It's definitely been awhile.  So, brace yourself for a post of some length.  Sorry.  I'll try somewhat to restrain myself.  I'll start with bullet points.

  • Go visit my friend John Mark's site.  His post is all about me, and I'm awesome (please hear the sarcasm).  He's not bad himself and has cute kids and a cool wife.
  • Our Jack o' Lantern from the previous post won second place in a contest.  $50 gift certificate, here I come!
  • Saw Shopgirl and loved it.  Check out Hannah's and Nate's reviews.
  • Started reading The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard.  I've never read Willard, but a lot of the guys I do read have read Willard.  For some reason I pictured him with a fluffy beard and frizzy 'fro and a twinkle in his eye with a sly grin.  I was not prepared for the book jacket.  He looks like a Southern Baptist preacher.  Book is great though, but not one you fly through.
  • Student loans are the bane of my existence.
  • So is the youth camp set design.
  • Liza's having an open house this weekend and some of her family is coming to visit.  So, if you're doing something on Saturday and would like some company, let me know.
  • St. Rob needed a book reference for Wishful Thinking.  I couldn't find Ronnie's copy so I went to purchase one because I wanted one for myself.  I discovered that it was first in a trilogy.  So, I bought the second one entitled Whistling in the Dark: a Doubter's Dictionary.  You know what that means?

I heard those moans and groans.  And I understand.  I would like to assure you that I have learned from my previous Buechner posts (see Aug. 22 & 26) and will simply present them here one at a time.  this will work much better because they are longer than in Wishful Thinking.  Also, I have heard it remarked that some people weren't sure they agreed with all of his quotes I put on here previously and if I agreed with them as well.  Let me say that he and I don't always agree, but I do like the way he says things and appreciate what he has to say as well.  If nothing else they are though provoking.  So after I share a quote I will then share my own thoughts.

Now, without further ado, the first quote:

Alcoholics Anonymous
    ... A.A. is the name of a group of men and women who acknowledge that addiction to alcohol is ruining their lives.  Their purpose in coming together is to give it up and help others do the same.  They realize they can't pull this off by themselves.  They believe they need each other, and they believe they need God.  The ones who aren't so sure about God speak instead of their Higher Power.
    When they first start talking at a meeting, they introduce themselves by saying, "I am John.  I am an alcoholic," "I am Mary.  I am an alcoholic, " to which the rest of the group answers each time in unison, "Hi, John, " "Hi, Mary."  They are apt to end with the Lord's Prayer or the Serenity Prayer.  Apart from that they have no ritual.  They have no hierarchy.  They have no dues or budget.  They do not advertise or proselytize.  Having no buildings of their own, they meet wherever they can.
    Nobody lectures them, and they do not lecture each other.  They simply tell their own stories with the candor that anonymity makes possible.  They tell where they went wrong and how day by day they are trying to go right.  They tell where they find the strength and understanding and hope to keep trying.  Sometimes one of them will take special responsibility for another...  There's not much more to it than that, and it seems to be enough.  Healing happens.  Miracles are made.
    You can't help thinking that something like this is what the Church is mean to be and maybe once was before it got to be Big Business.  Sinners Anonymous.  "I can will what is right but I cannot do it, "is the way Saint Paul put it, speaking for all of us.  "For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do" (Romans 7:19).
    "I am me.  I am a sinner."
    "Hi, you."
    ...  No matter what far place alcoholics end up in... they know that there will be an A.A. meeting nearby to go to and that at that meeting they will find strangers who are not strangers to help and to heal, to listen to the truth and to tell it.  That is what the Body of Christ is all about.
    Would it ever occur to Christians in a far place to turn to a Church nearby in hope of finding the same?  Would they find it?  If not, you wonder what is so Big about the Church's Business.

I feel like I have beat up on churches a little bit, so I will refrain from doing so here.  Instead, I'd like to comment a bit on A.A.

I've been fascinated with A.A. for a number of reasons.  There are twelve steps in the program.  You can look them all up online for yourself.  However, there are three that have always troubled me.  They are as follows:

8.      Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9.      Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10.    Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

Why are these troubling to me?  Simple.  I don't know if I can do them.  I've tried before and am not very successful.  Blame it on pride or guilt or shame or anxiety or fear or whatever.  I can't always seem to get those things out.  I want to.  I have a long list.  And I'm learning more and more that I need to.  It's important.

I'm sorry for not showing Erin Sterling the doorway of Christ and instead making him a barrier by telling her that if she didn't stick to my view of Christianity then she was going to hell.  I'm sorry for ditching Josh Miller and Randy Rossie and Susan Rigby and Anne and Erica and Chuck and Aubre and everybody else just because I couldn't reconcile being friends with those who didn't live like I thought they should.  I'm sorry for betraying Stephanie Easley the minute Melissa Parker said she wanted to go to prom with me.  I'm sorry for not being a good roommate to Wes Tankersley and Kyle Thompson.  I'm sorry for not working harder in school.  I'm sorry not talking more about Jesus.  I'm sorry to every girl I've ever dated or even gone out with because none of them went very well.  But I'm sorry especially to Ami, Joy and  Monika for all the manipulation and disrespect.  I'm sorry for not listening to Craig.  I'm sorry for being stubborn and depressed and moody all the time.  I'm sorry for fighting with my parents.  I'm sorry for not appreciating those true friends I have.  I'm sorry I'm not as good as I want to be or as talented as I want to be or as successful as I want to be or as honest as I want to be or as open as I want to be.

This doesn't complete those steps, but at least it is a step in and of itself.

I am Chris.  I am a sinner.

Books, Church, xangaChris Kinsley