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The End of Stranger in Rebellion

Strange Confessions: This opportunity in Denver and the subsequent reactions of my church family here in West Plains has affected me greater than I first thought.

I have been part of a discipleship group with three other men here for the past month, and have been discussing many things with them. The congregation that I am a part of now does not see discipleship as I always imagined it: sitting there with a book of doctrine in your lap or on the table and going over again what we have known but occasionally forget, forcefully trying to slam it into your brain for good. We take walks, and talk. We ask each other questions about what we would do in certain situations. There is discussion about how we are leading our family and ways we can do it better. We talk about long term relationships, careers, and ministries. We consider the immediate and grasp the consequences of the past. The Holy Spirit flows through our assembly as we do our best to honor Him in all our contemplations.

“Why do you call your blog ‘Stranger in Rebellion’?” I was asked the other night. I am quite proud that I came upon that name and all its connotations, stemming from the “Strange Confessions” and other strangeness that encompasses who I believe I am. Earlier that night I told them about my difficulty in writing over the past few weeks. I tried writing about the sermon regarding Friendship three different times. It seems as if I’m stuck in trying to convey the importance and value of what being a true friend in the full biblical sense really is. I get caught up in thinking about how I was so interested in getting out of West Plains, that I forgot about… relationship: family and friends that I’m not sure I’ve really had until these last couple of years. I don’t want to devalue our church family in Utah in any way, but this is so much different from what I knew back West. We also discussed the Youth Group that is starting up with me at the helm, and how I want to go beyond what is the other standard fare offered here in West Plains. I think about all the “wasted” time that has rushed by in the past and how now I see the world, God, and the gospel in such a brighter light, and I want to share that with these young adults so that they at least have the opportunity to understand all that before their life is in their sun’s declination phase. There is a passion inside me that wants to reveal the God that I now know, the gospel that is all about freedom, and glory that shines in us every day. I’ve missed the times when I taught Sunday School years ago, that is when I fully got into the Word. Yes, I struggle with giving my God the time He completely deserves, yet in teaching the desire comes fully alive.

The question posed to me lied more in the fact that I am no longer the “Stranger” I once was, and might be part of the reason I am struggling to write. They say people don’t change. We know, as Christians, that this is completely false. Others understand this in some superficial way. Sure we change our minds, our habits, our style, but fundamentally we are the same. I am new. In many ways I am the same. I stay quiet when I don’t feel what I say is important enough or smart enough or considered enough. I get very opinionated and loud when discussing our societal woes. I enjoy movies and pop-culture. I love my family and I miss the ones I am related by blood, who are far away. Yet, I am new. There has been a switch that went off inside me that I need to explore. This something is more… mature, you might say. It is more willing to Be where God has me. Resolve is changing to contentment.

I think my friend hears all this in me and, considers the Stranger to be no more. And to tell you the truth, I believe he is right. Change is inevitable. This considered move to Denver revealed how much I am attached here. Prior to these occurrences, I saw us moving and forgetting about all that we knew here, in West Plains, deleting contacts in our phone and on that one site. Now, as I ponder these possible actions, it almost brings me to tears. This place has become so much a part of what I am, who I am, that I can no longer consider forgetting it all once we are geographically gone, if that ever happens.

This change is not a new idea in my mind, for over the last few months I have thought things needed to change about the blog. Make it more about life and the gospel and our culture as it relates to us all and step a little bit away from it being about my experiences. Not stepping away entirely, because my experiences are about who I am, but in a more… generic(?) way. I don’t know, perhaps you’ll understand once I start going on the new name/site that I will develop… eventually, when I am ready. Writing is a desire in me that I can rarely contain when the spirit is upon me. So after 125 posts to this site, farewell. I will post a link here when all the newness comes about.

Thank you all for reading Stranger in Rebellion, I hope to see you all in my future endeavors.

~Friend

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Transitions

I am a thoughtful guy. I have been told that once in a while. My best friend from high school told me this. One of my best friends now thinks it chuckle worthy how much I ponder motivations, reasons, transitions, life. And in the immortal words of Paul McCartney, “What’s wrong with that? I’d like to know. ‘Cause here I go… again!”

I’m feeling like I’m in the middle of a transition point: It has been a little over four and a half years since we moved from Salt Lake City, and I believe those of whom I would call friend are truly beginning to forget me. No worries, I’m not bitter or anything, just pointing out the normal path of these sorts of things. I still see their stuff on that one site and I occasionally like or comment on posts and vice-versa them to me. This is not the way a hearty relationship keeps afloat, yes? Alas, things are winding down from that initial transition to a new place. I have been in West Plains long enough to finally figure out a large, parochial, baptist church is not a good fit for me and my family. We have been with another group of believers for almost a year now and I believe the mists of our comings and goings in the many buildings of our former gathering is dwindled to the point that people might not recognize the auras of our former selves lurking in the corners. We had no one come and visit us seeking the how’s and why’s of our departure, and there is fewer occasions of having to explain to people where we have been when running into them at some store or the library. The biggest shock of late is that one of my best friends, someone who was there with me from the beginning of being here in West Plains, has transitioned to Florida. He worked for the large church and because of shrinking congregational numbers, was laid-off. Thankfully he now has a job with Wycliffe, unfortunately our relationship faded the last couple of years because of hard circumstances that still remain unresolved. Praise God that all will be made right in heaven. The other jolt came from hearing that the pastor there had been voted out. I am saddened, but I understand that God is working in this whole situation to heal and grow those who need it. I pray that all involved will see His hand in all this, even when it is still sharp and stingy. Interestingly enough, it is hard to see that these sort of things happen because of what a friend calls pastoritis. It has been a couple of years since I’ve seen the construct of the modern society within the church, is doomed to a cyclical pattern of growth, loss, blame, transition, and hopefully growth again. Some never recover from the transition point here because they look for some man to have all the answers for their problem in the first place, when it should be each other we fall upon, and mostly God who bears the brunt of our sorrows. It is also interesting that I keep reading in 1 Corinthians about how the church there regarded the leaders as one of the most important things to follow, or be “of”. Put a man on a pedestal, seek the answers from him and he will always fail you. I love this man and I am sorry that he now finds himself in this situation of our making, of this Western church society we have built. Pray for that church that they would not seek the answers they need in a man, but find it already there, within themselves, that it is God who dwells in them.

We just got back from an eleven day “vacation.” I say vacation, with the quotes, because I don’t see the vacations we take as equal to what I normally see spoken of or pictured on that one site. Not that I compare. It’s just that I’ve always had in my mind the idea of a vacation as taking off in a jet plane, not seeing anyone you know, or thinking about work, and staying for several long, careless days at the beach, or camping in a National Park, or staying on a cruise ship, or visiting another country, or a high interest amusement park or site of historical significance. It seems that people posting on that one site have much more opportunity or availability or just plain cash to make those things happen. Also, I don’t want you to think I am unsatisfied with how our time off usually goes. It is visiting friends or family, hanging out or hanging in, going to places we are eager to go because of cheap clothes or good eats or cooling off, but always a place where we know someone.

Getting back to my point: our vacation consisted of visiting three kinds of family; family we chose, family of my wife’s, and family of mine; in that order. We went to Kansas City to be with some friends of almost 20 years, to eat and shop at the thrift stores and used book sellers. We then proceeded to Yankton, South Dakota, where my wife’s uncle is the interim pastor at a church that voted out their pastor, who then quickly went down the street, opened and new church and dragged a third of the congregation with them. (The pastor I refer to above has already sought to sell his home here, which I believe is a good choice, a hard choice, but the right choice.) There are a lot of broken people because of this and (for the sake of making it easier, I’ll call him “my uncle”) my uncle believes God has developed him for such a time as this; for over 45 years! I intended to rest and take it easy there but for some reason I was troubled and restless there. More of the family joined us from Denver, whom we haven’t seen for three years, and the husband is an active sort who likes to do lots of things, and I joined him in his endeavors, but that isn’t what made me troubled. I started to feel the pull of work, and the tension associated from being away, the dread of going back. This part of this last 4.5 years of transition has been the transitioniest. I can truly say that the defining aspect of this position in regards to point-of-contacts and managers, has been change, and never really for the better. The final stop of our tour was Des Moines, IA where my brother, his wife and family reside. My mom flew in from Salt Lake to see our kids in addition to his: it was a win-win for her. I really had a good time with my brother and his family and my Mom, but thoughts of transition began to invade my thoughts and made me more irritable than usual. I drank a little too much, which was probably a horrible choice on my part because of some transitions happening with my brother. I didn’t get drunk, but I had some of the hard stuff, and relaxed… perhaps, too much. I enjoy the tasty beverage when “vacationing” but this wasn’t the time or place. Some would definitely tell me otherwise, but I know, between me and God, that I was wrong.

On the way home, an 8 hour drive, I began to think and pray about my situation here in West Plains. I no longer want to be discontented with my work. I want to minister where God wants me. I have a calling to be creative and I want to get more organized when it comes to assigning myself a task to create, as well as to sell myself when the time comes. I thought of many different things I could do to fix my failures, uplift the listlessness of work, and create on the way. Many things that came to mind were practical, but impossible unless I invite Him to change me to make it a habit within me. I cannot go through this transition alone. I see my friend doing many things, but I don’t hear about God in a specific area he introduced me to (I will write about that another time). I see my uncle and diving into was God has involved him for the last 45 years. I see my brother desperately needing Christ, apart from the hour or so he may or may not encounter Him on Sundays. I see my former pastor being forced into figuring out God’s will for his life after it seemed that this town could be a place for life. I see a friend thankful to be released from a difficult position, that he was so content to be in, and hope and pray that all works well for Him, especially in the character building God may have for him now. I know I can’t do this alone, and I am so afraid, because I have jumped before in the past, in the wrong direction, but I have learned a lot. Does God have something for me 45 years in the making? Or am I to be content with the character building of the last 5? Transitions are happening all around me, all around us, every day, in every corner of the world, and He has His hand in every part of it. Am I to let go of the idea that I am His comic/cosmic relief, or see a God who truly sees me as I am and what I need? I am glad to have our Tuesday night fellowship group and look forward to sharing this time with them. I look forward to God possessing me and my life transitioning to a life of constant prayer, and hope and trust in Him. I will ever praise Him, ever praise Him.

In the course of the next few months, I will be transitioning away from that one site. I will be posting all my favorite posts and stuff from the “Stranger in Rebellion” Facebook site, then deleting my account. I have also found some old journals that I am going to transfer here. If you are a regular reader and appreciate my character on that one site, please let me know if there are some reasons I should consider not getting away from it, I would like to know and am not fully convinced, but I am transitioning in that way. This is a much better format for me in where I am going, so I hope you might follow me here if you don’t want to be forever away. Thank you, o constant reader, and fellow transitionist, hope to see you soon.

~Stranger

Strange Confessions: Doorbell Ditchers Anonymous

Strange Confessions: One the most adrenaline rushing activities that a United States suburban kid can take the opportunity to do is doorbell ditching and when we got together with my Dad’s family, this was our favorite late night event.

Yeah, I know… what kind of stupid confession is this? Well, these aren’t really real confessions. I never intended them to be serious breaking the law confessions, which I could and I might write about in the future. But this is just plains silly, right? I admit it is. Recently, I’ve thought of additional uses for this site: as a journal of sorts, an opportunity to record specific events in my life along this present time-line.

Today I found out that an Uncle of mine has died. He was my Dad’s cousin, so he wasn’t really my Uncle, but that is what we called him. Honestly, I didn’t care much for my Dad’s side of the family. My Dad was an only child. His Mother was the oldest of thirteen children in an Italian family. Their family reunions were monumental acts of obnoxiousness and social pain. I believe I spoke of this one time before. His Father was an Italian immigrant with two brothers. I never knew my Grandpa, but his youngest brother, I knew him and I enjoyed his modesty and hospitality. He had three children and one of them was my Uncle who just passed away. I didn’t know him hugely well, but when I did see him, it was always good. It was a rare treat to see him at his house. He and his wife were extremely hospitable and they always had plenty of Italian food laid all out to just grab and consume at will. He had two sons and a daughter I think was from another marriage. When you’re young you kind of know these things but never nail it down, things remain assumed. But, you know, you’re a kid… who cares about where your cousins come from as long as you all get along, and we did get along.

The one time I really remember spending the evening at their home stuck with me. I can still see faces in the dark, being conspiratorial in our affectatious discussions toward mischief. Our goal: to annoy as many neighbors in my Uncle’s middle upper class world. The hills and homes of Sandy, Utah was our stadium of shenanigans. Doorbell ditching was the activity of choice. We’d go up to door and fake each other out, running away, or acting like we rang, then run, screaming and laughing all the way through night, the excitement welling up within us. There was another thing we tried but never sure worked or not. We’d tie fishing line to a doorknob run it out to beyond being seen, then rub a wet washcloth on the string. Apparently, this would make a loud, squeaky noise in the home and the owner would come out and only find a string tied to his knob. Has anyone else heard of this? Did it work?

Anyway, I will remember my Uncle as having a warm heart, an open laugh and have the only cousins on my Dad’s family I had fun with. I also remember that he was a manager at JCPenny for a time but heard he had run the Catholic soup kitchen. He never bragged about where he was financially, career wise, or socially, I just knew he was a good guy who seemed to do as much as he needed to for his family. I wish I could be there and share and hear about him with those who will miss him most, and I pray that they would be comforted in their grief. So long Robert, I wish I’d known you better as an adult.

Strange Confessions: An Open Call to Know You Better

Strange Confessions: I use to sleep over at a girl’s apartment when I was growing up.

I was around 4 years old, and my best friend was a girl named Heidi. She had lived in our neighborhood and moved to an apartment complex a few miles away. I remember a picture of me sitting in the dirt with Heidi nearby. I missed her greatly and asked if I could visit. Our parents, I think her parents were divorced, which may explain the move and apartment and not remembering her dad, allowed me to stay overnight. If I think hard enough I can picture her small room, and her getting ready for bed behind her closet door. This, in fact, may be my earliest memory. It was all innocent and I don’t think it happened often, but, as childhood friends occasionally do, we grew apart.

Eventually I forgot about her. Apparently my mom was still friends with her mom. When I was in Junior High, my mom came home with a picture of Heidi. I was a lonely kid looking for love, as much as a young boy my age can look, always seeking the things I didn’t have, much like I am today. Today I dwell on friends lost and people who are seemingly always together with great relationships, rather than what I have. Hey, I am working on it. This picture I got of Heidi was beautiful. She had long brown hair, and a cute little smile with teeth covered by braces. I kept this photo underneath my mattress, pulling it out to gaze over my future wife. I had this secret dream that I would someday meet her again and we would fall in love and people would be amazed that I could keep such a wonderful secret from the world of a beautiful treasure. I hid this because I knew my brother would make fun of me if he found out. No one at my school knew of her either.

The photo is long gone, as most childhood dreams for me seem to go; faded by a rebellious teen experiencing his parents broken marriage, failing out of school, and finding things that would take his memory off of his life.

I am reminded by this story by a recent discussion I had with a mother of one of my daughter’s friends. This mother is young, perhaps, some would say, too young to have a daughter her age. She is also single. According to the mother, she had talked to the parents of some of her daughter’s friends. She wanted to take some kids to an amusement park a few hours away, and have a sleep over the previous night so they could get going. One of the moms told her that since she is a Christian, she doesn’t want her daughter in their house or spending that inordinate amount of time with her. As she was telling me this, she was obviously upset, in the snarky kind of way she can be. She said that this mother could have just told her that she doesn’t want her daughter to sleep over since she doesn’t know that well. I told her that, as a Christian, I apologize and understand that we, as a people, could suffer with a bit more tact.

It also has reminded me of my relationship with a recently discovered old friend. He is an atheist. He has said some things on, that one site, that has made me think his hostility towards Christians was increasing. Yet he asked me the other day on a matter of the Bible. I was encouraged by him, discovered more about who his friends may be, and enjoyed finding out some things about what he had asked me. Some of the things another “theist” as he calls them, had some very far out ideas about what he asked about. I told him that we all have some fairly crazy ideas, yet the point is for me to delve deeper into why they have come to these conclusions, and in that way become more knowledgeable about each other and open in our discussions with each other. We may meet up with people we don’t like very much or come into a heated argument, but what is the point of relationships if we can’t find out more about each other. I have another friend, on that one site, who was my best friend in high school, who is openly hostile towards people of any religion. I suspect he hasn’t come across very many Christians who’ve displayed the type of love, mercy, understanding and compassion that we are called to display. I suppose that most people’s experiences with “Christians” have been negative.

We, like those of the world, would much prefer to stay with each other, with those of like mind. We surround ourselves with people who agree with us, so it isn’t hard. Yes, yes, I agree there are exceptions, but I believe these are the perceptions we have of each other. I would like to have broad sweeping discussions about what I believe, you believe, how we came to these conclusions, but there is a barrier there. And it goes both ways. As Christians we see a tolerance towards all religions, except ours. As humanistic/atheistic people you’re sick and tired of the judgmental ways we tell you you should be, or your perception of us forcing it upon you. I believe we can agree that we all want our world to meet the visions we have for it. Can we talk? I mean seriously, can we talk? One old friend who I had on that one site once posted, “I hate closed minded people.” It was obvious from some of the other things she was saying, was that she was against most of what I believe, political and spiritual. I found that viewpoint very closed minded in itself. Why, why why? I want to talk to you. Perhaps not publicly, maybe privately, because the masses will choose sides and then it will eventually come apart. Then division will grow. I want to know you more. Open it up.

Like the memories of Heidi, I hope to hold memories of you all as positive. I want to be there for you, if there is a chance for that. My writings are about practice, but more to the point, it’s about you knowing me. Can I have that opportunity from you?

Mitch Teemley

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