Thursday, April 13, 2017

Where's Your Center?

I sent a quote to my brother earlier this week. Admittedly, it was a quote of myself, speaking to myself as I was contemplating, but anyway, here it is:

When it comes to christian theological posturing, we must be unwaveringly Christocentric.
When it comes to our attitudes towards other world religions, we succeed most when we are devoutly Theocentric.



This is an idea that I've been kicking around in the last few days and I thought someone else might benefit from it, so I figured I'd unpack it here. Before I expound it any further, however, let me define some terms, since my brother and I tend to use loaded terms when we text (#theologynerds)

Christocentric: This is basically the idea that our theology -- hermeneutics, ecclesiology, eschatology, soteriology... and pretty much all the other religious "-ologies" out there -- are to be "based on" or "filtered through" Christ. Jesus is not only a good teacher or prophet or even an especially holy man, but he is instead God on the earth. So whenever we try and interpret scripture or make a decision in the Church or evaluate beliefs, we always keep Jesus as the standard; he is our example, our teacher and our sole object of worship.

then there's...

Theocentric: I don't know if this is a word in use or if I just made it up...which is quite likely; in any case, my meaning here is that we keep God in the center. From a Christian perspective, this could seem very much like the previously mentioned "Christocentric", but in this case I'm using it as a distinguished word that represents keeping the ultimate divine being (whoever she is) in the center of our view.

Now that I have those two big loaded words fleshed out a bit more, I will begin to unpack what I meant by my text. I say "begin" because I think that this idea is both big and deep. One could meditate on it for days (as I have) or just take it at surface level and my honest hope is that anyone reading this do the former instead of the latter.

It was my experience growing up (and I would venture to guess it's still true of the particularly American-flavored brand of Evangelicalism) that I was more or less taught that anyone who wasn't Christian was doomed to burn forever and that any Christian who wasn't Christian the way that I'm Christian...well we just don't know. In fact, I remember being concerned for my Grandmother's soul (God bless her) because she was a devout Roman Catholic. I remember sitting in the car outside of Daylight Donuts, trying to convince her that Catholicism was wrong. I'm eternally grateful for her patience with my ignorance.

The truth is that when we are Christians dealing with other Christians, the best way to make sure that everyone is respected and that all sides are heard, is to be Christocentric. The New Testament is absolutely teeming with examples of how the early Church struggled to find answers to the problems of their new life in Christ. What kept such a jumbled and seemingly haphazard movement together? Christ and his Spirit working in the hearts of women and men. Today we face just as much, if not more, diversity and schismatic attitudes across the interwebs, coffee shops, places of employment and places of worship. If the Church is to remain both distinctly Christian (which I'd like to believe we can all agree it should) and internally cohesive, then I think the best thing for all to do is to focus on the one person (not idea, preference or flavor-of-the-week) who ought to stand in the center of our worldview: Jesus of Nazareth. He was the answer then and he is the answer now to all our dealings.

By contrast, a different approach must be taken when dealing with humans outside the Christian faith, be they religious or non-. Just as I was indoctrinated as a child to get everyone on the right page - my page - so too was I steeped in a culture that demanded me "get outside my comfort zone" and tell everyone that had ears to hear (or just ears) that Christianity was the only way to not burn in a black hole for eternity, Amen. Needless to say I found zero success as an adolescent evangelist.

When we encounter people from other world religions or those that are staunchly anti-religious, we bring the most life to the conversation and relationship when we are willing to accept one basic truth: God (Allah, Divine Energy, Wisdom, etc. or whatever) is a person who wants to be known. This one idea, that the Divine person is reaching out to creation to know and be known, can re-frame how we relate to those who believe differently than us. Most religions are based on a single or series of theophanies or God-encounters. My reasoning then goes something like this: If God wants to be known and world religions are based on encounters of God, then when we look at all the religions of the world, we are simply looking at a series of times that God has reached out to humanity for relationship. When we take into account that God is not human and God is not of this reality (that is, subject to its parameters), then we can see how any encounter with the Divine will need some interpretation and, guess what? Humans have to do the interpreting; with whatever modes, means, intelligence and resources available to them.

So, to be more concise, doesn't it seem plausible that our world religions are simply the historical outplaying of the traditions based around the interpretations of encounters with God?

I feel the need to admit here that this line of reasoning can seem like a universalist approach in which "all roads lead to Rome", but that is simply not the case. I am still devoutly Christian because I believe that Jesus was the clearest, no-filter, real theophany. He was God, incarnate, breathing, pooping, sweating, drinking, laughing and bleeding right in front of people. As such, when I sit here on Holy Thursday - the night of God's last supper, pre-resurrection - I can't help but believe in my soul that Jesus re-defines every other theophany that's ever taken place in human history. Still, we do best as theocentric believers when we deal with those who disagree with these convictions about Jesus.

I feel like I could rattle on longer, but I'll land this thing here by simply asking, have you experienced this in your world? Do you find that people are more willing to disclose their intimate religious beliefs when you agree that God is simply reaching out to all of us in anyway that she can? Do you find that dealing with fellow Christians that you disagree with goes much smoother when you keep Christ as the center of conversation? Please, share your story.

Peace,
CM

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

I'm writing a book

I'm writing a book.

Above is possibly the most terrifying sentence I've ever written. There's something about it that just rings of ominousness...and still, I'm writing a book.

I haven't posted on this blog since the very beginning of 2015. In the interim, my life has been reconfigured, turned upside down, shaken, stirred and poured out...and here I am. Father of two, husband to none, loved by several and human. The struggles of the human existence seem to pulse and reverberate through our lives. My older brother once said "who knew adulting came with so many responsibilities..." and he's right. To be totally honest, so many times I feel like a kid, just figuring out how to talk to girls and the next minute I hear "dad" from the next room..."I want to show you something."

I'm blessed.

I suppose that's where this is coming from. In December of 2014 I finished my Masters degree. It was a marathon of education and though it's been alluded to over the course of this blog being functional, few know exactly how difficult a process that was. It's even growing foggy in my memory. My intention after my undergrad in 2012 was to write. After getting into my graduate experience, I knew I'd have to wait until I was finished. Upon finishing my Masters, I found that life soon would not allow for writing anymore. Instead I would embark on the single most tumultuous season of living, of which I'm just now finding my way out of...still.

The last year has been a whirlwind of moving multiple times, seemingly countless job transitions, getting in and out of debt, several successes and many failures. The hot, molten life that was left following the hardest thing I've ever done thus far - survive divorce - has been hammered, pulled, stretched, hammered again and is still yet glowing from the fires of a life being molded and shaped.

In this, I am blessed.

This book that I begin again (admittedly, this isn't the first time I've intended to write it) is about something - two things - that are dear to me. It is, for lack of a better description, the intersection of my experience as a fitness professional and coach with my passion and education for theology and the church. Through the chapters, I intend on discussing how Christians ought to see their bodies. That sounds simple enough, I know, but the reality is that while Christianity in the west has had much success in justifying itself theologically, philosophically, socially and in many more ways, there seems to be a void.

A theology of the body.

Some of you may recall the series I wrote on loving God with your whole self, but one section about loving God with all your 'might' or 'strength' seemed incomplete. This idea of having a well thought out theology of the body seems extremely relevant in a culture where there are both extremes: body worship and body shaming. The perverse pedestal positioning of a particular human form as the ultimate goal and the sorrowful despising of the beautifully created human being. That is essentially what I hope to bring some perspective on; I want to give voice in answer to the question,

How ought Christians think of and use their bodies?

Most Christians could probably give you a tidy, Sunday school answer. Still, I want to "flesh" it out (pun intended) and see what God might have to say through me about being a post-modern, progressive Christian in the twenty-first century and having to deal with this culture of the body today.

I would appreciate any prayer for success and guidance from my readers here as this is truly terrifying. I'm publishing this post specifically to spur me on towards accomplishing this book that I've felt growing inside me for several years.

In the mean time, life goes on and God is still good.

Peace,
CM

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Go Into All the World

The Great Commission of Christ:

"Go everywhere, teach people how to follow me" - New International Church Mystic Version

What do we mean when we point to Jesus command to go into all the world and preach the gospel? 

I heard a man say that it isn't practical for us to go into all the world and, at a brush, this seems true. After all, how can we procure the funds (much less the time) to travel that much. So what is our solution? In recent history, the answer has been to donate our money to those who have devoted their lives to doing this - "going" - and it worked (sorta). We felt good about giving our money (I mean, that's kind of like "going") and they had the funds necessary to do what they felt called to do (not going to get into whether all funds are used correctly or not...that's just too big of a topic for one blog post). But is this true? Is this the world we live in?

No.

The reality is that this blog has been read all over the world. So, practically, I have "gone into all the world" more than Joe Shmoe who gave 600% more than me last year to missions work. I don't want to come across as someone who devalues donating to missions work - this is good. I only want to point out that in the twenty-first century, our power of influence is different. We don't necessarily have to be present in a country to have an effect. As a matter of fact, we likely don't need to do much other than continually contribute our voices for the Kingdom of God - however that may be.

The reality of the Great Commission for the post-modern church is that we have new options and, furthermore, we have new issues to connect with. Instead of trying to give you a laundry list of things we should be concerned with, I would rather just say this:

Look again

Jesus' command to go everywhere was much more about growing Christ followers, not adding to the number of people who mark "Christian" on social surveys. The church today needs to shift gears from "spreading the word"  to cultivating mini-Jesus's. Being a Christian is far more about crafting your life to look like Jesus' life than it is to get people to sign up for something. The command to go tell people doesn't have to mean that you need to literally say anything. In fact, it has been my experience in America that most people see Christ in your life before you say you follow him (if you're doing it right). It is those that seem to need to tell you that they are Christian that I hold suspect. But this is true for many areas of our lives. It isn't the athlete who boasts about his skills that is most revered but the athlete who performs incredibly well. So too should we strive to be the best Christian we can and let our lives speak for us. Should we talk about Jesus? Yes. Every chance you get. But over-stepping your bounds to create "chances" is antithetical to the natural way that Christ ministered to the hurting of this world. 
There are many many ways that this blog post could go, but instead of chasing them all out, I'd rather say this to you: 

Are you 'telling' people about Christ with your life? Are you teaching them what it means to be a Christian? or are you resting on your laurels and hoping that your obedience to worship attendance will suffice when all is said and done. Can we go into all the world? Yes, now we can. But let's do it with the premise that our purpose is to grow the Kingdom of Christ, not simply add to our numbers.

peace,
CM

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Where are You Going?

In life, there are many times when we hit stages that simply need defined. Without such definition, we tend to just sort of float along and react to things. I can reflect on my life and vividly remember times that I was simply reacting to the circumstances at hand.

I didn't like it.

When I started doing life on purpose - or rather, with purpose - I started to notice that I generally felt more fulfilled as a human. What I'm about to write here has little to do with becoming a better Christian (though this is ultimately where this blog leads to) and has more to do with directing one's life in a way that ultimately leads to some sort of stability and fulfillment. Mystic and Christian, Paul writes:

"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." (Phil. 4:12, NIV)

As our forerunner in the Christian tradition, we learn from Paul that contentment or a fulfilled life does not hang on whether we are fed or hungry (to use the analogy), but upon something else. Contentment in our lives has much more to do with being able to function with a sound mind about what we're doing. This being said, one of the things that I have found is a good question to ask myself on a regular basis is the title of this post: "Where are you going?"

I know that my reader may not be going anywhere physically but most people are "going" somewhere figuratively or in their spiritual or mental lives. For example, students are "going" somewhere psychologically and catechumen are "going" somewhere spiritually. These are two obvious examples. It is important, however, that we as Christians continue to "move" or grow in our knowledge and spirituality all to the end of growing the Kingdom of God.

So how do we go about answering the posed question? What has helped me in my journey is crafting a prayer. Yes, I said a prayer; not a mantra, nor a motto or a theme but a prayer. For me, I found that by praying, I acknowledge my great need for a savior and that my sustenance ultimately comes from God. Also unique to myself is that I have learned mine in Latin. I recite it this way for two reasons: 1. I took Latin in my undergrad and there fell in love with the language and 2. I feel a sense of connection to the historical church when I say it this way. So, I'm not saying you need to come up with a Latin prayer, but I am saying that you need to have a guide in your actions, decisions and ultimately your life in order to begin to answer the question of this post.

Crafting my Prayer
One of the first things that I asked myself when coming up with my prayer was to try and think of things that were most important to me. For me and after much reflection, these were truth, wisdom and love. These things, to me, are what makes up the foundations of how we encounter the world and, thus, how we act, make decisions and spend our energies. 

Truth

The first thing in my prayer is truth. This is the search and attainment of reality. Author Donald Miller once said that "reality is like a fine wine; it simply won't appeal to the immature". Admittedly, this is a paraphrase, but the idea stands: in order to be mature, we must embrace reality in all its starkness. This has led me to not turn away from hard news articles that report tragedy (though I think there is an over-saturation of these kinds of articles) and not mentally shrug off global issues.

Wisdom

I have found in my life that wisdom is usually the positive reciprocal of humility. That is, when I am more wise, I am also more humble and vice versa. Wisdom is essentially how we interpret the world that we encounter. If I am encountering this world with humility, I am more likely to see the world through a more realistic lens. It is those who are concerned with protecting their ego that usually view the world in a distorted way. My goal in including this wisdom piece is to avoid misinterpreting the world for the sake of my ego.

Love

Ultimately, love runs all. God is love and thus is, and should be, above all. Keeping in mind that the love I pray for is an acknowledgment of God's intrinsic character, it only makes sense in the context of truth and wisdom. As Christians, our love is an extension of God's and, through his empowerment, we are able to effectively spread this concern for all creatures of our world.

Concluding Thoughts

I will include my prayer at the bottom for the reader (both in Latin and English) but I want to say here that this prayer will likely not be the perfect prayer for you. Mine is from my subjective perspective and, for you, there may be more important things. Also, it should be said that we should be careful to let our prayers evolve. Clearly the Christian tradition affirms personal and novel prayer but the tradition of pre-written, pre-meditated prayer is deep and for good reason: they help to focus our lives.

I hope this has inspired some thought and meditation and I hope that from self-reflection you are able to come up with something to help guide your 2015 and life, ultimately answering the question "where are you going?"

Orationes Alexander Munionis

Pater Noster,
da nobis veritatem super consolatione
status sapientiae
et diligere super omnia.
in nomine Patris, et Fili, et Spiritus Sancti


The Prayer of Alexander Munoz

Our Father,
Give us truth over comfort,
wisdom over status
and love over everything.
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit

Again, I iterate that this may not be your prayer. This is simply how I have tried to guide myself through life's ups and downs. Feel free to share your own in the comments!

peace,
C.M.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Meditation: Memento Vita et Mors

Here is a poem I wrote about nine months ago. I hope it inspires some meditation on gratefulness and the brevity of life.

Memento Vita et Mors

Gift upon gift, you grant us good things,
The Sun in the East, the morning bird sings.
Joy upon joy, the eyes of a child,
Young life with a will to love and be wild.

Gift upon gift, you grant us true things,
Wisdom and wine, an owl bearing dreams.
Joy till the end, eyes fade like a fire,
A sleep that has come, a sleep to desire.

Gifts over gifts pour out over us,
Countless they are, so we see it thus:
Love over all with hope grounded faith,
Gifts from Creator, a life full of grace.

I pray that upon reading this you are given pause to reflect on the incredible gift that life is and now, by the life and death of Jesus, what an incredible gift death is: union with God. 

peace,
CM

Monday, December 22, 2014

An Incarnational Christmas

Around the Christmas season, it seems that there are generally two camps that develop among Christians in America. I say generally because I suppose that there are no clear categories really, only a spectrum of sorts. On one extreme of this spectrum are those that fully love and embrace all that is "Christmas-y". Santa, elves, trees, hot chocolate, shopping, wrapping gifts, etc. etc. and so forth. I don't want to knock this person because even in the chaos and tradition, there is beauty and can be much life. God can be glorified in these traditions if they are purveyed correctly. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the strict relgionist (for lack of a better term). This is the one who is adamant that all traditions about the holiday must somehow push and relate the Jesus story. I'll be honest, I hover more in this direction and tend to become something of a grinch about certain things. Nevertheless, I think that even for the person who is concerned with keeping Christmas a story about Christ (though it has incorporated many traditions that were not initially Christian but have been adopted by Christendom throughout the ages), there can be a point that is missed.

My purpose in this blog post is simply to point out this aspect of the Jesus story that is often overlooked; at least I have not heard much mention of it this year. I feel that sometimes we can be a little thoughtless when singing Christmas songs, talking about baby Jesus or anything of that nature. A few mistakes we make are when we fast-forward to the crucifixion/resurrection story, when we mess up certain historical facts about the story (e.g. wise men didn't visit until Jesus was about 3 years old, etc.) or when we elaborate on things that we don't know happened (e.g. "the little Lord Jesus, no crying he made..." I think he cried. He was a human baby after all). Of all of this, however, there is a point that I feel is missed most often in Christianity's attempts at keeping Jesus as "the reason for the season" and it is this glaring question:

Why the incarnation?

Why did God need to become man? Tradition holds that Jesus was indeed fully God and fully man, but we somehow tend to gloss over this incredibly key point in the story in favor of a simple "don't forget baby Jesus!" I feel like there are a number of reasons we avoid talking about this. Among them is the possibility that we don't want people to be turned off by the incarnation. After all, it is kind of a hard philosophical pill to swallow -- Creator becoming created thing? Another possibility is that we don't quite know how to reconcile this conundrum in our own lives so we don't want to invite the discussion out into the open. Whatever the reason for our aversion of pointing to the very key aspect of the Christmas story that renders it specifically Christian, we are not excused from understanding and conveying the reality that God came as man. That in and of itself is vital to the story, not simply a necessary step for the "real" purpose, his death and resurrection.

How Was God Human?

In order to explain why the incarnation of God's divine Word is so important for Christians, there needs be a little explanation of how this was possible without either overpowering Christ's humanity or diluting Christ's divinity. Now, I should say that what I'm about to write is merely one of a vast plethora of explanations within Christian thought. Be that as it may, it is the explanation that has rang most true theologically as well as practically in my life.

First and foremost, we must understand what makes up a person. I have written in the past about the constitution of a human and its relation to mourning and death. The basic takeaway, however, is that humans, aside from being some convolution of body/soul/spirit/mind (these are the general categories used to describe a human), are intrinsically relational. To this extent then we can conclude that we are essentially the sum total of the relationships that we have. So, Jesus was fully man and fully God. 100% human and 100% divine, not some 60%/40% combo or even a fair 50%/50%. To understand this, I find it helpful to take analogy from my own life. As an intrinsically relational person (like God), I am 100% father, 100% son, 100% brother, etc. I am no more of one than another though I may act in one mode at a time or several at a time. When we understand our personhood this way, the incarnation of Christ does not seem so odd. Jesus was fully God and related to all things fully as God. He was also fully man and related to all things as a man does. There could be much more elaboration on this point but I do want to leave space for the reader to ponder. Besides, a full fleshing out of this point would need a whole other post at least and a few hundred books at most!

Why Was God Human?

So here we come to the meat of the issue: the "why" question. Was it not enough for God to simply say "well, humanity, I know Adam messed up but, well, you're pretty good. All is forgiven!"? I mean, if God is a just God, why did he need to stoop so low (taking on flesh) and then go on to die (also critical to the story but remember our focus on the incarnation).

To first approach the topic, we need to frame the issue so that we understand what humanity's role was initially. Mankind was put on earth to act as medium between the created world and the uncreated God. Our ability to stand in both planes, physical and spiritual, allow us to fulfill this divine appointment like no other creature. So, when humanity fell so too did all of the created order of things; that is, creation's way to connect with God was broken. Eastern Orthodox theologian, John D. Zizioulas explains it this way:

"Creation came from nothing, and since it is permeated with the forces of dissolution, it always faces the prospect of reverting back to nothing."

So here we understand that our intrinsic problem  is not caused by sin at the fall but is inherent by our finitude. Death -- real death, metaphysical death and not just physical death -- is a basic creation problem. Humanity was meant to connect creation to God forever and thus facilitate enternality for creation. Sin blocks our ability to fill this role but ultimately there was always need for this mediator -- this perfect human. We are created and as such have no power to remain in existence forever; it is natural to revert to nothingness. There is an "out", however, and that loophole is found in communion with the infinite, the uncreated, the Creator. Before we could fulfill our role, however, sin had to be dealt with. Church Father, Athanasius says

"It was unworthy of the goodness of God that creatures made by Him should be brought to nothing through the deceit wrought upon man by the devil; and it was supremely unfitting that the work of God in mankind should disappear, either through their own negligence or through the deceit of evil spirits...what then was God, being  good, to do?"

It was absurd that God should let creation go on reverting to nothing but sin was in the way so that his original plan was thwarted. God faced a two-fold problem then: 1. creation is "dying" 2. humanity cannot be the way they were intended to be. So, being ultimately wise as he is, God decided to step into the story himself in a way that he had never before done (though he had before in various ways through prophets, leaders of Israel and in direct modalities). He became that which always needed to be: the perfect human and, while there, did what ultimately needed done: the rectifying of a world out of balance, the ultimate destruction of sin. Though this ultimate reality remains to be seen, Jesus did what needed done to set the course right again and then invites us to take up the role that we always should have had as intermediate between Creator and creation -- this is the true Christian.

Conclusive Thoughts

In reality, there is much more that could be said about the whole human-creation-God story but, of course, that must be saved for another time and possibly another format. What needs said is that 

The incarnation of God is ultimately about connecting creation to Creator in the most ultimate way. 

It is God showing us the perfect route to be what we were always meant to be. Again, we listen to Zizioulas:

"The disease here is death, so a cure for death is what we are looking for. Salvation has often been set out in moral and judicial terms, in which death has been caused by man's act of disobedience. But it was not our disobedience that caused this evil; it just made its cure impossible. The problem cannot be put right simply by our obedience. Athanasius pointed out that if the problem could be solved simply by forgiving Adam his sin, God could have done so...God could have forgiven him, and all would have been well. But Athanasius showed that the heart oft he problem was not obedience or disobedience, because this was not a moral but an ontological problem. What was required was for the Logos to come to man, and indeed to become man, so that all that has been created can be united to the uncreated."

So in this Christmas season, let us have our presents, our feasts and our family time; these things are good when dedicated to God. Let us also push to remain conscious of the ultimate reason for the season, Jesus. But let us do those things with a mental "eye" to the cosmic aspect of this story. God reconnects creation to Creator and, in the Spring, we'll celebrate his making a way for us to fulfill this role as well. 

Have a blessed holy-day season,
CM

*Further reading:
The Divine Dilemma and it's Solution in the Incarnation. (1998). In On the incarnation: The treatise De incarnatione Verbi Dei. Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press.

Zizioulas, J., & Knight, D. (2008). Creation and Salvation: Christology. In Lectures in Christian dogmatics. London: T & T Clark.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

"I'm a Bad Christian"

I was speaking with a man the other day who was asking about what I was getting my Masters degree in. I told him that it was in Theological Studies and a brief synopsis of what that meant and what I was writing my thesis on. He then said to me a phrase that I think resonates with many Christians in America:

"I just feel like a bad Christian."

This gentleman is quite a bit older than me (old enough to be my parent) and so for him to say this, I was a little taken aback. Surely he has been a practicing Christian longer than I have been alive! So I asked him to elaborate and his response was essentially that he felt deficient in a handful of ways:

  1.  He didn't feel like he knew how to pray out loud
  2.  He didn't feel like he knew the Bible well enough, much less how to read it
  3.  He didn't feel like he knew much about church history.
I tried my best to comfort him in his feelings of deficiency and point out that we're all on a journey but this got me thinking that there are probably many Christians who feel like they are only Christian in name. This could be from lack of proper instruction in the way of Jesus or else it could be in a personal lack of devotion to delving into what it means to be a Christian privately as well as corporately. In any case, there are a few things I would like to say to you if you feel like my friend feels.

You're not alone

I promise that as much as you could ever feel like you could know more, you're right. The beauty of the matter is that we could all learn more. In fact, it more or less took me a MA degree in Theology to find out that I didn't need a Masters degree at all in order to be a faithful disciple of Jesus. Many of us (yes, I said "us") struggle with feelings of inadequacy. Personally, I feel like I ought to have more Scripture memorized. All this aside, however, we need to embrace that fact that we have the rest of our lives to continue to nurture our Christian selves. When we reflect and feel deficient, we should waste no time in committing and re-committing daily to be intentional about learning more about our faith and heritage as Christians. Along with finding solidarity in your lacking, you should lean on the community of faith that is available to you at almost every corner of the city (in my city); there are churches everywhere and people who care about Christians inside of them. Don't be afraid to ask an elder or pastor for practical ways to learn more about being Christian.

It's not a clean thing

What I mean is that being a Christian - correctly - is intrinsically a messy business. Jesus shows us clearly that to take up the cause of Christ is to lower yourself and be okay with living sacrificially. This may mean that you need to take time out of your self-centered schedule to devote it to a Christ-looking endeavor. Feed the hungry and orphaned, care for the elderly and estranged, be a facilitator of the Kingdom of God. In so doing, you learn the meaning of Christ and you gain grounds for improving your faith life.  

You don't arrive

It goes without saying that I am speaking about our carnal lives as we know them but my point is that the Christian life is not about "arriving" or being done or suddenly being the perfect Christian. Think of whoever you idealize in your mind as the perfect Christian and then think of that person as "in process" because that is what they are. That is what you and I are. Until our full union with God, we can never say that we've arrived. This should lead us to two conclusions: 1. take it easy on yourself, but strive hard and 2. take it easy on others because they are likely having just as rough a go at it as you are.

Concluding Thoughts

Like most of my posts, I like to leave you with room to reflect. That being said, I also like to remain pragmatic so I'll leave you with the following:
  1. If you feel like you don't know how to pray out loud, I would encourage you to practice. Even in the privacy of your house, it's good to pray to God with your voice as well as your actions and thoughts. Along with this remember the analogy of God as our Father that Jesus uses when he teaches his followers to pray. Hold on to that idea because, as a father, I know that there is much grace necessary when a child is speaking to you. He is the giver of excuse and you can rely on his love to define the relationship.
  2. It is not strictly necessary to memorize Scripture ver batem. It is, however, essential to Christian development to so immerse oneself in Scripture so that it's beating heart - the heart of the Father - is evident in your mind. You may not know chapter and verse location at the drop of a hat, but you should know that Jesus is King, Prophet and Priest and at the same time is pure love. Do you see the distinction? Along with this, resolve to take the time to read the Bible for all it's worth.
  3.  Realize that Church history is both in the process of occurring and recorded in innumerable volumes in libraries around the world. It is both easy and essential to your Christian development to seek out a good overview resource in learning your heritage as a member of the universal Church. Heads up here, though, our faith family history is one of butchers and thieves so in all of your learning, remember that God struggles alongside humanity because he loves us. So be careful not to judge God's character strictly on the behavior of humans. A good first step is to call a local college that has a theology department and ask a professor to point you to a good church history volume set; this is worth the time and effort.
I pray that this post has been of some use to you, I know that at different points of my life I have felt inadequate as a Christian as well. In all of this remember that you are a child of God and, as such, are loved with a love that oozes patience and understanding. Share that patience and understanding with others as you struggle to work out your faith.

peace,
C.M.