Sunday, September 28, 2008

The quest

Last week I met Phyllis Tickle. A delightful, intelligent and engaging woman. She came to Austin for a series of lectures. I was fortunate enough to hear her speak about her newest book, The Great Emergence. As I've told before, I'm a born and raised Southern Baptist girl. My home church was a typical small-town Baptist church... complete with an expansive organ, choir loft, a bapistry about 10 feet above ground level and burnt orange carpet. Oh, and my church had a Family Life Center. In all other parts of the world, it would be called a gym. I suppose for church folks that's not quite spiritual enough. I practically lived at the church. There were services in the morning and at night. Something happened on Monday (I forget what it was). On Tuesday there was visitation (door knocking during good people's dinner time) and of course, Wednesday night Bible Study. I attended everything. I was taught well, the stories of the Bible, from good men and women from the time I was born until I left at 18. This was the church of my mother and her parents. Good people with strong faiths. I'll skip the next 12 years or so, and simply say that there came a time when I began to question all (or at least many) of the things these good people taught me. I've asked myself the questions of what I believe and why I believe. I have become facinated with church history, and Biblical history. I have loved learning about Jesus from the stand point of the time in history that he lived. I am learning of middle-eastern cultural and the tradition of Jewish faith that he followed. It has brought richness to the scriptures and the teachings of Jesus that I've never had before.

There has been a movement (for lack of a better word) in the church world over the last couple of decades called Emergent. The voices of this movement actually refer to it as a "conversation." I love that. The intention is to have a conversation about what it means to be a follower of Jesus. I have found a number of authors whose writings find deep connection for me, such as Brian McLaren and Tony Jones. That's where this wonderful lady, Phyllis Tickle comes in. She's a very learned scholar and thinker of this post-modern 20th/21st century we're living in. Her book, which I have yet to read, explores this idea of "emerging churches" not as a fad, or the latest religious bandwagon. She places this conversation in much broader terms for history. She speaks of it as being a part of a 500 year cycle that the culture or the world has seen since the time of Jesus. What I took away from those 2 hours with her was knowledge (which is always cool), and an excitement for what is happening in the world with regards to Christianity. I guess there's a lot going on in the world today that hardly inspires excitement. Yet, I hear her speak of change, good change, that is happening. And I guess I just feel like I'm a part of of. Asking good questions...questioning the things I've been taught about God, the Bible, Jesus, the world, the church. I'm pretty happy in this place. I don't have many answers really. And there are some around me that don't necessarily champion my path of curiosity. I guess there will always be those and perhaps those naysayers help keep be balanced. Nevertheless, I have a seemingly insatiable appetite to learn about Jesus and the things of God. What I hope comes from that desire is a truer place of serving. I really don't want knowledge just for the sake of being smarter. My prayer is that my quests transform my heart and mind, and I show it by how I love and serve the world.

I'm standing on the eve of a big birthday. As I reflect on this previous decade, I'm clear that it has been about authenticating my faith. I'm very thankful for the church I was raised in and all I was taught, even if I have different opinions about those teachings today. I stand on the heritage that is my grandparents and their parents, but I have to believe in God for me. I'm immensely grateful for the foundation I was given as a little girl and young adult. I offer honor and blessing for all the men and women who took me under their wing, loved me and showed me their faith. My prayer is that I can pass that legacy on. A legacy of faith that is authentic and organic.