Oh, hello. Long time? Well, I was working on a play for a few weeks. And then I went and gave myself food poisoning. (If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.) I think I am okay though. How are you?
Let us talk about church practices, shall we? As a group of Christians, we come together in a weekly meeting, follow a subscribed order to how we think things should be done, and leave content that we have worshiped God and congregated with those we care about. Fine by me.
Naturally, there are going to be a few things that one of us wants to do a little differently. When I attended a second church for a while, they were very big on communion. The pastor said once, “If we skip everything else in the service, we will at least do communion.” He thought it was the most important part of meeting.
Now, I have never felt called to communion in that fashion. (Quakers tend to observe moments of silence and let God’s presence be felt in the quiet, not in the wine and bread.) If it feels like a ritual or something that works for others but not me, then I do not partake. There is a church nearby that would not approve of me because I have never been baptized. I feel that I am covered just fine without that rite. If you do not believe in it, then you just got water splashed around.
One of the aspects of my church that I appreciate is that we are allowed to do things how they suit us. God created us all as individuals, so it should be no surprise that we experience God in unique ways. My life will respond to interactions with God differently than someone else. So we should not shoehorn every person’s needs into a one-size-fits-all approach.
A current example of this would be buttons. My pastor felt lead to create hundreds and hundreds of buttons. They are not fancy. (That would be anti-Quaker! Shame!) Black text on a light-yellow background; they bear two words. Fear not. Simple.
She fills up baskets in the foyer with buttons and people keep taking them. Thanks to church networks and the internet, she has received requests from around the country for buttons. She merrily makes them for people and sends the buttons out in the world to remind people that we do not need to live in fear. God is greater than fear, fear is no way to live, and we just might make it in this crazy world.
Personally, I do not feel like I need the button. I took one, sure, just in case the urge struck me later. I did not want to be rude. Honestly though, I do not think that the button is for me.
For one thing, I like to travel light. I might have some food, a book, and wear no more than a jacket. Light and lean; that is my style. No phones, no extra keys, no cash. So wearing a bunch of buttons runs contrary to my preference. (I already have two buttons on my jacket, and even those cause me irritation at times. Plus, the more buttons you wear, the less they mean.) Practical simplicity is on my side for the button argument.
Also, the message does not resonate with me. “Fear not.” Right away, the fear gets first billing. “Be ye not afraid” runs a little long.
I think that I do a reasonable job of not letting fear win. I work the jobs that I like, not the ones that guarantee financial stability. I walk around sketchy streets in the dark and do not stare away from questionable individuals. I drive to far away parks when my car makes weird noises. Do I feel concern at these elements? Sure; but that does not stop me from living the life that I want.
Uttering, “Fear not” does nothing for me. I am glad that the angels said it in the Christmas story, but I get my most powerful inspiration from a comic book. I know it sounds weird. Still, I think that God can speak through a comic book just as well as The Bible.
“All will be well.” That is my go-to phrase. It is the catchphrase of the Blue Lanterns. (You’ve heard of Green Lantern, yes? Well Green Lantern is powered by will. Blue Lantern is powered by hope.) Saint Walker was a preacher on his home planet, but the world was coming to an end. So he gathered his family and went up a mountain where he believed his salvation lay. Along the way he lost his father, then his children, then his wife, and then his last child. But he still had hope. He still believed that things would be okay. He still proclaims, “All will be well.”
(Side note: One of the things that outraged me when Geoff Johns, the creator, left the title, the new writers decided to “test” the Blue Lantern and strip him of hope. Gah. Drove me nuts. Saint Walker is back to being hopeful, but it is not the same.)
I think “All will be well” is more encompassing. I think rooting for hope is much stronger than rallying against fear. When I wake up in the morning, I can say “All will be well” and feel that the day that has not even begun will turn out better than I could imagine. I can puke my guts out because of my poor dietary choices and know that it has to stop eventually. And yes, I can also confront my fears about a situation and push them aside.
Hope trumps the absence of fear. If you ask me to befriend a hopeful person, or a brave one, I will probably pick the hopeful one. There is more inspiration in that to me. And I take inspiration from a comic book. I like that. It personalizes it; codifies it as something that is mine. (Even though others feel the same way about the character.)
I have nothing against the church’s buttons. I am sure if I asked, the pastor would make me my own special one. (Please don’t. I’m content.) I simply have an aspect of following God that I am doing differently than those around me. And I think it works perfectly fine.