tra-di-tiiiiiiiiooooon, tra-DI-tion!!

For the past year, all of my church visits have been to either non-dom or emerging denominational churches, where the King is King and style is everywhere. Great sets,  good music by worships rockers with tats and gauges and drummers in plexi cages. Closed eyes and raised hands swaying to the music. Titantrons with flashy videos and (LOUD!!) MUSIC BLASTING… IT’S A GOOD THING THAT THEY OFFERED EARPLUGS AT THE DOOR ALONG THE BULLITIN!! (WAH?). I wanted experiences that were unlike anything that I was raised with or was used to. I wanted to new sexy churchy hotness; leave the liturgies and humming and kneeling and the robes for Grandmas and the Tea Party folks – I want my Pastor to have ripped jeans and one of those nudie Britney Spears headset mikes! (Amen and AAAAAmen!)

Really!! …and not really…

The services at the [cult]Church were simple and straightforward:

Step 1: Stand up and sing

Step 2: Prayer

Step 3: The first part of the service

Step 4: Stand up and sing second song

Step 5: The Second part of the service

Step 6: Stand up and sing final song (by this time I am ready to G-O jet)

Step 7: Closing Prayer

Step 8: Go to Hot Sauce Williams


Simple. Predictable. Boring.  And it happened twice a week every week for 18 years.  It was comforting in its mind-numbing routine-yness, a church normalcy that was the cure for ‘worldly’ behavior and temptations that one would find during the week. It was safe, it provided an identity, I always had the security of knowing what was coming and how it would make me feel which it did every single time.

We run to tradition when we don’t want to think about the technical (that is to say the how to and the what for) of worship.  There is no need to worry about being relevant to “seeker friendly” environment, the traditions have been in place for longer than our country has… we know what we are asking for  and what we’re gonna get when we walk in. And when we walk in we take our portion of Christian Blessing, take communion, say Amen and leave.

And there is beauty in that and it was something I missed. Say what you want about tradition, but that’s the very thing that tells us who we are and what Abba wants us to do. And frankly, I don’t know either of those things.

So I needed to find a denominational, traditional service with a liturgy and communion, if available.  

And it so happened that I knew exactly where to find one…







Church Trekking

I have been visiting a lot of churches lately, so much so that folks I run into from the Hill tell me that they miss me when I‘m at HEB or Target  and The Youngest Daughter wonders if I will ever find a home church.

“Are you ever going to settle down?”

“You sound like you’re middle aged and waiting for grandchildren before you die. You might consider getting a driver’s license before you worry about that.”

“Wait… before  your  grandchildren or your church, because I don’t want kids.”

“never mind…”

All the nagging aside, there are some  things that I want to make clear:

  • Yes, I am still going to church regularly…
  • Yes, I consider The Hill Community Church my home church
  • And yes, I have been very, very, unfaithful…

to the Hill I mean…

As you have seen from the blog, I paid a visit to Live Oak Presby, (The Church in the Movie Theater) and I mentioned that I have been to Austin Stone (The Church that Concrete Built). I even dropped in at Celebration NW (The Church Formally Known as Celebration Cedar Park), and I am going to Shoreline this Sunday at 9…



Because Shoreline is having a Storytelling who is going to go full makeup and do a John the Beloved thing, and I am a sucker for storytelling, John the Beloved and full makeup.

If you are asking me why I am visiting so many churches all of a sudden, the real answer is…

I want to see what is out there, especially before seminary.

I want to know what ‘church’ is and what is can be and what people are calling church nowadays.

I want to know that there is a place for a woman to use their gifts without being relegated to the Woman’s and Youth Ministry Ghetto, which I found is your only choice if  you are a PCA Presby or a follower of Mark “women are more gullible that men and as such shouldn’t be Pastors (Good Lord, I feel sorry of the gal gullible enough to marry him)” Discroll .

Seriously, that jackbag’s articles had me scared, and when I found out that his church Mars Hill kicks out folks that don’t agree with him and had the following to say about women in ministry, I was unwilling to join Austin Stone, which is sister church and a member of the same church plant group Acts 29 as Mars Hill. It took me back to my [Cult]Church days.

If you think I’m exaggerating, this comes from a from the Mars Hill Booklet “Church Leadership”:


Without blushing, Paul is simply stating that when it comes to leading in the church, women are unfit because they are more gullible and easier to deceive than men. While many irate women have disagreed with his assessment through the years, it does appear from this that such women who fail to trust his instruction and follow his teaching are much like their mother Eve and are well-intended but ill-informed.. Before you get all emotional like a woman in hearing this, please consider the content of the women’s magazines at your local grocery store that encourages liberated women in our day to watch porno with their boyfriends, master oral sex for men who have no intention of marrying them, pay for their own dates in the name of equality, spend an average of three-fourths of their childbearing years having sex but trying not to get pregnant, and abort 1/3 of all babies and ask yourself if it doesn’t look like the Serpent is still trolling the garden and that the daughters of Eve aren’t gullible in pronouncing progress, liberation, and equality (p. 43).

Wow… yeah… sorry about the tangent, but folks like that give me a reaction akin to poison ivy.

I want to know why there aren’t more house churches and why megachurches seem to give some pastors spiritual hard-ons I have heard more than one pastor, when told that I didn’t want to join a BIG church, get wide eyed and state “There’s nothing wrong with a BIG church” in a voice just slightly too loud to fit the circumstances.

Uh huh. Cover it with the hymnal and side step to the bathroom so you can finish off. We can wait.

I want church to be more like libraries or local bars, a place where people show up to find peace, instruction, a few answers and even some entertainment.

I want to see where I fit in that.

I want to see the lay of the land and where my path lies in it.

And I want to see a cat in full makeup doing his John the Beloved thing.

God with us, Part 2: Needing what I found…

So… Immanuel…. Yes….

If there was a polar opposite to Celebration, this is it.

Small, casual, home-based.

No glitz… no glam. No sermon series, no twitter feeds [yet]. 

Elegant in its simplicity and modesty.

Immanuel is, in essence, a room of imperfect people talking about their struggle as they with Christ. Compared with megachurches, this would be considered a small group.

Small. Small and profound. Small and absolutely frightening. Small and challenging. Small and healing.

I went and participated. I found myself pulling over on the way home and bawling on the side of the road.

I had found my place. I had found my home.

For the first time ever-hear me, ev-ah- I was worshipping with people who were exactly like me.

There is no way to just sit back and be passive. The group is too small. You know everyone there. You talk during the meal, you meditate during the scripture, and you open your soul so wide during discussion that folk can see the meal moving through your intestines.

There is no way to pretend to be to righteous there. Piety rings false there. Truth is honored and weakness is respected. Tears are common and soothing.

What… took me so long finding this? The only thing I can guess was that I wasn’t ready for it. I wasn’t ready yet for the emotions to come to the surface, let alone come out of my mouth.

But there was also the fear of losing this beautiful blessing that I have in Immanuel. But the fear of loss has surrounded me ever since I have seriously thought about settling down and building a solid, rooted life here in Austin.

I have the fear that if you really knew who I was, you would not really want to be around me. I fear that the darkness and the evil I have seen and have experienced in my life is too much for people to take. I fear that my need to have truth and to live truthfully will scare those who shield themselves with the lies that they use to carefully build their world. I fear that being a comfort to those who have seen their own flavor of evil will pull me back into my personal abyss.

But with all of that being said and no matter what else is said, there is a truth that I cannot deny.

I. Belong. Here.

And that pleases me.

God with us, Part 1: Finding what I needed…

I have to say with no small amount of joy that I love going to Celebration Church. There is a wonderful worship team, I can have Starbucks coffee in sanctuary [because caffeine always enhances the ‘God Buzz’] and the sermons are thought provoking and offered with humor, charm, and the deepest sincerity.

The pastors are accessible.  Everyone that I met has been kind; some in their own way, others completely. The small groups are warm and inviting. This is a place where Beyonce will play as the intro to the sermon series, Keri Jobe will lead the worship on Wed. night and John Maxwell [you know… bestselling author, the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership  bloke?… yeah, that one] even stood in for our Senior Pastor.


if you are there at the right time…

one of the pastors will play ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ on the piano and get everyone in earshot to sing along. 

Not naming names, but it was awesome!

It is slick, bold, brassy, Christ filled, loving, and sassy.

And just too big for me.

The funny thing is I thought that that was just what I needed. I wanted the megachurch experience that made me feel tiny, filled and surrounded with the glory of Christ and allowed much room for fellowship with the Holy Spirit. And it does. I would walk in and take some time to soak in that I have been invited yet again into the house of God and I really love being there.  I would hug and catch up a bit, then Hillsong would blare, letting us know it was time for worship.

During worship, I close my eyes and listen and sing along to the words and, if I am moved, I will raise my hands in praise [not too high, I haven’t gotten to the “shoot your hands straight above your head, waving and pumping for the Lord” level yet] and allow the peace of God flow. I go up and pray when there is special need, otherwise I pray at my chair and in that moment I feel that I can let everything go. No one sees me because there are so many and I don’t feel like a fool because everyone there is there for the same thing.  

I feel safe, I feel insulated, and sadly, I feel unchallenged.

I want…[need?] something deeper.  Something that will allow me to expose my core as a sinner, allow me to confess my sins in an environment that is healing, but not packaged to appeal to the masses. A place where I can openly confess that I fuck up on the regular, that this path is hard as shit, and there is no place I would rather be.

And I found it. Quite accidently, hiding in plain sight all the time…

A place called Immanuel.

Processing the Path: Baptism

I am sitting with Wiley [*waves], eating cheese and talking about the  December 12th. The day I get baptized.

“I thought that it would be a longer process,” she says as she puts another bite of the Barely Buzzed into her mouth and reaches for a bite of the Moses Stellar.

“So did I,” I agreed as I eye her peppermint bark. I feel a small pang of guilt, but I reach for the bark anyway. I break off a piece and take a bite. The guilt pang hits me again. It wasn’t about the bark. I look over at Wiley.

“Yeah… I thought I would move slower.” That was the truth. The pang lessoned a little but it was still there.

I thought that the path back to the Church would be a slow, methodical, study-based trek to righteousness. What it turned out being was a long-awaited reunion. We met again and found that we loved each other as much as we did in the beginning and now want to live the rest of our lives together.

Aren’t you going too fast?

Yes… and no. 

No, in that my relationship with God started when I was 9 years old and has lasted for some 26 years. While I have not been to church in a decade, I have a solid foundation in the Bible and I have worked to live by it and teach my children to do the same. I have tried to live a life of service, which the only thing that ever truly made me happy, and I have shared what has worked in my life, based on the Scriptures.

But then there’s that pang of guilt, the ‘yes’ answer.

This goes back to the adage that you never forget your programming.

I was taught that to truly be baptized, you had to earn the privilege. You had to study (in my case, over a year and a half covering two complete books). You had to prove that you were faithful by being at every meeting and being in the Theocratic Ministry School and giving a ‘talk’ once a month.  Show your righteousness by being out in field service (you know, when we knock on your door on Sat. morning? …. Yeah…) at least 10 hours a month.

Then, and only then, you could be qualified for baptism. So an hour class with Scriptural consideration leaves me feeling empty. It makes me feel as if I should know more about my new chosen path. That I should have gone to the services for a few more months.

But it also makes me feel as if anything is possible.

The Bible Chronicles, Part 1… or “NIV is a translation – N.I.B., not so much.”

To prepare for my first visit to Church, I had decided that it would be a great idea to have a bible. In my former religious life [that’s a blog for another time], it was probably better if you forgot to wear pants rather than leave your bible at the house. And being sufficiently brainwashed, I obediently tried to purchase a bible. That and I like wearing pants.

My first mistake was walking into a Christian Bookstore uninitiated. The benign and churchy posters and ads, with pictures of families looking all loving and content and huge book covers with very smiley authors on them did not warn me about what  I would later find out it was.

A big box store for the Lord.

It was sooo big. Hear me- I had never, eeeeever, been in the presence of so much religious merchandise in my life. My eyes scanned the room and I tell you friends, the Lord was everywhere and churchiness abounded. There were mugs, house wares, music, movies (did y’all know that Kirk Cameron found the Lord? I know Captain Stubing did, but Mike Seaver?!!? ) toys, clothing, and other … other … shit. My mouth dropped open from all the sheer number of the stuff.

“Welcome! Can I help you?” a voice comes out of nowhere. I yelp and turn around to find a girl with a very sweet spirit and not much else going for her facing me with a smile that bigger than the circumstances called for. I take a step back, which as I will find out the next day, will be a habit that I will develop quickly.

“Can I help you find something?”  Her smile falters at the sight of my back step, but she recovers with a genuinely warm smile. I was scared and startled, yes, but that wasn’t meant towards her. I was caught up in shock and awe of the Lord’s licensing machine and a sudden blast of upbeat customer service wasn’t the most soothing way to snap out of it.

“I’m looking for a bible. I’m going back to church for the first time in about a dozen years”

Her eyes widen and brighten. This must be her area of expertise; I bet she knows this store like the back of hand and she can get me through the Christ tchotchkes to the Holy Grail of my quest.  

I have found my churchy sherpa, I can breathe easier.

“Oh, that is so wonderful!“  Sherpa Sister Sweet Soul says, “What translation?”

I stop short. In my time in religion, for all intents and purposes, there was only one translation- the New World Translation. It was the one you received when you said that you wanted a Bible. You had no access to any other and were discouraged from consulting another. And I had never stopped to think that I may have wanted to research the different types of translations available.

And that was my second mistake.

So now I have at least 42 choices and grossly way out of my comfort zone. I ask the next logical question, not really wanting to know the answer.

“How many are there?” I brace myself.

“About 42 that I know of..”

“Then 42 truly is the answer life the universe and everything!” I said. Her smile faded from joy to simple politeness, “That would be Jesus”.

Well… that joke went flat. And I can feel my eyes starting to burn.

She showed me the Bible section and I started to hold back tears.

I want to stop right here and tell you about how much I love books.

I love books. The way that most people decide that they want to live the rest of their lives with you is the way I love books. I own nearly 3000 [yes, with 3 ‘0’s’] books and sitting around and amongst them gives me pure joy.

Happiness  joy. Chocolate joy. Joy from the stuff you thought I was going to say-joy!

But not this time. I saw all of those bibles- maybe a few hundred at most- I felt horror… I felt lost… and I cried.

I felt like fool, and wanted to leave, but needed a bible, so I just turned to Sherpa Sister Sweet Spirit and said “Why don’t I just get a basic sized N.I.B. translation?”

The sweet smile twisted to a scowl as an overly tweezed eyebrow arched into her hairline. Then a laugh busted out from behind us making us both jump.

The guy behind us takes a deep breath and tries to not to snicker too hard. This is neither helping my nerves or my cool.

Guy Behind us walks up, still snickering, places a meaty hand on my shoulder,

“NIV is the Bible translation, NIB, not so much….” And walks away.

Black Sabbath N.I.B.

Sister Sweet Spirit looks at me confused.  I shake my head and walk away…

Within four steps I am crying my eyes out and sobbing by the time I get to my car. I take a few moments to yell at God for having a laugh at my expense and boost a signal to those who love me.

And they didn’t fail me.

Tracye let me finish crying in her garage and Lisa, Ryan, Christian and Nathan sent warm wishes that were balm for the soul.

Jack, Lisa, Alonda, GiGi and Missy all provided me with Bibles and study guides, which helped me find a deeper comfort.

And as the weeks have gone by, I have found that as I miss my old tribe and the path I had walked here, that a bit of faith has found me a new one. It’s still new and a bit wobbly, but first steps often are….

I gotta tell somebody…

This is the first blog I have done in about two years. I wanted to do this because what is happening will mark the great change of my thirties.

The return to the Church.

Not that I wanted to return. I was pretty damned happy with my life. There were no tragedies. No great crisis. Nothing.

Just a call. One that I tried to ignore, but wouldn’t let up. So I answered the call…

And that’s when the shit hit the fan.

But I want to talk about the things that you never think about when you go to church, or the things that people feel would make them seem less Christian. Like being weirded out by the Stepford smiles of the pastor, trying to defend your choice to one daughter while teaching discernment to another or the number of translations of the Bible it takes to make a bad-ass have a emotional meltdown and cry in a Christian bookstore (roughly 42).

And the search for the right level of ‘churchiness’… and a Hello Kitty bible cover.

I’m worried about fucking this up frankly, but I remember that He called me and I know for damned sure that He knew what he was calling….

Or at least that is my hope.

So here we go.

The Path and the Call. Welcome.