Unboxing Jesus

I went to a church once to visit with a friend and a lady there invited me to join them. I told her I had a church that I went to. This wasn’t enough for her.

I had a coworker once who insisted that I come to her church. She knew that I went every Sunday to my church. That wasn’t good enough for her, either. She told me that she didn’t think God was in my church.

I told her that God isn’t in a box. God isn’t just in one place. God is everywhere.

Look at Jesus, after the resurrection. He is the disappearing rabbit in the hat. He suddenly appears in a locked room. He disappears again. He is wherever he wants to be, and nothing can stop him.

He isn’t in one denomination, or one particular building. He doesn’t speak through one particular minister.

You can find God everywhere. You can find God’s message in a magazine or in a book on deep sea diving. I have a friend who says he finds God in recipe books. You can find God’s message in a Goodwill store. God hides in plain sight.

Jesus has left the building. We have to think outside of the box. We have to think outside of the church building.

It isn’t about worshipping God. It is about serving God. We’d all be better off if we spent that hour at a soup kitchen instead of singing hymns.

Kindergarten 2-12-14. Boundaries

Today I had a lot of students! M and D, (new students from last week), along with J, S, and V. S once again did not want to work with me. He said that he doesn’t like to read, and since there is almost always reading going on when I tutor, he doesn’t want to. His loss, but other student’s gain. It means more time with the ones who want to work.

We were working with reading easy books, sight words, and numbers today. Each student has a box with books and sight word cards that are at their level. I started with M, in part because he was first on my list but also in part because he was sitting at the edge of the classroom by the door. It seems that he had gotten a little rambunctious during class earlier so he was sent to sit in the doorway to cool down. This is not the first time that I’ve seen him there.

He read two books to me, but then admitted that he had them memorized. He was using the pictures as a clue to what was on the page. This isn’t reading. This is an adaptive technique. This is what you do if you can’t read and you want to make it look like you can. I totally get that. He’s faking it, and doesn’t know he shouldn’t be faking it. The more he relies on being able to memorize, the less he is going to be able to learn new things. When he memorizes he can only do things he has done before.

I got to work with D, the girl from last week who was out. She is a very shy Hispanic girl. She is quite far behind on reading at this point. I suspect I will work with her again.

I worked with J and this time I decided to be firm about actually working. In the past he has occasionally thrown the things we were working with on the floor and shoved them around the table. He is rather wild. I just don’t have time for wild and it isn’t a great behavior to encourage. So the first time he dropped a book on the floor I asked him not to do that. The second time he did was soon afterwards and I said “OK, we’re done” and started scooping up the materials. He got it. He understood I was serious. And he worked and didn’t goof off the rest of our time together.

I’ve not gotten any training on this. I have tutored college students with learning disabilities. Kindergarteners should be easy right? But I don’t have children, and I’ve never spent that much time around them. This experience is certainly on the job training.

Part of what I’m learning is how to tell when the child is legitimately bored or uninterested, and when they are just messing around. Sometimes they just want to play. Sometimes they want to distract me from working with them, which then means they want to play.

I get that. I like to play too. But this is kindergarten, not daycare. It is hard to tell sometimes. There is a bit of dovetailing between the two. The teacher makes work look like play a lot. But I still have to get them to work on the assignment or we are both wasting our time.

It reminds me of when I first started working at the library. I had to set boundaries and limits, otherwise it would all become a big mess right in front of me. When I am at the desk, I do one thing at a time.

I believe that multitasking is just Newspeak for screwing three things up at once. So I had to set limits with the patrons. I had to decide what I would accept and allow and what I wouldn’t. Generally what I won’t allow is someone cutting line unless there is a legitimate emergency. Wanting to have their DVDs checked in right away so they can get more is not an emergency. Also, if I’m getting someone a library card, I have them stay in front of me while they fill it out and I type. This prevents other patrons from interrupting. I think it is best. Otherwise I’ll end up with three patrons who all want cards at once.

I’ve seen how much of a train wreck things become when it isn’t done like this. You can’t please everybody at once, and the only way to do things well is to focus on the person in front of you.

But I don’t really know the rules with five year olds. I’ve tutored for three years and I figure it out a little bit more every week. Perhaps if I tutored every day I’d know how to do it better. But then I realize that each child is different. Each child has her own unique and special way of understanding the world. And while I’m trying to teach her how to read by learning these arbitrary squiggles that we use for letters, she is showing me inside her world.

It is pretty amazing.

I’m grateful for the time I get to work with them, and I’m further reminded that I don’t think I would have the patience to be a teacher or a mom. I can borrow them for few minutes once a week and I’m overwhelmed.

Church refugee. On circle, and communion.

I’ve met so many refugees from church recently. We are starting to find each other. We are all people who went to church for many years because we love Jesus. We left church because we weren’t finding him there.

So many of us feel hurt by church. We were made fun of or silenced. We were mocked for our gifts and talents. It seems that all we were wanted for was our money. We were expected to sit down and shut up and listen to the minister and pay our tithes and then go home and be equally passive. If we read the Bible for ourselves and asked questions we were discouraged. We knew in our hearts that this wasn’t right. We knew that God wanted more of us.

We tried to make it work in church. We volunteered for more activities. We were on committees. We were in several different groups. We were active. We were the first at the church and the last to leave on Sunday morning.

But it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough for us, and it wasn’t enough for God. We were trying to make it work.

So we left. Some of us left the churches we’d put a lot of time and money into. Some of us left the churches that we were raised in, that our families still go to.

Several of us have found each other in a circle gathering. We share time together, and we are honest and open. Each person gets to talk, and every person listens. This is so different from church as we know it.

But for me, there is one thing missing. We don’t invite Jesus into it.

This isn’t an interfaith gathering. We are refugees from church, remember? We are people who left church because we couldn’t find Jesus there. While many of us think that Buddha and Rumi are enlightened beings and we like to share their quotes, we are still afraid in these gatherings to invite Jesus into it.

Why is this? Have we thrown out the baby with the bathwater? Are we afraid to bring Jesus into our circle because we associate Jesus with the people we left? If people are hateful, they don’t have Jesus. If there is love, then Jesus is there. If there was love at our last church, we would have stayed.

We left because we felt undervalued, underappreciated. We left because we were silenced. We left because we knew that the car that is church was going off the road and to stay in it would have meant we were going to go off the cliff with it. We left because we’d rather walk towards what is right than go quickly towards what isn’t.

So while we are reevaluating what church is, what community is, we aren’t taking the Guide along with us. We aren’t inviting Jesus into our circle, into our hearts.

I’m considering hosting my own circle, and I want to have communion. From all I’ve read of the words of Jesus and from my personal prayer time I’ve realized that you don’t have to be ordained to do this. That is yet another method of controlling people. Jesus didn’t create the institution of priests. Jesus did away with all of that and gave the power to everybody, with no distinctions. Jesus made us all equal.

I’m learning more and more about Judaism, and it is amazing how diluted the Christian communion service is. It is simply a Sabbath meal at the dinner table. It has been boiled down to the bread and the wine. There are two candlesticks as well. The chalice and the paten are the Kiddush cup and the saucer. It is like Christians are playing house. The congregation doesn’t know about the Jewish roots of this ritual.

I’m thinking about making it as inclusive as possible – having kosher grape juice and gluten-free matzo. While I’d love to serve actual wine, it isn’t fair to exclude those people who are in recovery. While I’d love to serve challah, the bread that is served at the Sabbath meal, it isn’t fair to those who are gluten intolerant. And while some churches will have a separate line for those people who are gluten intolerant, and tell those in recovery to let the cup pass them by – that isn’t fair. We all need to share the same bread and wine. When you exclude someone, you are saying they aren’t the same. When someone has to exclude themselves for health reasons, they are making themselves stick out. If the elements of the meal are safe for everybody, then everybody is welcome and everybody is equal.

And that is really important.