Claiming my (ir)relevancy

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the blurry mess of a photo that one of my boys once took in the office on a Sunday morning…an accurate depiction of real life in the church office.

On a plane in conversation with a seat-partner or in a line at the grocery store when I introduce myself and my profession, I notice the surprise that breaks across the face of my conversation partner.  Sometimes, the surprise holds a twinge of disapproval, but most of the time it reflects general disorientation.  I know my gender and age have a significant part of their reaction: I am not what they expected.  As a blonde thirty-five-year-old mother of three, I am not the typical ordained Baptist pastor.

But an article I read this week caused me to wonder if the reaction might be, instead, a reaction to this ancient profession to which I have been called.

Survey shows: clergy irrelevant.

While the article is written hyperbolically, I know it attests to a real perception amongst our culture. “What do you do during the week?” is asked with some regularity. If someone has longer than a few moments with me, they seek some details of what keeps me busy, with an underlying sense of judgment or disbelief.

I discussed the article with my husband last night as we cleaned up the kitchen. My oldest son listened as he was playing Legos at the table. I know he is listening in on our conversations more lately. I look over and wonder, what will he think of me one day? What will be left of this clergy tradition? Will he understand this vocation to which I give my life? Will he know what I do in the office each week? Will he know what I labor over and whether it was all worth it?

Continue reading

35: Give Me a Patient Heart

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Walking back from getting coffee this past Thursday, a prayer appeared within me that took me by surprise.  “Give me a patient heart,” I prayed.  Curious about the phrase, I rolled it around my mind and have been doing so ever since.  This 35th birthday, this is the present I seek from the divine:  Give me a patient heart.

Give: let me not assume that patience is some natural trait, but rather that it is something that I must continually request; something I must receive rather than manufacture

me: as a person, a mother, a wife, a minister, a colleague, a friend, a citizen, a mortal being

a: not the but just a – the one that you seek to give me

patient: trusting not only in the end result of anything but in the process that leads to it; at peace with the absence of this desire in the now for I am trusting of the presence of this desire in the yet-to-be.

heart: the soul part of me – deeper than thought, more than just body, but the entirety of me in relation to God, others, my past self, present self, future self

As I embark upon a new year, what does it look like to pray this type of prayer for a whole year? Patience is often sought in the immediacy of the moment, when frustrations or annoyances overwhelm. Patience over a long period seems like a different kind of prayer.

Long-term patience trusts in a final completion – the hope for which one is waiting. Patience trusts in an end, a telos, a wholeness to all that we desire. Patience believes that we will ultimately see, taste, and know the glory of God revealed among us – glory that looks like justice, grace, mercy, and love. Patience trusts in our recent lectionary passage from Romans 5:1-5. It is a passage that I memorized a few weeks ago so that the words might soak into the crevices within me.  Indeed, the phrases have emerged in the moments when I needed them most…

“Therefore, since we are justified by faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
through whom we have obtained access to the grace in which we stand;
and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.

And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings,
knowing that suffering produces endurance,
and endurance produces character,
and character produces hope,
and hope does not disappoint us,
because God’s love has been poured into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit
that has been given to us.”

Peace with God looks like patience – no longer fearing what God might do to us or not do to us, but trusting in a God who dwells with us and is revealing a goodness of which we could never plumb the depths or reach its end.

This is what I seek. This is what I wait patiently to witness.  With a job to do in the waiting, but done without a posture of urgency… except in prayer that sends me back to whispering to myself as I head back to the office, “Give me a patient heart.”

How Unnerving It Is

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Composed while out on a run this morning reflecting upon…
– Teaching our oldest to ride a bike
– Walter Brueggemann’s article, “The Company of the Unafraid: God’s peculiar hope offers a way to keep fear from overpowering us”” in the July 2019 edition of Sojourners magazine

– Krista Tippett’s conversation with Elizabeth Alexander and the power of words that shimmer.

How unnerving it is
to move
through the world
in a new way. Continue reading

There is an ache in God’s Glory

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There are mornings when my quiet time pushes me to the limits of my imagination. It is not every morning. It is not every season. But when it comes, I can see God alive in all of creation – in every creak of steps as boys come down in the morning, in the birds whose songs fill the room through a cracked window, in the heart that still beats in my chest after all these years.

My chest fills with an awareness of the divine-saturated beauty of all things and of the human ignorance of its participation within it. I feel surrounded, overwhelmed, saturated in the Divine Life. Yesterday morning, I continued reading Richard Rohr’s latest, The Universal Christ, and I was struck again by the glory of God – an understanding of the ridiculously extravagant presence of the divine that is just within reach enough to knock me to my knees.

If life really is this rich, it is nearly too decadent. The glory of God can feel like a decadent chocolate cake that cannot be consumed in one sitting. Continue reading

This Is the Self God Loves

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IMG_4576I breathe and let the pressure release –
deflating the overblown self until it is only the
real, true, small, mortal self.

This is the self God loves.
This is the self that is able to love.
This is the self who can love another.

This is the self that is finite in its form
but infinite in Your glory

For this small, mortal self is Yours –

Yours, for You originated it with your creative force
Yours, for You have and will continue to redeem it
Yours, for You breathe meaningful life into it.

In our vast world where human beings chase after immortality, this small, mortal self is my greatest gift. It is the greatest privilege. It is the vessel for Your glory – a technicolor beauty unable to behold without covering our eyes or looking away in discomfort.

So as the morning sun rises and a full day awaits,
I breathe Your air
and I release all the pressure.

I am Yours again,
and I am alive
for another day in Your world.

I pause.
I give thanks.
I go forward to bless the world.

This Technicolor Life

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9B1A219A-F033-4EFD-A81E-CB1A1F3B9D19.jpgThe calendar on our refrigerator needs updating. To update it, I need time to cull all of our schedules and bring them into harmony – a harmony that will dance in front our eyes every time I gather food or fill my water cup this month.  The paper calendar looks empty right now, but it is far from it.  Soon, it will bleed technicolor. It will tell of all the many stories to be lived in the coming weeks –

Light Blue for baseball games, children’s choir performance, and end of year festivities
Green for church events and night-time meetings
Dark Blue for time with friends
Red for travel, graduation, birthdays
Orange for miles run
Black for meals to make

To live amongst it all is to ask our inner lives to line up within the designated tasks of the day. To live this technicolor life is to transition quickly from workday to family time. Child of God to Servant of God. Mother to Minister, and back again. Rising One to Settling One. Human Working to Human Being. Continue reading

Patience: Temporary and Abundant

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“Lord, let me know my end,
and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting my life is.

You have made my days a few handbreadths,
and my lifetime is as nothing in your sight.
Surely everyone stands as a mere breath.
Surely everyone goes about like a shadow.
Surely for nothing, they are in turmoil,
they heap up and do not know who will gather.

And now what do I wait for?
My hope is in you…

Hear my prayer, O Lord:
and give ear to my cry;
do not hold your peace to my tears.
For I am your passing guest,
an alien, like all my forebearers.”

– Psalm 39

I have been reading Eugene Peterson’s Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology and I just finished the long chapter on “Christ Plays in Creation.” His thoughts on Sabbath have me reeling and wondering many things. “We inhabit a mystery. We must not pretend to know too much.” Reading Psalm 39 on Monday led me to wonder about how often we think of time as either guaranteed (not cherishing what is, forgetting that it is a gift) or too scarce (angry at how “little” of it we have).

With a window, propped to hear the birds singing and conversing, I ignore the ticking clock and name for me to remember…

Patience requires nothing of me. I am awed to wait and wonder at all that grows not at my own initiative. I take in all the beauty that emerges due to Another’s design.

Patience requires everything of me. I am asked to wait and wonder at all that I wish to actively tend and nurture, produce and share – but I must wait my turn in Life’s Timing that I cannot control but I can submit to in frustration and joy, confusion and gratitude.

Patience says that all is temporary, so do not miss this moment and all that cannot last within it. Do not assume the moment needs MORE – missing that it is already brimming with more than we could ever take in, even if we tried.

Patience says that all is abundant, so be content with missing some of the moments or being unable to take it all in. There is more than enough. Patience says that life’s plentitude does not fade but extravagantly, almost arrogantly continues. Do not assume the moment needs CAPTURING – missing that the glory witnessed continues and cannot ever be erased.

Patience allows the eternal to exist right now – abundantly in the temporary.

Its power lingers as children come in and climb into my lap, asking for nutella with bread and if they woke early enough to have their 30 minutes of computer time. Then patience begins to interact with the ticking of the clock and I am beckoned back into the world of timed minutes. Already I am late in getting ready, but I just could not help myself. I could not help but believe that it is all true – that the birds singing, the cool air coming in the window, and the abundance of life was asking to be noticed and remembered.

But the school bell rings in an hour and 15 minutes. The house must wake, move, and have its begin in order to make it on time.

Time marches on, but thank God for all that has been and all that remains to be enjoyed.  Surely, even on a Friday morning, there will be enough of it.