Monday, October 26, 2009


This weekend, a group from my church (Urban Light) and our partner church (Deliverance Temple, a.k.a. the DT) went to the CCDA (Christian Community Development Association) conference in Cincinnati. (How's that for parentheticals in the first sentence?) I will admit that we all had been seeming a bit weary in doing good before we left. As for myself, I was down to either giving up on doing the good thing or, if I did it, all about making sure everyone knew I had done it and knew that it was not convenient for me. Sick.

I remember, as a weary teenager, going to Christian camps and the like and feeling like, when I came home, there was no way to communicate what had gone on while I was there. I wanted everyone to be as pumped up as I was. I was always disappointed and decided that adults either just didn't get it or that "mountain top" experiences, as Christians tend to call them, were something everyone expects you'll grow out of. At the first mass meeting of the conference, I kept thinking, "Why is it that all these adults are trying to do that thing that I did as a teenager? I think I may be too old for this. Except I was among the younger people there. This weekend let me know that this sort of experience is not something to grow out of, but something to mature into. When I see a bunch of people in a room, just itchin' for God to show up, I become cynical. I don't usually expect to see God, but perhaps that's because I so rarely really go trying to see Him.

The founder of CCDA is a man named Dr. John Perkins (pictured here). He is a 79 year old man from Mississippi who says things such as "she have" instead of "she has." When he talks, he has as his main points things like, "Love Jesus," and, "Love your neighbor, " and, "Read your Bible," and, "Listen to God," and, "Obey God." I have heard him speak several times in my life. The first time, I could barely get much past his horrible grammar. In later times, I listened and thought, "He is a simple-minded man. It is really sweet for Him to tell me all these things I already know." Later still, I thought, "Wow. This man has an amazing story to share and has done some great things. I have respect for that man." This time, though, I thought, "Love Jesus and my neighbor? Read my Bible? Listen to God? Obey Him? REVOLUTIONARY! I don't think I can even do it!" Hearing him talk, I felt God giving me the gift of being humble for awhile. I found myself wanting to sit and listen to these reminders all day long. I felt profoundly thankful for being told to love Jesus and to read my Bible and to do what it says. There was nothing intellectual about his talk. He had no new ideas. He offered no pats on the back for asking profound questions or looking for new insight into what the Bible really says. Instead, he said that the truth is we often ask questions looking for a way not to obey what we can tell very well what the Bible says. In the past, being the philosophy major that I am, I bristled at such talk. How dare anyone tell me not to use my intellect! However, now I find that I don't even care to try to understand any more about God. I have way too much to do trying to live according to what I understand of Him already.

He presented what has become almost a new idea to me: I am a sinner who needs to confess my sin and be forgiven of it. Ugh. Really? Me? I can be so judgmental of everyone else. I am SO GOOD at finding what is wrong with things and people. I am SO GOOD at finding what is right about myself. So good that I had almost convinced myself that there wasn't anything wrong with me. I was right not to care about the mom who doesn't dress her child properly or spend time with her, but spends her time and money to sit around and smoke weed (or whatever). I was right that I need not waste my time on her. In fact, it was wise for me to not waste time like that. I could just clothe the kid and that was enough. Right? ...Right? Alright, well, I'll just take her a cookie. That'll cover over my bad attitude, if I ever had one in the first place. My attitude was probably just righteous anger anyway.

But Dr. Perkins said that we can't just bury our sins or do something to kind of make it better. Like how his wife makes him a good meal when really she just needs to confess. And why is confession such a big deal, anyway? He said, "It's really just us telling the other person what they already know." I laughed knowingly about that. It's so easy for me to see when Pat just needs to apologize. "Hey, sorry for being such a jerk." Well, I already knew he had been a jerk. Him saying so actually made it easier to just move on. Why is it I think I should take the long way around, inch my inch convincing myself and others that I am never a jerk and that, if you think about it, I really am in the right?

Confession: telling someone else what they already know is the case. (And if they didn't already know about that bad attitude, they certainly aren't going to be mad about it after you confess and ask them to forgive you for it.) Kind of takes all that scare right out of it.

And then he did an altar call. I hate altar calls. So superficial. So something I did as a kid. So something people do just because they get emotional or something. So something that wears off after a few days. So something I really needed to do. I went up. I cried a little. I really felt sorry for my pride. I asked for words that speak life to other people instead of words that make me better than them. I admitted that I can't even talk right on my own. I asked for pity. I was made right with God...not because I had been able to explain to Him why I was right, but because I told Him what He already knew about why I was wrong. Why I am wrong. Why I will keep being wrong unless He changes me.

I am a sinner in need of a savior. So there.

There. Let's not move past that point for a bit. I have so much more to process about this weekend, but let's stop there for now. Let's revisit it over and over so we don't forget it. Remind me of it. Remind me like a simple-minded person. We will laugh and cry together about our foolishness. We'll cry because we are to be pitied. We will laugh because being called out on these matters lets us know we are known. Like I know when Pat is coming because of that annoying way he scoots his feet. God knows when I'm coming because of that annoying way I come explaining things to Him. "Lezlie, you're doing that again." "Oh, I almost didn't notice. Thanks. Sorry. Tell me if I do it again."Ad infinitum.