Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Grief Observed

by Alissa Graham

Maybe the icicles on my eyes
from the arctic wind that makes me cry
Will plummet into my heart
And break the walls, the chains, apart

If my house was one built of cards
the sooner knocked down the better
and only suffering can do it,
the wrecking ball swings with ease

Grief is like a long valley
A winding road revealing new landscapes.

Maybe loneliness will be invaded
By the joy that’s been on hiatus
Oh lord, I can only pray.

"A corpse, a memory, a ghost.
All mockeries and horrors," CS Lewis said
these three words are simply
three more ways of spelling the word

(excerpts taken from A Grief Observed by CS Lewis)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Book Review: Churched

I chose the book Churched, by Matthew Paul Turner, because it describes me too. Having also gone to church my whole life and on top of that, Christian school, I wondered if I would be able to relate to "one kid's journey toward God despite a holy mess,"  (as the subtitle reads.) 

Turner grew up in Fundamental Baptist culture in Maryland. This means, according to the book, that from the time he was young he was terrified of hell, having long hair, and sinners. I was expecting a pretty funny book, but I think that this book, as one reviewer says, "uses humor to keep people from crying."

Turner's misshapen view of God and the church can largely be accredited to his upbringing. On that note, I think this book offers us two important lessons.

The first has to do with parenting. It is important to understand that a parent needs to be careful about the theology they put in front of their children, as well as what is actually emphasized through actions. Turner describes being terrified at "asking Jesus to come into (his) heart." His parents and his church also emphasized perfection, in strange, unbiblical ways. At one point his father took him to a barber shop because "Jesus hated little boys with long hair." Through the whole book, we see the parents making their children follow rules with no explanation, in order for them to be "better little baptist boys and girls." We see Turner as a terrified and confused child, afraid of not meeting expectations and confused about Jesus. As parents, (not that I am one), but are we emphasizing following Christ and loving others out of his love for us? Or are we emphasizing some sort of works based "salvation."

The second lesson is applicable to how we handle our churches. He speaks of the church he grew up in: "Most people thought that Pastor Nolan was perfect..(as if) God had made him without flaws." And that confessing sin was unheard of. Turner says that at one point as a young adult living in a Christian community, "(he) was led to wonder if he was just living a Stepford-type reality." And that grace was simply a foot note in all of the sermons he had ever heard. As Christians living in community, it is easy to want to hide our sin and judge others for theirs.  But one of the glorious things about God is that he has forgiven us, and that is we accept that Jesus took the punishment we are due, nothing will separate us from God. There is no condemnation for those that know Christ. And the Bible calls us to confess our sin to one another, as that is what the church is- a bunch sinners thankful to a mighty God- nothing more. 

At the end of the book, I am sad for Turner. He has been burned by the church, and while he still calls himself a Christian- I feel his pain and lack of trust have caused him to not look much deeper into what he believes, still basing his view of  God on a shallow understanding based on what makes him comfortable. From his writing, I cannot detect any hint of theological study into who God is and what the purpose of church is. There is no happy ending, just a man who is tormented by his legalistic upbringing. Instead of swinging to middle ground, has simply swung to the opposite bank.

I am also thankful that my "churched" upbringing was far from his. I was taught both the depravity of myself AND the richness of the gospel. 

Do I recommend this book? Only if you desire a sad tale of Christianity poorly understood and lived out.

 “I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review”.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Churches in Greater Providence

Using Google Analytics, I have seen activity on my blog from people searching for churches in Providence, and near Johnson & Wales specifically. So I figured I would compile a (non)exhaustive list, so that in the future, if someone were searching this out and they somehow arrive at my blog, there will be something helpful to offer!

Grace Harbor Community Church
Pastor Kevin McKay
Currently Meeting at the Courtyard Marriott, check website for details
Providence, RI
Trinity Presbyterian
Pastor: David Sherwood
72 Clifford St.
Providence, RI 02903
DownCity Church
Pastor: Ted Strickland
68 Kennedy Plaza
Providence, RI 02903
The Sacred Journey
Pastor: Todd Murphy
91 Fricker Street
Providence, RI 02903

These are churches that I find to be gospel centered, bible loving, caring congregations. Now I say this is not exhaustive because these only make up churches that I have attended or where I know the pastor. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.

*These websites have great "church search" reference guides by city and zipcode:

*This is a great book about what makes a church a "healthy" church:
What is a Healthy Church by Mark Dever

Hope you find a great church!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Russia Once Again!

Dear Friend,

I am preparing to go to Russia once again! 

When: February 25th through March 6th, 2011 

Where: Moscow and Zavolzhye Russia

With Who: a team of 6 others from Grace Harbor Community Church  and fellow JWU students.
What: We will be helping Christ Our Savior Church in Zavolzhy'e, Russia with their youth outreach by speaking in high school classes about American life and culture. These presentations are the platform by which we will build relationships with students wherein we can invite them to church and share the gospel. We will also be spending some days supporting a missionary family in Moscow, as we learn about their ministry and how to partner with them in the future.

Why Russia: Statistics on the country paint a bleak picture of a nation that is without hope. Less than 3% of the population claims to believe in the gospel of the Bible. Russia’s population drops by nearly 500,000 each year and there are more abortions every year than live births. The alcoholism rates in Russia are among the highest in the world and drug abuse and AIDS run rampant among the youth there. The only hope for Russia is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and I am excited to witness firsthand how God will move.

What you can do: We will be meeting the spiritual needs of many people while serving and more than anything, prayer would be most beneficial support you can offer. God does answer prayers.

 I am asking that you pray for:
  • safety
  • travel
  • financial support for other team members
  • that we will have servants hearts
  • that God will soften the hearts of those we meet
  • that our service will be a blessing and encouragement 
               The trip cost is $1,800. Johnson & Wales (my SECULAR university) has appropriated a good chunk of money per student, and the other portion was from an anonymous scholarship credited to my student account. God has worked miracles to provide the whole thing, completely and unexpectedly.

Thank you so much for your time and prayers. I am so thankful for the body of Christ and am truly blessed beyond measure knowing that there are so many of you which I can truly call brother and sister because of Christ’s unimaginable love demonstrated for us on the cross. I pray that each one of you would be awestruck by the work of Calvary, and heartbroken for those without Christ. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Hey, Im Alissa

Remember when I took this picture in Russia? Man, good times, and good news I'm going to share pretty soon.

Otherwise, I've just become an author. Here is the Amazon link to my book.

God is soo good. He is truly my father, my comforter, my provider.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Snowy Rhodey

Wednesday we had a very snowy day, and we've been enjoying the crazy times since.  (at least I have been)
 the first hours of the blizzard
 Waiting for the bus on Smith hill. Look at these "sidewalks." They have disappeared. 
Rescuing snowmen down at India Point Park

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Caring as a Calling

I really like this article:  Caring as a Calling by Monica J. Maxon. Here is a small clip of it:

An odd by-product of my loss is that I’m aware of being an embarrassment to everyone I meet. . . .To some I’m worse than an embarrassment. I am a death’s head. [C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed (Seabury, 1961) Pp. 10, 11]
The act of condolence is a difficult task for most of us. We don’t know what to say -- we might even say something stupid -- and are afraid the distraught one might cry, break down completely; too much time has elapsed, and we’d feel silly, out of place, saying something now; maybe if we can just be extra nice . . . but really, she looks like she wants to be left alone. Or the ultimate excuse: It’s the clergy’s [other roles may be substituted] duty to comfort and care, not mine.

It's about grief, condoling, and showing care- how not to make people dealing with sadness feel like isolated outcasts.  

Im thankful for those around me who have acknowledged whats happened, even in a small way, and have cared, even in a small way. This article is good. Read it definitely.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Dear Dad

I was cleaning my room this afternoon and stumbled upon a half written letter to my dad that I had started when I was in Russia. My heart was hoping I had left it in Russia and wouldn't have to deal with it, but alas, it made it into the pile of papers on my desk. I would give anything to go back, make myself finish it and send it to him. Who knows what would have happened, but then again, thats not what happened.

Hey Dad,
  Its Alissa. You might not have a lot of time or interest to continue reading, but I hope you do.
  I am writing to you from Zavolzhye, Russia, a small town about 6 hours north east of Moscow. I have been here for about two weeks, and already I have come to learn many things.
   In a small town where alcohol is very prevelent in family  issues, I just want to thank you for being an example for me and Kailey in the fact of not often drinking, and raising us to stay away from drunkenness. I also want to thank you for allowing us to attend private Christian school. The difference it has made in my life is incredible. Teachers who cared and honestly put my best interests in front.
  Growing up in this way has certainly brought me to where I am now- sharing the Gospel of God's love and forgiveness in an area of people who have never heard of such things.
   I am not going to pretend that everything is ok between us, because it's not. I feel hurt and sad at everything that has happened in the past year/few years, as well as the fact that we have never been emotionally or spiritually close. Im afraid that it might have to do with my own prideful mindset, and I truly want to apologize.
   You are my dad, and I am your daughter, and I love you, and I hope you love me. It would mean  the world to me if we could work past whatever is between us and be back on decent terms.

And thats where it ends.

Ephesians 4:26-27 says this:
“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold."

One day of hurt feelings can easily turn into two, and that turns into two years. Before you know it, your dad is dead, and its too late to make things right. 

There are a lot of reasons that I could be upset with how my dad blew up our relationship and caused a lot of hurt to a lot of people. But I have no excuse when looking at the pride I let linger in my heart, the pride that said, "Well, you deserve to be hurt. Let him figure it out if he wants to make things right." What crap. What lies. 

I challenge, encourage, and implore you strongly, every single one of you, to go and fight for your families. There is absolutely no reason that you should not do whatever you can in your power to restore broken relationships- mother daughter, sister brother, father son, uncle niece, cousin cousin, etc.   You cannot force someone to accept this battle, but you can surely show them the love of Christ. Love that does hard things and battles sin. Then you pray, hard. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

CSI: Buffalo

Lord, you consoled Martha and Mary in their distress; draw near to those who mourn for my dad, and dry the tears of those who weep. You wept at the grave of Lazarus, your friend; comfort us in our sorrow. Comfort us in our sorrows at the death of our brother; let our faith be our consolation, and eternal life our hope.
Hear us, Lord.

Here I am. Still in Buffalo.
Yesterday I went for a visit with my sister and mom to my grandparents house, and that's when we got the horrible phone call from the police that they had found my dad. My family just shut down and panicked, all at the same time. These past two days have felt like a million years. I want to cry, I want to scream, I want to barf out all these crazy feelings. Today, I felt like I was living out an episode from CSI as we went through all of his things and tried to figure out what the heck to do, and it was like digging through a strangers junk, because I don't even know him. We made the arrangements for the funeral stuff (see my note on Facebook), and blah blah blah.
Gosh. I will spare you all the gory details. Im tired. And need to get some sleep. Tomorrow is another long day.