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  • ivanildotrindade 6:28 pm on May 27, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Christian, , church challenges, , , Holy Land, reconnecting to church, Religion and Spirituality   

    No Easy Trip to Church 

    Walking through the hallways of the church this morning reminded me of how difficult it is for a person who is attending a church for the first time. I met a couple with three children, one of which was on a wheel chair and severely handicapped. They didn’t know where the services were. Since they had kids in different age groups, they had to go to different rooms where their classes were.

    The girl on the wheel chair was too old for the nursery, but they asked to leave her there. “She will just sit that and play with the toys. She may roll on the carpet but she will be okay.” The volunteers at the nursery didn’t know what to do, but they reluctantly agreed. The girl was fine, but since she made loud noises, they had to separate her from the other kids. We have a class for children with severe handicaps called “Special Friends,” but they don’t meet until 9:45. The girl came back for the special class, but this time it was the other kid in the class, much older than her, who was making too much noise and scared her!

    The couple had looked online and were interested in a class that was going through a DVD series on the Holy Land. I took them to the right room (our campus is huge and not well marked!). I dropped them there and left, but as soon as I left, I knew something was not quite right. I came back and they were still standing there — the class was for people a lot older than them. They were reluctant to join in. They suggested another class but I knew that one would not be a good fit for them either. I told them about a class that was their age group but they met during second hour at 9:45. So they decided to go to the service and then come to the class afterwards. But they wanted to go to a contemporary service and at 8:30 we only have a traditional service.

    In the end, they did go to the traditional service and later attended the class I had recommended, but I felt bad that everything was so complicated. When I found them at the end of the class, the lady said, “Sorry we were so difficult,” and I said, “No, sorry we weren’t ready for you.”

    That experience reminded me that coming to church can be a hair-raising experience. This was a couple that was motivated — they did their research online, they came in early, they were asking the right questions. Still, it was not an easy experience for them. Now, granted, not everyone will have a child with severe handicaps, but whether it is a child or not, every one who comes to a church for the first time or is re-connecting to church after a long time, is dealing with unique challenges: What should I wear? How can I walk in and out of there without being bothered by anyone? What if they put me on the spot and ask me to stand up? Will they ask me to give money? What if I run into my ex there?

    The questions are interminable but we dare not minimize them. In this case, I think those two were Christians; what about people who don’t even claim to believe anything? The fact that someone even makes the decision to come to church is incredible by itself. We have no control over that. But the moment they drive into our parking lots, we should be in control, and we should strive to make sure that they have the best experience ever.

    I was glad when that couple told me they would be back next week.

    Ivanildo C. Trindade

    • Julie 8:30 pm on May 27, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      You treated them beautifully. What an excellent example and reminder of how to treat people. I think you hit the nail on the head in expressing the complication that going to church can be. All the anxiety and nervousness. All the unknowingness and wondering if one will be appropriate and accepted or embarrass oneself. I think that when we visit a local church, we’re often looking for a place to belong and be loved. Today is Mother’s Day in Bolivia. A particularly rough day for me. Two things in particular stood out for me after church. I got an amazing hug from Robert, the Canadian, and Yoshi spontaneously took me to lunch and we talked for hours. I think that even when church is tough, God often provides gentle surprises to pull us up and out. It sounds like you were one of those surprises for your new guests.

      • ivanildotrindade 9:21 pm on May 27, 2012 Permalink | Reply

        i think it is imperative that people who r “veterans” in church things should try 2 get into the shoes of those who r on the outside. after a while, i am afraid, most christians only know other christians. they have no clue what the life of a non-christian looks like. they would join the ranks of those who complained that Jesus of being friends with tax collectors and “sinners.” Jesus was accused of being a glutton and a lover of wine. how many of us would have a chance of being even falsely accused of that? i am always fascinated that those who were considered “the least of the least” flocked to Jesus like you run to a magnet. they couldn’t have enough of him. many people who go to church regular only scare and humiliate the poor today. and that is a tragedy, but that is another subject. we all have so much 2 learn. i know i do.

  • ivanildotrindade 9:14 pm on May 14, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: afraid of church, , , , , Religion and Spirituality   

    Back To Church… After 1.5 Years — Part 1 

    I want to introduce to you Julie, my blogger friend. Julie blogs here. If you want to know more about nutrition, healthy choices, natural lifestyles, fitness, etc., you will need to read her blog. I have appreciated Julie’s comments on my posts over several weeks and have enjoyed her challenges to maintain a healthy lifestyle even in the midst of our busy lives. We’ve maintained a cordial back-and-forth in this sort of meta-virtual-word-fueled world, which may sound ethereal, but in this case has actually been a very enriching experience.

    When Julie told me she was returning to church after 1.5 years, I was totally intrigued. I am always captivated by people’s experiences in churches — I want to know why they first came, why they stopped coming, what made them come back, etc., etc.

    And this is not merely an intellectual exercise. Years ago, when I lived on the West Coast, a friend told me that she asked one of her friends, who was from a country south of us, to attend her church, which also happened to be my church at the time. The guy came and she asked for some feedback. Judging from what he wrote on the bottom of the church bulletin, it would be safe to say that he didn’t feel exactly welcome. He scribbled, “Your church gives me the creeps.” Enough said.

    Julie posted a comment about a famous quote attributed to Gandhi, which unfortunately has not been found in any of his writings, but was supposedly heard by Gandhi’s grandson. I responded, “Jay talks about that Gandhi quote in his book Go and Do. He says he used to see it as a call to action, to go change the world, but now he sees it more of a call not to wait around for others to change before I change myself. ‘I interpret it as an admonition to transform myself,’ which is, I think, the way you are seeing it.”

    I went on to talk about Julie’s church visit. I asked her to write down her thoughts and I would post them here on my blog. Graciously, she agreed to do it (thanks, Julie!) and in keeping with my promise, today I am posting the first part of her journey:

    “OK, bud, you asked for it. So exciting that you are actually interested, that you have all these questions. With most everyone, I believe, I’m like a kook for being so crazy about God and taking the church seriously. 

    But first, Gandhi commentary. Really cool that you expressed different ways of understanding ‘be the change that you want to see in the world.’ I just asked my project manager what he thought about it and he responded with another quote from Gandhi that I have never heard. It went something like, ‘Live today as though it were your last, but as though you had 1,000 more years.’ 

    I’m still trying to digest it. Oh… so how I get the ‘be the change’ quote: If I have great visions in the world, if I am gifted with seeing problems and solutions and having the heart and courage to change, then I must learn to live from the ground up. I can’t expand into the world until God gives the go-ahead. I can’t fully promote love until I am filled with love. I can’t promote the fullness of God until I am filled with the Holy Spirit. I can’t be a firm, reliable warrior until I am fully a disciple. 

    Basically, if I want to see love and nonviolence in the world, I need to get it and live it from the core of my being.  It needs to radiate out from the core of my existence. I need to be cleansed of my misdirected ambitions and manipulations first. If I want to see changes in the world, I need to drop all my weapons and let God mold me as He sees fit. Wordy and scattered, but it’s my best for the moment. ‘An admonition to transform myself’ was a much more succinct way of putting it. I also agree with Jay’s more recent understanding. 

    Now… my experience in church yesterday…” 

    For that, you will have to come back tomorrow and I guarantee you: it will be nothing like you are expecting it to be and it will make you wonder whether you have ever been to church yourself!

    Ivanildo C. Trindade

    • Julie 8:38 am on May 16, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      What a joy you are, Ivanildo. Thank you for sharing these thoughts and thank you for having so quickly grown into one of my rocks… preceded by having been the first stepping stone in my path back to church. I just love it how God surprises when I unclinch my fists a bit and let Him do His thing. Looking forward to reading what I have to say next (hee hee).

      • ivanildotrindade 2:12 pm on May 16, 2012 Permalink | Reply

        thanks julie. soli deo gloria. humbled by your comment. i love the metaphors u use… “unclinching my fist.” there is so much freedom in that act. i had a chance encounter with a powerful pastor in a restroom once. he was trying so hard to hold on to his position and power. i asked him how he was doing. perhaps in an unguarded moment, he said, “i don’t know, it is so hard to control.” there was sadness in his voice. i didn’t say anything, out of respect for his age and position, but i thought about saying, “have u thought about releasing control?” an unclinched fist is so much better for the body, the acting of opening both hands in a generous offer, though internally more difficult, externally is so much effortless. i guess God is looking 4 people whose hands grew tired of holding and are now ready to be loosened up for whatever may come. may my hands be the first in line…

    • Julie 9:04 am on May 26, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Am finding fist unclenching, i.e. letting go, to be an integral part of my daily “exercise” routine. Kinda like the Navy Seals of developing maturity.

      • ivanildotrindade 12:44 pm on May 26, 2012 Permalink | Reply

        “navy seals of spiritual maturity,” deep. i love that, but not ready 4 a tough mission yet… we keep our eyes on the author and finisher of our faith. people will disappoint us, circumstances will disappoint us. God won’t. thanks 4 sharing, julie. u’ve been a great encouragement.

    • Julie 3:32 pm on May 26, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Life is a tough mission. And you too. Truly.

      • ivanildotrindade 5:05 pm on May 27, 2012 Permalink | Reply

        yes. life is tough but at least i don’t have 2 do it on my own. living is a community project.

  • ivanildotrindade 10:30 pm on February 14, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: decency, principals to live by, Religion, Religion and Spirituality, , , universal religion   

    My 13 irreducible minimums of decency 

    The story is told of a young French soldier who was intent on starting his own religion. Day after day he would spend hours evangelizing the other soldiers, extolling the virtues of his ideas for a revolutionary brand of religion which would be universally acceptable to everyone. Trouble is, in spite of his efforts, he never made one convert.

    Dejected, he went to his captain and complained that while he worked tirelessly, the priest in his unit seemed to spend all his time enjoying cigarettes and sipping wine with the troops; meanwhile, his chapel was overflowing with converts. Desperate, he asked the captain, “Tell me, Sir. What also should I do to win followers?” The captain simply looked at him and said, “Try dying and coming back to life after three days!”

    Moral of the story: it is hard to compete with the J. C. himself. I ain’t trying, but I have my own set of principal rules I try to live by. I call them my “irreducible minimums of decency” or I.M.D’s (not to be confused with W.M.D’s!). There will be no altar call at the end nor will I pass the bucket for an offering. Just tell me what you think of these ideas and feel free to add your own. I happen to believe that even those on the far edge of the religious spectrum might find some points of convergences here. Of course, this is not an exhaustive list, but it is a good start. So here they are:

    1. If there is a vulnerable child involved, be willing to be taken advantage of, if you can be reasonably sure that your help is going to benefit that child in some way;

    2. If you are going to accuse someone of stealing or committing an act that breaches the laws of country or civility, you better be 100% sure. 99.9% won’t do;

    3. If you are going to praise someone, write it down; if you are going to criticize or reprimand, speak face-to-face;

    4. If someone calls you “stupid,” say “thank you for the information,” and walk away;

    5. Never loan money to a family member. Either donate it or don’t do it at all;

    6. Live today as if this were the last day of your life;

    7. When in doubt, always defend those who have no voice against the powerful and learned;

    8. Greet janitors at airports and other public places. Smile and thank them for the nice job they are doing;

    9. Never underestimate your tendency to act contrary to decency;

    10. Your wife is always smarter than you think;

    11. If all your other answers fail, go to church;

    12. At least once in your lifetime, find a person who is perceived as the least desirable company in your community and make him/her feel like the king/queen of the world;

    13. If you were the only person in the world who is FOR you, you could never say that THE WORLD is against you.

    Ivanildo C. Trindade

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