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In the Midst of the Busyness

Almost without fail when I ask a fellow parent of littles how it is going, their response is: “It’s busy.”  To be certain that’s true. Just trying to get out of the door with shoes, weather-appropriate gear, and all the other things “just in case” there is an accident or someone gets hungry can be overwhelming. Not to mention all the doctors’ appointments, haircuts, and dentist appointments.

It’s very, very easy in the midst of the busyness to never be fully present. To be moving at such a break-neck speed that we are never where we are and we are just on our way to the next appointment. Sometimes we move in the midst of busyness because we are feeling lonely or isolated. Sometimes we move in the midst of the busyness because we are fearful that we aren’t a good parent, that we aren’t paying enough attention to each of our children Sometimes we move in the midst of the busyness because we aren’t sure of our purpose. Nothing feels intentional about our daily activities and yet everything feels pressing and that it needs to be done right away.  As the holidays approach, it’s even easier to get lost in the midst of the busyness and never be truly present.

Maybe today instead of being in the midst of the busyness, we can defiantly say stop and sit down for a minute and be present feeling our cold feet against the cold ground, noticing that we have been slouching out of fatigue and exhaustion, and paying attention to our dry knuckles that are reminding us that we need to drink more water.

When we stop in the midst of the busyness and say no to our culture of chaos, we remind ourselves that there is more to us than just our physical beings. We are emotional and spiritual and we need to feed those parts of ourselves. Busyness only starves those parts of us claiming there is never enough time or that we don’t deserve to pay attention to that still, small voice whispering “just be”.

Everything around us is telling us to work more, add more to our calendars, and spend more time running from one place to the other. Everything about the upcoming Advent season says the opposite. Wait. Hope. Be.

In the midst of the busyness maybe there is a deep cry for something more meaningful,  less exhausting, and more fulfilling. Can you hear it?

In the Midst of the Rain

The phrase “when it rains, it pours” means that when one thing goes wrong a trail of other difficult things happen in a row. It is a reminder that the skies can be cloudy and in just a moment that can change and there can be rain so hard you can’t see and even a short dash from the door to the car door can leave you soaked through.

In the midst of the rain, it is always difficult to be thankful. Your body is soaked and there are often shivers that follow the respite from the rain. Even though you are out of the rain, you can still feel the impact of that rain in your bones.

In the midst of the rain, it seems like the sun will never shine again and the warmth is far away. In the midst of the rain, the ground is nourished and all of those buried seeds began to take root and when the rain stops, what blooms is new life and new hope.

In the Midst of Changing

This week in the move to our new office, we moved a bookshelf. As my partner was taking it out the door, the three-year-old started crying. We both stopped for a minute thinking that something had fallen and hurt him, but when we asked if he was ok, he responded, “But I don’t want it to move.” Let’s just say we’re at an age where we are more than a little resistant to changes in environment, schedule, and apparently bookshelves.

He’s not the only one that I’ve heard lamenting change. In my work as an editor and offering advice to writers who would like to become published authors, I often hear: “But I didn’t think I was going to have to change things.” Change is never easy no matter how old we are.

Interestingly, the idea that we are not changing constantly is something that we have convinced ourselves is true when in fact it’s not. We are constantly changing. The air around us is constantly changing. The temperature increases and decreases throughout the day or changes. Our bodies are changing digesting and reacting to the food and liquids we have consumed. The places we live and the transportation we use are constantly changing as wear and tear begin to take hold.

Change is all around us and indeed within us.

When we say we hate change, what we really are saying is that we hate being confronted with the reality that we don’t have control. We like to think that we have created something that will hold and that will remain stable from day to day. And when something bigger than a bookshelf moves or changes, we find ourselves in the same position as our three-year-old crying and reaching out for things not to move and change.

What if instead, we clung to the reality that things are always changing and that change is the only constant we can depend upon. Then we would ride the waves of the air current, marveling at the way that sun moves across the sky, and being astounded by all the work our bodies do every single minute to keep us breathing.

Looking Inside

Our plans were changed because of bad weather on the weekend we were planning to carve our pumpkin. By the time we were able to carve it, let’s just say it had been with us for a while. I had this feeling that once we got inside, we were going to find something besides just the seeds and pumpkin guts. As I worked to pull off the top, just as I had expected, there was a big spot of rot (see where the pumpkin top looks like it has a bite out of it?).  Although I expected that there was something not quite right with our pumpkin, I didn’t really know what was going on until we took a look inside.

The same holds true for our own lives. We might look orange and pretty on the outside, but if there is something that is eating away at us, a broken relationship, unresolved conflict, fatigue or exhausation, slowly by surely that one spot will grow bigger and bigger until what’s going on inside leaks out.

This is what self-care is: taking a look inside. Cracking open the top to see deep into the parts of ourselves that have hold all the seeds. The seeds of our past. The seeds of our hurts. The seeds of our hopes. The seeds of our passions. The seeds of our calling. The seeds of our fear. The seeds of our worries. The seeds of who we are.

When we don’t take the time to look inside or take a look at whether those seeds nestled within us are getting enough water and light and space, then rot begins to grow, comprising all those seeds of possibility.

Maybe you’re like us, the time that you meant to spend in self-reflection or self-care got rained out of stormed out by the fierce urgency of now. Maybe you think that you can’t make up that time or that the time has passed. What we discovered was that once we got inside our pumpkin, even though it was a little worse for the wear, we were able to scoop that rot out. We were able to clean out the part that was threatening the rest of the pumpkin and we were able to transform our pumpkin into a new creation.

See how happy our pumpkin is that we took the time to look inside!

In the Midst of Becoming

Just recently, Elizabeth Gilbert posted a picture of her 32-year-old self with the description that the girl in the picture looked like a baby. She was in the middle of her divorce and wouldn’t have been recognized in a crowd because she had yet to write Eat, Pray, Love. She offered a beautiful narrative of how she talked to herself during that period of her life and what she would say to that girl now. This struck me. She didn’t find herself until her thirties.

She was in the midst of becoming.

And then a wave of realization washed over me. We are all in the midst of becoming. If you, like me, find yourself at times thinking that by this age or by this season you should know who you are and what you want to do with your life, may I offer the idea that maybe you shouldn’t know? May I go even further and suggest that perhaps you will never know for sure who are you and what you want to do with your life?

That may seem scary. But I think it’s exciting.

There is no single point where there is no turning back and no chance to start over. No signs that say you can’t crawl into a chrysalis for a while to await getting wings. It is never too late to start becoming who you always wanted to be or doing what you always wanted to do. There is no point or season that you are supposed to have it all figured out or know for certain what lies ahead.

You are free to be in the midst of becoming.

In fact, I think allowing yourself the mental and spiritual relief to be in the midst of becoming allows you to open your mind and your attention to new challenges, new opportunities, and new relationships. I can remember the crisis I felt when I articulated a call to ministry. I was already five years and an advanced degree in one profession. I thought it was unwise financially to “switch careers”. And maybe it was. But I know if I hadn’t taken that step towards becoming something and someone I never imagined I could be, I wouldn’t be here in this moment.

You are free to be in the midst of becoming.

While it may seem like you are wrestling and struggling to find all the answers, maybe this reassurance will offer you some relief. You don’t have to know where you will be in five years or ten years or really even tomorrow. You can wake up today or decide after lunch to take an unexpected turn or U-turn or sprint in a different direction. You can try a new road or a road you have already been on before. You can take a break from societal expectations of having a long-range plan or a short-range plan for that matter.

You are free to be in the midst of becoming.

How long, O God?

The lectionary psalm this week is speaking to the concerns that so many people have with the current administration in our country. Children put in cages. Abuses of power. Insider politics. Secrets and promises.

While it is important and good in our call-out culture to speak out and speak up, we must also remember to “Take delight in the Lord,” remembering that the work we do is not our own work. It is work that the Holy Mystery is also working on. We are not alone in crying out for help. We are not alone in wondering when justice will roll down. We are joining the cries of this psalmist and indeed the children of God for generations before us.

37:1 Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers, 37:2 for they will soon fade like the grass, and wither like the green herb. 37:3 Trust in the LORD, and do good; so you will live in the land, and enjoy security. 37:4 Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. 37:5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. 37:6 He will make your vindication shine like the light, and the justice of your cause like the noonday. 37:7 Be still before the LORD, and wait patiently for him; do not fret over those who prosper in their way, over those who carry out evil devices. 37:8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath. Do not fret–it leads only to evil. 37:9 For the wicked shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.

A-light-ment

Yesterday was the first day of Fall or the Fall Equinox. It marks the time when there was as much light as there was darkness. From here our days will start to have more and more dark in them. It’s a time that some people feel as if they are losing the light, but for me, Fall has always been a time of a-light-ment.

There’s something about the way the light comes through the kitchen window in the Fall that makes me feel calm and at peace. The sun shining straight into my windshield in the mornings reminds me of the new day and the new opportunities to offer light to the world.

Just as our cars need alignments every so often and our backs need adjustments after hours sitting in our cars and sitting at our computers, so too do our souls need a-light-ment. We need the reminder that the season is changing, that the trees will soon be letting go of their lives and storing up for the dark and cold of winter.

Although we may not like change or be ready for change, change still comes. Notice the way the light is moving. A-light yourself to the gentle breeze, see the possibility that a new season brings.

Waking up to Death

One of the hardest aspects of the Lenten season is to the constant reminder that we are dust and to dust we shall return. As a preacher, I welcome the times in the church calendar like now where scripture lends itself to the promise and hope of resurrection and will come again.

For some, the Lenten season is not one that matches the church calendar but begins instead with the darkness of a diagnosis or the sudden decline of a loved one. These reminders in the middle of the church calendar catch us off guard. Because although we all know that we are dust and to dust, we shall return, we often push this realization to our subconscious.

We are life and death in one. Always moving towards death, but also living and breathing. It the paradox of our humanity.

When we have these moments when we are reminded of just how fragile life is and how much we can’t control how much time we have, we wake up to death moving this reality from our subconscious to our conscious thoughts. When this move happens, we tend to find time for what’s most important. We tend to treasure moments that would have been commonplace. We tend to worry less about clothes, money, and possessions because in matters of life and death those become unimportant.

For those of us who have lost someone, we love deeply and have found sleep, waking up to the realization that their physical presence is gone is so very difficult. And we have to wake up to the death of that loved one, again and again, day after day.

Waking up to death actually wakes up to life…and gratitude…and hope.

 

On Being a Revangelical

When I voiced a call to ministry, I found myself an outcast of my spiritual home of twenty-six years. As a woman who was raised Southern Baptist, my voicing a call to preach and pastor was beyond the fundamentalist theological views of my home church. From the vast number of women and men and nonbinary individuals who have shared their stories so openly, I know that I am not alone in finding myself wandering in a spiritual desert by coming out to who I was called to be. There is a whole community of people who are joining together to try to find sanctuary, ask questions, and share their stories in order to find wholeness and healing. This #exvangelical community has created books, podcasts, conferences, and all sorts of spaces for people who found themselves homeless.

Throughout my journey of being called to pastor and preach, I have followed this community appreciating the courage and vulnerability with which so many people have shared their stories, their lives, their pain, their abuse, and their trauma. Indeed there is something powerful about knowing that you are not alone and you are not the only one who has been disowned by a community of faith.

But I never identified myself as #exvangelical.

I could never put my finger on why exactly until recently. In the second Democratic debate when Major Pete made this statement:

“And for a party that associates itself with Christianity to say that it is ok, to suggest that God would smile on the division of families at the hands of federal agents,” he said, “that God would condone putting children in cages has lost all claim to ever use religious language again.”

Something deep within me resonated with this statement because this is exactly where I have been stuck. I have never not considered myself evangelical. I believe in the gospel. I believe the gospel offers freedom and hope and healing and wholeness to all of those who have been oppressed, abused, silenced, ostracized and downtrodden. And I believe in spreading this message of hope.

I haven’t identified myself as an evangelical because of the political connotations associated with the term “evangelical.” I haven’t identified myself as an evangelical because of the way it has become synonymous with the religious right and the fundamentalist oppressive, abusive theology that has caused so much hurt and pain and disembodiment.

Between this statement and my partner’s parsing of the Greek meaning of the term evangelical around the dinner table, I am finally ready to say that I am evangelical or perhaps a revangelical, returning to an identity I used to wear proudly as I tried to convert my middle school friends and offer them eternal salvation.

I am no longer interested in converting people, but I am interested in continuing to accept the invitation of partnering in the wonderful, mystical, and transformative work that the Holy Spirit is doing here on earth within and among us.

The Best Books I Read in 2018

For the last two years, I have participated in the reading challenge on Goodreads. I’ve challenged myself to read 50 books. In 2016, I read 23. In 2017, I read 34. This year, I read 47. I’ll also challenge myself to read 50 books this year. It’s good to recognize challenges often take longer than a year to achieve.

Here’s the list of books I read.

While I recommend almost everything I read this year, I wanted to think about the five books I read this year that most impacted me and why. Books change us and challenge us to see the world and our own realities differently. These five surely did.

  1. The Hate U Give by Angela Johnson: Part of my commitment this year was to read from a variety of different perspectives, concentrating especially on female voices and underrepresented voices in the publishing industry. The Hate U Give is by far one of the best books to offer a new perspective through a first-person lens.
  2. The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd: I remember when I first encountered The Mermaid Chair and I thought to myself, “How did I not know this author existed?” I had this same experience when I discovered that she had theological writing I had never encountered. This book is especially significant and important for anyone who was raised with certain expectations of what it means to be female because it is her journey of finding the Divine Feminine. As she wrestles with who she has been and wrestles for who she will be, I found myself and my story again and again in her words.
  3. Silence by Thich Nhat Hanh: This year I started a certification program in Spiritual Direction. As part of that program, I read one book each month. With these requirements, I have encountered new authors and new ideas that have deepened my understanding and my connection to the Divine. This book in particular opened by eyes to just how noisy our lives are and how important silence is to balance out all the noise. Hanh points out how much we resist silence because of how noisy our world is and how we are missing something deep within because of all the noise.
  4. Blessed by Kate Bowler: Although most people know Kate Bowler for her book Everything Happens for a ReasonBlessed is her dissertation work. In this book, she recounts the history of the prosperity gospel and its influence in popular culture as well as religious institutions. As she makes her way through the story of this movement, so much about how our modern congregations view the world, giving, and involvement in the community becomes clear. If you think that this movement doesn’t impact you or your church, you’ll discover how much it actually does as you read this book.
  5. Raising Human Beings by Ross Greene: As our youngest has gained more and more independence throughout toddlerhood, it is important to us that we are fostering not only his physical and mental development but also his emotional development. This book is excellent if you are looking for ways to stretch those little daily decisions, interactions, and communications to a bigger philosophy of parenting.

Perhaps 2019 will finally be the year that I will reach that elusive 50 book goal, but regardless of whether I do or not, my commitment to read and to read as much as I can won’t change. Because it’s in reading other people’s words and seeing the world through other people’s eyes that our own view of the world expands to include other perspectives.