Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Monday, October 3, 2011
May we not hole ourselves up in our solitude. May we not allow ourselves to become old spinster “cat ladies” or “dog men”. May you let people in, and may you propel yourself out into the world, as difficult and uncomfortable as it may be. And, perhaps, you will find filled a little part of life’s cup that you never knew was empty.
Did I mention, I love my dog...
Thursday, August 25, 2011
May you not be afraid to open the closets [yes, plural] and let the skeletons out – because dealing with THAT truth is what will truly set you free.
Sunday, August 21, 2011
May our eyes and ears be wide open to what is going on around us, and may we be attuned to the cries for help and guidance that others throw our way. May we read between the lines, and may we recognize God… on the basketball court, at the dinner table, and most especially in the shower. Because God is whispering to us all.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Once upon a time, I had a ‘Messiah complex’. It’s this very common disorder in which you believe you can heal the masses. Yes, like Jesus. The Messiah. This disease is quite prevalent, especially amongst those in ‘helping’ professions i.e. teachers, mothers, fathers, plumbers, social workers, waitresses, ministers…
This girl I know used to work at this church. From the beginning, she wanted to meet everyone’s needs. All 250 church members’ needs. She was a helper… with a complex. After only a few months of being there, she began to feel very, hmm should we say, overwhelmed? She would make lists of people to call, people to visit, people who ‘needed’ her. Her lists grew… and grew… and grew. She had very poor boundaries.
One day this very cool/fun/journal-making friend on the phone said something that changed her whole perspective. “You’re taking on way too much. I think Jesus himself even kinda focused on twelve!” And that’s when it clicked for me, ahem, I mean ‘this girl’. I had been trying to invest myself into the lives of 238 more people than Jesus did! Yeah… I had a complex.
There’s this fantastic story in the bible about this man who is paralyzed. [Doesn’t sound great so far but I promise it gets better.] At the same time that this man is paralyzed, there is this other man walking from town to town healing people! [His name is Jesus… if you didn’t see that coming.] Well, obviously, this man wants to get to Jesus cuz he wants to be healed! Problem is, Jesus is total paparazzi-candy. He is surrounded at all times by a gazillion [another term for ‘lots’] of hurt, bleeding, broken, disease-stricken people. This guy can’t walk, much less stand/push/wade through a crowd. So… he gives up… ha, totally kidding. What a bummer of a story that would be, right?! No, this guy who lived a few thousand years ago had something most of us would die for and/or take for granted. Four friends. Four friends and a mat. With four corners. So these four friends, maybe they take the day off work or skip out on lunch that day. They devise this plan to lower their friend through the roof, basically right on top of Jesus’ head. And Jesus heals their friend, while they each hold a corner.
Four friends. Carrying the four corners of a mat. I don’t care who you are, that’s powerful stuff. That guy, he could count his closest friends on one hand… and look where it got him! Healed. We’re not made to have a gazillion superficial relationships. Seriously, Facebook is awesome, but let’s be honest – the majority of you seven hundred and something are my acquaintances at best. Aside from the occasional fbook stalking, you don’t invest in me, and I don’t invest in you. And you know what? That’s okay. We’re not wired to invest in everyone. That would just wear us out! We are wired, even Jesus, to have a close-knit circle of friends, friends that will hold our mats when the time comes.
You can’t save the world. And, though we all struggle with the complex, I can tell you with the utmost certainty that you are not the Messiah. If this really bums you out, if this makes you feel as if your actions are useless and futile in this world then just remember that paralyzed guy. To some people, picking up a corner wouldn’t seem like a lot - menial work really – and yet, it led that guy to Jesus! How sacred, how significant, how life-giving was the mere act of holding a corner of a mat!
Nobody can help everybody, so give yourself some grace. Realize that you are not called to help everybody, but you are called to help somebody. Chances are, it’s probably somebody right in front of you. Who matters to you? Who do you invest in? Who needs you to pick up a corner? God has entrusted certain people to you for a reason. Do what you can with what you have.
May you be a person known for carrying the mats of others. Not 250. Just a few… and they will make all the difference.
And to my dearest, closest, most beloved, fabulous corner-carriers [you know who you are], I’ve got your mat. ;)
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
These two incredibly sagacious guys [‘sagacious’ means ‘intelligent’… excuse me, I just took the GRE], one who teaches at Duke and one who is equally as cool but I don’t know where he teaches, wrote this book awhile back about the Christian life. What do Christians look like? What do our churches look like? What should they look like? You ever sat in a church pew and rehearsed every item on your grocery/work/personal/weekly to-do list? Did that hour in the pew ever seem like four… or five? These two smart guys, in their book, wrote something that made me cringe deep within my heart. They said, “[Christians] shall die, not from crucifixion, but from sheer boredom.” So I ask...
Is Christianity boring?... I thought about asking, “Is Jesus boring?” but then I thought about him and his life and the stories we have, and Jesus is without a doubt NOT boring. He’s wild and crazy and radical and funny! The problem is, maybe no one sees that. Maybe we listen to Jesus’ words and hear nothing but a 98-year-old preacher’s voice on an uneventful Sunday morning, sitting in a hard wooden pew with unbelievably thin cushions. I guess we could blame this on the ministers, the preachers, who don’t tend to project a personality onto the bible when they teach it. An absolute shame, huh?
Long ago, people died. People always died. There was this valley, in fact, filled with their bones. Dry bones, really dead bones. The Lord God came to this prophet named Ezekiel and told him to speak to the bones [way weirder than speaking to imaginary people, btw]. When he did, guess what happened? They came ALIVE! That's right. These brittle, useless, lifeless bones grew flesh. [which is gross to imagine but miraculous nonetheless] All of a sudden they were transformed – living and breathing, with purpose. They were dead, really dead, and then they were alive. God just made them alive... again.
All that is to say…
We are part of something huge, this underground revolution of change and love and acceptance and justice and peace and grace; you are alive in order to set right the broken things. You are alive to remind the world of what was forgotten in that garden – that we don’t have to hide anymore, that God is all we need.
You are alive to give the world what it doesn’t know it needs the most [read that again, cuz it confused even me and I’m the one who wrote it].
Jesus is not boring, and following Jesus… wow, yeah, that’s not boring either. I hesitate saying this but if you are bored... maybe you’re doin’ it wrong. I mean, it’s not like there’s a lacking of stuff to be done here – lives to help, pain to mend, families to reconcile. Seriously, it's not like we've run out of things to do.
I want you to have a wild life, an adventurous one. A life that takes risks and jumps out of boxes and defies norms. That’s the kinda life Jesus had – and we’re called to follow him. So follow him… and may you walk in his wild and crazy footsteps. Wherever they lead you.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
There was this woman long ago from a city called Shunem. She was a Shunammite, you could say. We don’t know her name. Someone simply wrote about her because of her kindness. Elisha, this prophet of the LORD God, would pass by her door every so often on his travels to and fro; and when he would, she would feed him… give him a place to stay for the night. That’s all. No biggie. Just some dinner and a pillow. Anybody could’ve done it… but did they? Funny how something so simple could make it into a history book so grand…
When I started as Pastoral Resident [fancy name for an amateur minister] at a church in Virginia, I had just come out of seminary and I was full of vision and passion and life. [I hope I still have most of that by the way.] I moved into an apartment of my own and realized very quickly that the nights are lonely without roommates. I got a dog and definitely imagined his voice in my head; but alas, our inside jokes and random late-night Taco Bell runs just weren’t the same. I had been in that small town a month when Liz and John called. “Just some dinner,” they said. That’s all. Nothing fancy. Salads with yummy cranberries and bleu cheese. Homemade brownies and some vanilla ice cream from the fridge. Sitting around a table, talking for hours about random world events, their grandkids, my dog, favorite books, favorite movies, and following God – always following God. I stayed in that city for two years – two years of salads with yummy cranberries. The dessert always changed. They knew I love dessert.
That’s all. Nothing fancy. I want you to know their names. John and Liz. I have added them to my history book because they were that grand.
We focus on junk that doesn’t matter. [And when I say we I’m mostly talking about followers of Jesus or ‘little Christs’ you could call us, though this statement probably applies to everyone.] This doctrine or that one. Church politics, who gets to be a deacon and what translation should the pew bibles be. How should we vote and on what should we focus our next picket line? Lots of… junk… that doesn’t truly help or support or love anybody.
This cool guy [I assume. I actually don’t know him.] named Tony Campolo [which is just a cool name] once said, “I wish Jesus would ask, ‘Virgin Birth; strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree? Check one.’ But those aren’t the questions. The questions are, ‘I was hungry, did you feed me? I was a stranger, did you make room for me?’” John and Liz got it. They were some of the best ‘little Christs’ I have ever known, and it wasn’t because we voted the same or agreed on free will versus predestination. It wasn’t because they showed up every week in their ‘Sunday best’ or took a stand for/against healthcare reform and gay rights. They were some of the best Jesus-followers I have known because I truly believe they looked like Him – loving me, and everybody else, the same way He did when he walked on the earth 2,000 years ago.
To John and Liz, you don’t know what you did for me. You were just feeding this young, amateur minister, providing her a little human companionship from most of her nights spent alone. I told you that I loved you. I told you ‘thank you’ a thousand times; and yet, I am confident that you never realized what an eternal fingerprint you left on my heart. You were my Shunammite woman. You were Jesus to me.
To those who loved John and Liz, may we cry tears of sadness that they are no longer in our presence but may we moreso cry tears of joy for having actually befriended two people who resemble that much love. There are truly angels walking among us, and now we know two of their names.
To all others, who are simply reading these words, may you recognize the Johns and the Lizs in your life. May your eyes be opened to the Shunammite women and men in your midst, for we may be entertaining angels in disguise. And may each of us take seriously the legacy, the fingerprints, we leave behind. Just some dinner. A dollar here and there. A hug. Some encouraging words. A conversation.Holy traces. Sacred moments in the mundane.
May we resemble Him.