Hold a Space Please

September 16, 2013

Being shorter in stature, I am familiar with the concerns of being in a crowd. I remember attended a concert with a number of friends when I was significantly younger. We managed to carve out a space for the lot of us in the area in front of the stage where everyone presses forward during the music. There was little room to do anything but jump up and down to the beat. Inevitably, a friend and I decided to go get something to drink. We pushed out way through the crowd and out toward the back of the open air arena. As we turned around once we were free from the crush of people, we realized that we had just left the massive crowd, and like water, the people closed in after us, making clear that getting back in would be quite the challenge.

I think that is sometimes how communities are. I have been thinking about the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15. (It’s actually a story about the Father, but that’s something we can visit a different point.) A boy leaves his family in pursuit of his selfish wants. But he doesn’t just leave his family. He leaves his family with an insult to his father. And when he insulted his father, he insulted not simply the whole family, but the entire village where he lived. What he did was essentially cut himself off from the community and went on his merry way.

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September 13, 2013

When at the close of week with many miles journeyed, and the demands of time lengthen my face to an exhausted frown…

When the head pounds just enough to make talking a chore, but the soul still bounces with words left unsaid…

When the weights of worry over speechless child and the lightness of a work’s fulfillment culminate in a sigh of exhaustion and purpose…

When I drive from conversations of Kantian ethics to curl up in bed with a toddler and The Very Hungry Caterpillar…

When my nights have been a dance between sleeplessness and slumber, and the soundtrack of my week has been pastor’s sobs, toddler laughs, barbell clangs, keyboard clicks, and the headiness of theology with the grittiness of love…

You call me to peace, to the stillness of knowing, to the strength that allows for one last bedtime story, to the sleepiness that sometimes eludes and the softness of the dusty sun setting, to the twilight sleep where I hear in an echo- perhaps I dreamed it, perhaps I did not- your lullaby song hummed sweetly and low…

Trust is a Terrifying Comfort

September 10, 2013

I like things that are clear. At least the things I feel need to be clear. I will spend hours begging God for direction- and by direction, I mean the direction that is marked with explicit instructions and details.

Sometimes we mistake faith for step by step directions.

We want a road map, God paints us a picture. We want a bird’s eye view, God gives us only enough light to see a few steps. We want clarity, God asks us to trust. Brennan Manning, an ex-priest, author, speaker, and kindred spirit who died recently, wrote brilliant books. There are many quotes from many books that I love, but this one has been speaking to me lately.

“When the brilliant ethicist John Kavanaugh went to work for three months at “the house of the dying” in Calcutta, he was seeking a clear answer as to how best to spend the rest of his life. On the first morning there he met Mother Teresa. She asked, “And what can I do for you?” Kavanaugh asked her to pray for him.
“What do you want me to pray for?” she asked. He voiced the request that he had borne thousands of miles form the United States: “Pray that I have clarity.”
She said firmly, “No, I will not do that.”
When he asked her why, she said, “Clarity is the last thing you are clinging to
and must let go of.”
When Kavanaugh commented that she always seemed to have the clarity he longed for, she laughed and said, “I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust God.”
(From Manning’s A Ruthless Trust)

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The toddler broke free and raced into the gathering, his face red with tears and scrunched up with his cries for his mom. A childcare worker followed behind, reaching for him, but he eluded her grasp. He reached his parents who had stood to meet him, and his mom carried him out, tears and all, until he calmed down. No one knew why he cried. And no one frowned that he had interrupted our worship service. There were only sympathetic smiles and worry over whatever had happened to his little heart to cause such crying. He was welcome there, even loud and crying and interrupting.

It is phenomenal to be a part of a church that so loves children. To be completely fair, every church we have encountered has loved children. The church where I had my first staff position in Nebraska held a Wednesday night event every week that brought in 100 children from the town. That church was only 110 members, so you can imagine how big that was. They loved children. Then there was the church in Illinois with so few children that they loved whenever a child would come, and encouraged the few children we had to be active in various ways- I even had a teenager who preached a sermon one Sunday to get out of a Confirmation paper! They loved children. Even the last church here in Colorado that had the least amount of children of all my churches- they wanted children to be involved in worship and we even had a curriculum writer/author who would write brilliant children’s sermons for me to interact with the 3-4 kids there. Read the rest of this entry »

Do You Ever Write Happy?

September 6, 2013

I had a friend ask me if I ever wrote anything happy. I had to laugh at this. I love my friends! The answer is, “Yes!” Joy is a part of my life too. In fact, I seldom think of joy and sorrow as separate things- when one sits by your bed, the other waits down the hall.

One thing I learned about myself in the journey of the last several years is that different personalities process experiences very differently. We are motivated by different sources and we respond to events from different parts of who we are. I’ve learned that my particular personality is one that tends to be quite reflective and sometimes borders on being a bit too serious. I work on intuition and can read a room or a person pretty immediately and pretty accurately, but due to leaning on intuition, it can be harder for me to articulate how I come to  conclusions. I tend to believe that my best work- writing, preaching, conversation, music, or whatever the medium- is done by tapping into the places that push me to the deepest reflection or confusion. It’s just my way of connecting and communicating. And having known the isolation of that that experience, I write so that others might say, “me too!” and maybe for a moment, they don’t feel so disconnected as they are sorting through their own journey. Read the rest of this entry »