I would really like some snow. Please.

taken from Metal Cowboy's Flickr stream

It will not snow.

I need snow. It’s sort of like one of those mermaid movies where the mermaid (who has recently turned into a human, obviously), hasn’t been around water recently, so her gills have started to reappear, except instead of being iridescent green, they’re now a sort of sickish gray.

My snow gills are gray.

We’ve had a few flurries, and I heard a rumor that there was actual snow in downtown Chicago last week, but I’ve seen almost nothing in the suburbs.

There is a growing flock of Canada geese who, instead of continuing south like reasonable birds, are taking over the parking lot at work. They think they’ve found their tropical paradise.

I went Christmas shopping on Michigan Avenue last Saturday, and I did not need a coat.

I’ve been watching the weather reports, and we’ve had a few snow storms predicted, but nothing’s materialized.

I’m starting to get anxious.

You know how after the Flood, God sent a rainbow as a promise that he’d never destroy the world that way again? Snow is sort of my rainbow. Give me a minute: I know I’m not making meteorological sense.

I’ve always loved snow. I was always happy to see it, no matter what time of year it happened to fall. But it wasn’t until a few years ago that it became as important to me as it is now.

It was my senior year at Moody, and I think I had just done badly on a test. I know that’s not really the end of the world, but I was miserable. I felt like I had wasted opportunities and time and like God had given me this gift of an education and I had squandered it. I left class, and instead of heading back to work at the yearbook office, I left campus. It had started to snow that morning, and there were already a few inches on the ground. I was wearing little fabric shoes and my feet were soaked almost immediately, but I had to walk.

I walked faster and faster, and as I walked I counted every mistake I had made in the past four years. Every missed opportunity and broken friendship and wasted moment. The faster I walked, the more mistakes I could remember. I was overwhelmed.

I stopped.

The snowflakes were huge. Nickel-sized. When I stood still, I could watch the snow on the ground get deeper. I was used to the noise of the city, the sounds of the traffic and people. But with that much snow, all those sounds were muffled. It was 2pm on a weekday in Chicago, and the whole city was silent. Everything, the wrought iron fences, the street lamps, the buildings, was covered in snow.

That was when I realized that if God could silence and transform a whole city with just a little frozen water, then there was nothing that I could do that he couldn’t make beautiful by covering it with a layer of redemption.

I could breathe again. I watched the snow for a few more minutes, then I went inside and put on dry socks.

Snow is my rainbow and my ebenezer and my reminder of what the Gospel means.

I am tired.  And I could use a refresher course on redemption. And I would really like it if it would snow.

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What I Believe

I don’t talk about my faith very much on the Internet. I think it’s because I have this idea that I want you to see me, not my beliefs, but I’m starting to learn (even if I’m, oh, 25 years late on this one) that my beliefs are me. I act this way because of what I believe. I react to you that way because of what I believe.

I don’t list my religion on Facebook because I can’t find a term that seems to fit. “Christian” is too generic. “Evangelical” seems politically charged. I don’t have a distinct denominational affiliation, so that won’t work either.  I don’t want to look like I’m waving my little bit of knowledge around by listing my favorite doctrine or theological term. Listing myself as “slave to the Most High Creator of The Whole Universe  i am but a lowly worm” looks a bit overkill. Besides, I wasn’t a pastoral major. (Moody joke. Rimshot.)

I don’t list my faith in my Twitter profile. I only have 160 characters there, so I had to get the important things in. You know, the part where I say I like food.

I think I was going for something like “win them without a tweet”.

Everything was just fine, until I had a rude awakening the other night. I tweeted about my little sister, who is braver than I am, and who can’t help but talk about her Jesus. Some Guy saw the tweet, clicked her profile, and read this: Student at Moody Bible Institute// Lover of Youth Ministry// Follower of the only God// General havoc wreaker

Now, my tweet concerned the most amazing robot earrings in the whole world which my little sister had just given me, not anyone’s beliefs. But Some Guy didn’t comment on the earrings. He responded to my tweet with “Follower of the only God? #lololololololololol #readasciencebook”.

When I saw that, my first reaction was to try to kill the guy. How dare he pick on my little sister? But I knew yelling wouldn’t get me anywhere. So I told him that Twitter was for being nice, and he should try that. I also said that he didn’t have to follow me if he didn’t like my beliefs, he didn’t have to follow me. That’s when he said it.

He said “Oh, sorry. I didn’t know they were your beliefs too.”

Ok. First of all, let’s set aside the fact that he thought I’d be all for him making fun of my little sister’s beliefs that I didn’t share. That he thought he and I could have a little hashtag heckle-fest at my little sister’s expense. Nod knowingly at her ignorance. My little sister. Maybe he’s an only child. Maybe he doesn’t get the whole sister thing. Maybe. Anyway.

The point is, he had no idea that I am a Christian.

I don’t know how long Some Guy has been following me. Maybe it’s only been a few days. But whatever. I’m not really leaking the love of Christ like I thought I was. Nobody’s getting saved by osmosis here.

Worse, no one even knows. I have all these Twitter friends, and they can only make a half-hearted guess at the most important thing in my life. But hey, they know my position on oxford commas and falafel. (Yes and yes.)

So, in case you were wondering, here it is. This is what I believe.

I believe that we were created for fellowship with God, and we broke that fellowship.

I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who lived a perfect life as fully man and fully God. He died because he loves us, and because his sacrifice was the only way to repair the relationship that we broke.

I believe that the Bible is the true, inerrant word of God.

I believe in the one true God, maker of Heaven and Earth.

That’s the brunt of it. There’s more, really. Lots more. But these are the four things that I’m not going to fudge on, and I’m not going to argue about.

Honestly, I don’t know how I’m going to change my behavior on the Internet. I’m not a theology blogger, and I’m not a Christian-living blogger, and I don’t tweet C.S. Lewis quotes all day long. I don’t plan to be or do any of those things. I usually avoid any real depth of feeling at all. I assume you’d rather read funny little stories about my conversation with the Falafel Man then hear about the depths of my soul. That bit’s private. I’m not sure what I want the balance to be. I’m not sure what it should be. Maybe I’m using this post as a cop-out because I’m scared of what would happen if I did tweet C.S. Lewis quotes all day. Or lived 100% authentically on all fronts.

Anyway, something’s got to give. I’m afraid of being mistaken for someone I’m not.

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Church Hunting

church huntingDisclaimer: This post is not about books.

Wake up early, on a day when you don’t work, go stand in a big, probably cold room with a bunch of strangers, and there may or may not be free coffee. Oh, and everybody’s going to sing. Including you.

Sounds like fun, eh?

That’s what I like to call, “Church Hunting”.

Church hunting in Wheaton isn’t a leisure activity. It’s more like an Olympic sport. According to Wikipedia, Wheaton has 45 within the city limits, 30 in the surrounding unincorporated area, and, reportedly, more churches per capita than any other American town.*

So I’ve got a lot of options. Seventy-five without leaving my new home town.

It’s overwhelming.

I think my biggest problem is that I don’t know exactly what I want. I do know want a church that’s theologically sound. I want a church with a good community. But other than that…well, my want list is pretty blank.

I belong to a generation that doesn’t quite know what to do with itself, churchilogically. We’re tired of the 90’s seeker-sensitive, praise song model. It’s loud and bright, but a bit empty. The emergent church seemed like it was going to be great: “Let’s return to our roots, but cooler! Let’s burn incense, but we can still wear Ray-Bans!” But then, in their quest for spirituality, they forgot some pretty important things, like inerrancy and omnipotence. Great glasses, though.

I am looking for a third option.

Here’s what I’ve tried so far:

The Dead Church

I was excited about this church because it’s exactly three minutes from my house. I love short travel times. I was still about ten minutes late. I figure, they might as well get to know me now. I walked in, and made eye contact with the usher. I was expecting a whispered welcome and a bulletin. Instead, he blew me off. Yup, the man whose job it is to welcome me, snubbed me. The sermon was great. But I don’t think anyone in the church cared. The pastor cracked a few relatively funny jokes, but they were lost on the congregation. No one smiled or laughed. I have a feeling that they may have been zombies. There was a pot-luck afterward, but since I don’t really eat brains, I got out of there.

The Mega Church

There was nothing wrong with this church. The people were friendly, they loved me even though I was late, and the sermon was solid. The usher was not only a Moody professor, but he helped me find a seat and made sure I was taken care of. The sermon was on racial reconciliation, and the church seems like it really wants to take care of the surrounding community.

There was nothing wrong with anything…but it seemed a little bland. Like I could have gone to any church of 2000 and heard the same sermon and read about the same programs. This is a perfectly good option. But it’s the easy option, and I don’t think I want that.

The Church-Clothes Church

Then there’s the ultra-traditional: the hymn-singing, organ-playing, no-you-may-not-wear-jeans church. That’s where I went this morning. And…as I was surprised to find…it was refreshing. There was nothing affected. The pastor didn’t mention any television shows. He wove a sermon around a passage. He told a complete thought. He did not make three alliterating points, and there was no PowerPoint. I think, I’m not sure about this, but I think he read the whole thing from a manuscript. My soul was stirred, yes, but I left with my brain turning. The sermon left me thoughtful.

It was reverent. In the church bulletin, they ask that you sit quietly after the sermon to reflect. It felt like Sunday.

It reminded me of the best parts of being at Moody.

Now, Church-Clothes Church is a little big. Three services. That worries me. And so does their propensity for trumpet solos. But I haven’t left a Sunday service feeling so filled up in a long time. It’s like I just ate a nutritious meal and now I can handle the long week ahead of me.

I’ve got more churches to try, and I want to give them all a fair shot. I’d like to to go Little Neighborhood Church, and I’m thinking about trying Church of the Incense. Are there any church-types that I’m missing? Any denomination you think I should check out before I settle into a church?

*If I weren’t so eager to find a church and get involved, I’d A.J. Jacobs this shoot, visit every church, and blog about it. I’d call my blog Church Hopper. And I’d get a book deal. You can have that idea. Just give me a nice shout-out in the acknowledgments.

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