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I don’t want to go back to church.

I know I’ve said in the past that I did.  Or at least, that I wanted to want to.  But I don’t, not really.

My younger self would not have understood my present self in the slightest.  In fact, I think it is a remnant of my younger self that is the problem here.  You who know me or who have read my blog for any amount of time know that I was raised as a conservative Christian, that I went to Bible College and Seminary.  That I made faith my life until the last few years.  I never expected to not have faith be a full-time priority.  I mean, I used to teach Sunday School and a adult’s class for new believers.  I was basically the poster child for evangelical Christianity.

Except that I never quite fit in.  My feminist self was certainly not part of the deal.  Nor was my lesbian self (which, admittedly, did not come out until much after my abandonment of church).  I was not quiet or timid or submissive enough.  I never felt incomplete by myself (let alone without a man, ha).  For a time, I wanted and tried, desperately, to fit into the mold that was given to me based on the fact I was born with a vagina.  But it’s been a long time since I’ve tried to fit that mold.

I resented being told I had to live a certain way based on gender.  And I hated that I wasn’t supposed to question things.  I hated that I wasn’t allowed to hate certain parts of the Bible, that I was supposed to just accept them as a good thing, even though there is no way they could be good.  Genocide?  Bigotry?  Misogyny? Patriarchal bullshit?  And so much more.  Theological points were sticky for me at times, too.  Early on in my academic career, I decided that I’d align myself more closely with neo-orthodoxy.  But even that isn’t where I am today.

I don’t miss going to church.  I miss the community, having easy access to friends.  I’m trying to find that in the queer community, and I think I’ll get there eventually.  But I don’t think I’m going to go back to church to find it.

I’m still not saying I don’t have some sort of faith.  I do.  It just looks so very different than I ever expected that I don’t know how to define it, or if it even needs to be defined.  Maybe it is okay that I don’t know where I am in regard to faith or where I’m going.

My life is not at all what I thought it would be.  But you know what?  It’s so much better than I could have ever dreamed.

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I think I’m getting better at this flirting thing.  Or maybe I just think I am.  Just messaged a woman I’ve been talking with online–she asked if there was anything I was looking forward to this week, and had asked if I wanted to meet.  (So, okay, this is not as bold as it could have been. But still playful, right?!)  So I said something to the effect of “I’m hoping to meet this cute woman I’ve been chatting with on here. Speaking of which, I’d love to meet.”  I was going to ask her to meet, but she beat me to it.  By one message.

I’ve been watching more queer shows/movies and reading more queer literature.  It makes my heart so fucking happy.  Last night I watched Tomboy, and tonight I watched Itty Bitty Titty Committee (which really isn’t anything it sounds like from the name).  I’m currently reading The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For (comics), and have Rubyfruit Jungle on standby.  I’m starting to research the Riot Grrrl bands I missed out on in the 90’s.  God, it’s all so good.

I decided to stop job hunting for awhile.  There aren’t a lot of jobs out there right now, and the one I have isn’t terrible, so…  I’m going to just stay put.  And at some point, I’ll start looking again, but I doubt very much if it will happen before the holidays.

I also disabled (not deleted) my okcupid account.  I need a break from the insanity of online dating.  I think I really should put some thought into whether or not you can date in real life, because that would be so much more ideal.  Do you have any suggestions?  And don’t say a bar.  Or church.

As for church, I haven’t been in several weeks, but think I will start going back at any moment.

(There, the typical tripartite of updates.)

I’ve been going to a United Methodist church lately.  And overall, it has been a really good experience.  They’re liturgical and socially liberal.  And the pastor (probably both) are feminists.  Er, the reverend?  I’m not good at their lingo, yet.

Life is speeding along, largely without me it seems.  I am not sure how just yesterday it was August 1st, and now the month is almost over.  Additionally, I would like to petition that we get more rain.  Just sayin’.  [Should I put that apostrophe inside or outside the punctuation?  Generally I put them outside, but what with the placement, I felt it more appropriate to be in.  Anyone know?]

As you know, I am mostly quite pleased with my living situation (being alone, that is).  However, every so often, I go through periods of loneliness.  I suppose this is normal.  And I think it is also connected to being less satisfied with my current situation (work, apartment, that sort of thing).  Sometimes I just plain envy those who have someone else around, be it a roommate or a significant other.  (Do not get me wrong: I do not want a roommate for anything.)  That is mostly when I have to, yet again, wash dishes or cook or some other chore that I would otherwise split with another person.  Or when I think it would be nice to have someone around with whom to talk something over.  I don’t know.  Maybe I just need a better network of friends.

Food-wise, I’ve been making some new and tasty dishes: spicy lentil sloppy joes, chickpea Mediterranean stew, farmer’s lunch sandwich, to name a few.  Tomorrow I am going to finally try black bean and sweet potato burritos.  I am hoping it is everything I have imagined (and more).

I guess that’s it for now.

A quote from Thomas Merton:
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not actually mean that I am doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.”

I have long loved that quote. And I think it explains how I reconcile some of my social views with my theological ones.

Anyway, today I tried out a new church. A United Methodist church, actually. I was sort of wary, probably because many years ago I would have never gone to a UM church. But I went, and it was the perfect blend of liturgy and relaxed presentation. Their associate reverend is a woman. And they’re okay with people’s sexual orientation and gender identity being non-mainstream. [Side note: I am oddly leery of churches who agree with my social inclinations. I think I worry that they will then disregard their bibles dreadfully. But this does not seem to be the case. Yet.] The music was enjoyable, the people were welcoming. It was a positive experience, which is becoming rare for me at church.

I am going to go back next week. And probably the week after that, and after that. I may have found my place. Until I move, that is.

I am hoping to move back north, closer to my family and friends (the ones in this state, anyway). Of course, it may take me some time (forever) to find a job, so… We’ll see.

So I’ve been doing some thinking about church.

I’ve decided that I have to put forth a real effort to find one, and to actively engage with my faith.  The first part will mean that I try a new church every weekend (unless honest-to-goodness circumstances prevail).  The second part will mean that I get back into a habit of reading my bible and praying.  Even when I don’t feel like it.  (Which is always, lately.)

I just don’t believe that faith is something you do when you feel like it or when the notion strikes.  It’s a real, every day thing.  And I believe it wholeheartedly.  So why am I so unwilling?

I would still maintain that I have good reasons to sort of check-out.  But even if the reasons are good, they’re not good enough.  Right?  This doesn’t mean that I throw myself into a church with blinders on (heavens, no), but I have to try to get back to a healthy place, at least.

It sounds like so much work.  I remember when these things weren’t work, but delight.  I want them to be delight again.

While I know that I solely am responsible for my actions, I still hate that it has been my fellow (so-called) Christians that have brought me to this place.

Here’s to hoping.

Did I tell you I’m (once again) giving up on church?  Seriously.  There isn’t any out there for me to attend.  Not in the area.  Not that aren’t bat-shit-crazy or just plain awful.  I suppose I should feel guilty about it, but I really don’t.  Who cares, right?

I’m also (once again) giving up on online dating.  I just can’t do it.  Nothing in me wants to go on first dates.  And I hate the contrived attempts at getting to know someone.  Plus, let’s be honest, most of the men online are just idiots.  (No, really. Try online dating sometime, and I think you’ll end up agreeing.  Note that I said “most,” not “all.”)

I am somewhat feuding with my upstairs neighbor (and her rotten kid), plus with a co-worker.  I suppose I am just an angry person.  But what I don’t understand is why anyone feels the need to question the status quo?  Now, the upstairs neighbor is not trying to make me like her (no, far from it), but the co-worker wants to know why I just can’t be nice to her.

Okay, that is partially a fair request.  I should at least contrive to be nice to her insofar as we must interact.  She’s just so stupid most of the time.  And she drives a Hummer.  Because she hates the earth, apparently.  And she called me a crazy cat lady once–we’re not friends, she doesn’t get to mock me.  I don’t call her a crazy kid lady, and she has four of them, whereas I only have two cats.  So unfair.

But, she’s right.  I should withhold my complete contempt–at least from her notice.  But my goodness, I have no intention of ever being her friend.

Why can’t I just be left alone?

“When we were there praying with them, the Holy Spirit was so thick I was really feeling God’s presence.  This was a big success and the home group was really blessed!  This is what The Bridge is all about.  Connecting and having fun.”

I try to be fair to the churches I’m trying out (did I mention I’m starting again on a new church-hunt?), but when I find statements, such as the above, on their website, I can’t help myself.

“…the Holy Spirit was so thick I was really feeling God’s presence.”  Really?  The Holy Spirit was so thick…  I’m not even sure where to start on that whole statement, theologically speaking.  God’s presence is always here.  The Holy Spirit is also here.  Can the Holy Spirit be here in concentrated form, like frozen OJ or something?

And now we’re going to state that the HS being thick, God’s presence really being felt equals “success.”  Wait.  So if you have an “off” night, you lose?  Damn, I didn’t know faith was a game.

And then… the Bridge group is all about success and blessing others through their success (of getting the HS to show up thickly and making sure you can really feel God’s presence).  And success and blessing equals “connecting and having fun.”  What?  Who edited this thing?  Did anything actually read this statement?  Did they think through the implications of what was being said?

The funny thing is that I’m still going to give this church a shot–they have women on the pastoral staff!  I assume they let some young 20 something write that statement, and they put it up without thinking about it (sigh), but I am hoping the church itself has a better foundation, theologically, logically, etc.

I know one of my hopes for this year is getting on track faith-wise.  But does that necessitate church attendance?

I love how friendly everyone is at my current church.  But I do not love the theology (lack thereof).  My mind wanders freely during sermons.  I ache to hear a sermon that is based in good hermeneutics, rather than simple speculation from a cursory reading.  I want to be somewhere where I can interact with others about faith in ways that are meaningful.

I don’t know that I can attend a church that has an undercurrent of disrespect for women and a obvious disregard for homosexuality.  (This latter point is not from anything in a sermon–yet–but conversations I’ve had.)   And one that has a strong dislike of government assistance in any way–they are huge fans of the Dave Ramsey idea of accumulating wealth and being self-sufficient.  Side note: I hate this about most Christians lately–when did Jesus or his disciples ever preach about being self-sufficient?  Weren’t we supposed to help our fellow person?  When did Christians get so mean and stingy??  And since Christians have so sadly dropped the ball, I think it’s fitting that the government would step in.  Sometimes, you just need the extra help.  But I digress.

So to try to find a new church?  Again?  On the other hand… to not attend at all?  It is not for some guilt or compulsory reason that I would want to have a church, but a deep desire to be with others who are like-minded.  Hence the problem with this current church: we are not like-minded, and only have similarities on the uppermost level (identifying as Christians).  Why is it that I am so often more like-minded with those who do not identify as Christians?

It is just so… discouraging.

In matters of faith…  2012 was an awful year.  I could not wait for it to be over.  2013 was a little better, but I spent much of it trying to care again.  I want 2014 to be the year I can fully embrace my faith again–not just in private, but in public.  I want to fully participate with my local church body and be part of the universal Church in a way I haven’t for the past two years.  Little things give me hope: I’ve begun participating in musical worship at church again; I’m helping with their hospitality team; I’m considering attending a group (although might wait until the next go-round for better options?).  I’m attending church, and I’m enjoying attending.  But I’d like to start being disciplined again.  I want to be reading my Bible on a regular basis; I want to pray intentionally.

As always, I want to be more like Jesus.  I want compassion and caring.  I want to show love for my fellow human being.  I want to give the benefit of the doubt and to want the best for people.  I want to learn to reflect the heart of God.

I want this year to be a good year.

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