have been attending church since I was born. And so I know all the right answers, the right lingo, the right uniform. But I don’t naturally think about the person contemplating church who might have been abused by a church leader as a child and now hates anything God-related. Or the person whose “Christian” parents gave rules and law without grace. I think they would be even more reluctant to enter a church than I was to enter the gym.

What are we doing to welcome in strangers? To help present to them the Christ who says “Come, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” [not “Come and I will give you more things to do and rules to follow”]. To alleviate well-placed fears and insecurities about what to say, what to wear, and whether they want to have anything to do with Christians after a bad experience.

I don’t know, but I’m wrestling with it as part of a new church plant seeking to welcome in the stranger, the neighbor, the unbeliever, the nominal Christian. Grace must permeate everything we do. The way we greet them at the door, have a genuine conversation with them afterwards, and seek to follow up through building a relationship. They need to see it in the way WE interact with one another. No back-biting, gossip, chronic complaining, fake pleasantries. You can tell if love is genuine and real.

And isn’t that what Jesus said? “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


I can't let today go by without remembering. Especially now that I live so close to all three hits: New York City, DC, and mid-PA. I heard about the memorial services being performed at each place, and I wish I had gone to remember.

Here's my poetic tribute instead.

"remembering 9/11"

impenetrable defense,
children playing happily in the streets,
businessmen going about their routines,
the Big Apple buzzing with activity

the unthinkable occurred
we were attacked by terrorists
Not "over there"
the towers fell
our proud self-confidence with them

the fear of attack,
danger lurks on every corner
wives grieve, children fear
that today he might disappear
terror enters the American dream
National security?
Now exposed as a myth
(or a political ideal).