Dan Haseltine (photo: Twitter)

29 Days

Dan Haseltine (photo: Twitter)
Dan Haseltine (photo: Twitter)

“I think our music exists in the 29 days,” said Jars of Clay frontman Dan Haseltine on a recent Relevant podcast.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

The foundational voice of one of the preeminent Christian music forces in the last century thinks his music really comes out of and speaks into the 29 days. That is, the majority of days in the month that are just not really all that dreamy. Jars of Clay says that because Jars of Clay must know about that: The good days, the golden days are the exception. The rare block on that calendar with forecast sunny, all day long. Most days are full of anxiety that grips us at a stoplight for no reason, heaviness because we misinterpreted a text message, avocados that are already rotting, and unanticipated bills.

There are blessings but the 29 days remind us that we are not home yet.

I love Jars of Clay. Each album has its own tone, its own mature sound. I especially like songs like “Safe to Land” and “Reckless Forgiver” and “Boy on a String” because they talk about what I now know are the 29 days. Dealing with our own concept of God in the midst of our mess. Seeing him show up to our landfills and begin plowing and packing through the garbage piled high.

Haseltine has contended with some well-earned controversy for his ponderings on Twitter recently, which he addresses in the podcast. Less interesting to me was his confirmation that he had thought about these things for a long while. More interesting to me was that he believed that church was a place to wrestle with doubt, to question and reason and help one another–because why else are we here? To be nothing but upstanding, confident in our every position? To pretend as though we are having 30 full days of bliss?

There are reasons why a band like Jars of Clay has survived and evolved through the last 20 years and we who are not on the inside nor omniscient will never fully understand. I have to believe, though, that there’s a key to survival that is offered in the 29 days, in the doubt, in the embrace of all that is not sunny and certain so that it may be examined and held to the light, for many months, for 20 years, and perhaps for as long as our little clay jars endure.

 

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10 years an #Adventist

Can you find me on the end?
Can you find me on the end?

This week I celebrate ten years as a baptized member of the Adventist church. I do mean celebrate, I don’t just mean mark, commemorate, acknowledge. I take joy in the fact that I joined this church ten years ago. I have never been more sure of anything else in my life. It’s true: I was only sure about marriage and motherhood on the other side of it. When I walked down the aisle in the other direction with my new man; when I held that baby in my arms–that’s when I knew. This is where I am supposed to be. But when it was time to stand up and do the hard work that being a church member (not just a visitor) requires, I was certain. I was walking in confidence and walking in the steadfast Spirit toward this step.

I made the decision to start the process toward baptism when I was 23 years-old. I didn’t really have a steady job, I wasn’t engaged, I didn’t have any family in the church. I had a promise from a friend that this would be a better life for me: a closer, more sober walk. It’s what I needed and I’m so glad I made the decision to get baptized.

This is not to say that it was an easy decision or that the last ten years have been a cakewalk. I have encountered some of the best people in this church: humble givers, servant leaders, courageous thinkers, brave workers. I have also encountered some of the worst of people in the church: conniving, proud, slanderous, gossiping, unfaithful people–and all of those people live in me. I am all of those people. I have been baptized to live an abundant life in Christ and yet I am not always quick to abandon the ugly and selfish that abounds in my own heart.

I now work for the church. I send my children to church schools. My husband counsels people through the church. Sometimes we feel like we live on a compound but I would not change a single detail because we are assured that this is where we are meant to be for such a time as this.

Will we be here in another 10 years? I can’t be sure. I do have some hopes for the next 10 years that are pinned to my heart like a kite–ready to catch air but not quite ready to fly alone.

For now, here is a wish list for my church (which includes me).

10 Wishes for the Seventh-day Adventist Church 
yes

1. That we would spend more time relishing Scripture than we spend debating our interpretations of it.
2. That we would no longer limit our perception of hospitality as simply “being greeted.” Was the church clean? Was there toilet paper in the bathroom? Were the pews comfortable? Was a good word offered? All those can be marks of hospitality.
3. That we would raise our children to be Christ’s hands and feet.
4. That we would realize that desegregating our church starts with us and that dismantling segregation starts with relationships.
5. That we would not quote Ellen G. White using esoteric abbreviations that no one else understands.
6. That we would realize that all those self-righteous bumper stickers about the sabbath aren’t converting anyone; they just make us look like self-righteous bumper sticker evangelists.
7. That we would be on the front lines of radical service everywhere.
8. That we would not align ourselves with conservative, liberal terms but with Christ Crucified.
9. That we would compensate people fairly, particularly women in ministry.
10. That we would continue to call the sabbath a delight. A delight.

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McRevelation

It came to me when I was chopping green beans tonight, what it all meant, as all shattering revelations do. As I beheaded and befooted the beans, I realized where I went wrong.

I had to get up a little earlier than usual to get the kizzle off to school so that I could meet the new freshmen in our department and venture on our community service. It’s a campus tradition that before classes begin, the first year students gather and do a morning service project together at a local agency. We were told we were headed to Ronald McDonald house (love) and that we would be helping with a mailing.

We were off to a winning start as my children were still pro-hugging in hallways with their mom as I dropped them off at school. Also on the positive list are the new crop of students sent to our department, especially as this crop of students seems gregarious and sort of undaunted about the extroversion inflicted upon them during orientation.

Still, I have to say that I sort of felt, I don’t know, like I was doing this really huge sacrifice today. That I was Giving Up All the Gold that is Kendra’s morning that could be better spent writing syllabi, or better yet, adding crap to her Target Cartwheel app. Instead I had to shepherd some people born in the late ’90s WHO PROBABLY DON’T EVEN KNOW ABOUT DOING THE CARLTON, to a place I’d never been, to do work that I was not all that dazzled about doing, probably while making small talk which it is well documented I am allergic to, all morning long. Sigh.

We got to Ronnie McD and the plans to have us help with the mailing were diverted to having our team of 14 clean the place. It was a lot of the blind leading–oh where is the Swiffer, what’s a Swiffer?–the blind. It went by quickly and then we were helping with the mailing and blah blah blah everybody got that feelgood feeling, I’m sure of it.

Before we left, we got a tour of the facilities and our tourguide was explaining why the CEO of their location has a heart for the Ronnie McD House ministry. Because her baby died from leukemia at age 9, and there was no Ronnie McD house in Chattanooga, so their family had to go to Memphis for her to receive treatment. So she became the first paid employee of the House when it was founded in ‘nooga. Then, as we were about to get our bags and depart, I looked up and noticed the schedule on the wall of where the parents who are staying at the House were that day. They were all at the NICU across the street.

But I still didn’t get it.

I got a call when I returned to campus and I had to quick high-tail it over to my office to talk with a parent about her daughter’s schedule. I was hot and cranky and underfed and irritated that I couldn’t get to the Dollar Store with much time before I had to pick up the kizzle again from school. Gahhhh, I’m such a bondservant of the people today.

It was only when I was chopping the green beans, over and over and over and over, my littles eating yogurt and watching some McDonald’s commercial on the tablet that the light in my McNugget-sized brain flashed on.

***

Today was about taking care of other people’s children, namely my students, so that some other parents of sick children whose prayers are probably prayed with wringing hands and breathed through desperate sighs, could take care of their children hooked up to wires, bleeping monitors, oxygen. All the while some of the most dedicated teachers the world over were busy taking care of my children.

***

My faith is so small as I tread water in a pool that is not so deep, where I regard small ripples as great waves. I know others may think me naive to believe in this God who cares about my hang-ups and first world problems. I have experienced an awesome, majestic mercy, though, and am trusting that what I know to believe as true will be enough to help me get out out of my own way. I don’t want to just tread this same water. My goal is to be back on shore….

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