I’ve been involved in a renovation project over the past several months. Demolition stage was challenging and required some trust that the outcome would be worth the effort. Some of the demo was merely cosmetic. However, there were some loadbearing walls involved as well. These walls were substantial, and I’ve had some pushback from some who thought I went too far. But to this point of the project, I’ve not regretted any of those decisions. These were the changes that really opened up the space to be something I could never have imagined otherwise. Now that the demo stage is pretty much complete, and I’ve begun to add some framework to the foundations that were exposed. The intent is a very open space conducive to hospitality, conversation, and growing relationships. As the construction continues, I hope to be open to suggestions and input growing out of those conversations and relationships. I’m beginning to recognize that this project will be ongoing for the foreseeable future. I’m anticipating taking out and replacing some of the features added recently. Probably not rising to the level of a full demo, but being open to the likelihood of redecorating as the need arises. It’s very gratifying to know that the work that has been completed to this point has really produced the desired results! I’m loving this space! (Even as it’s still under construction and probably always will be.)
I began several times intending to write about God. Finding traction was difficult. There was the distraction of Rosie the Labrador. At 5:30, she came bursting from her night of quiet, eager to taste and smell and run and roll in her world. And she so wants me, you, everyone to experience it. She licks my leg, urging me out of my chair, bounding forward through the screen—through the screen—that could never be a barrier.
“Silly dog! You broke the screen! Ran right through!”
But who is the silly one? Rosie the Labrador challenges every supposed barrier. Runs through some, paws at others but tests them all. Not for any grand purpose other than to live the life of a Labrador with which she was blessed and has blessed us.
She bounds back up the stairs, tail beating a rhythm on my metal chair. She paws my legs inviting them to move. She sniffs my arm, tongue tasting my knee, eyes alert to all movement, nose to all smells-those I’ll never know.
She wins. We went on a walk. I left the phone and ear-buds at home. And I heard some things I would have otherwise missed.
So…I’m considering this question. I work at a church and there are a lot of things a church might be about. But in my mind one of those things, maybe the most important thing…but maybe not (I’ll grant that possibility to someone that might have a better answer)…is to better follow Jesus.
I’m submitting this question to whomever might choose to read this little post. I’m not necessarily looking for public comments (although they are welcome). I’m not interested in laying a guilt trip on anyone. I’m not wanting to convert anyone on this post. I’m simply asking this question of myself and inviting others to consider it as well. Grace and peace.
I ran across this article while digging deeper into a topic in a book I’m reading. Krista Tippett, the author of the book, who had been living in Berlin for quite some time and whose job it was to keep her finger on the pulse of relationships on both sides of the wall, observed: “…it was possible to have freedom and plenty in the West and craft an empty life, it was possible to ‘have nothing’ in the East and create a life of intimacy and dignity and beauty.” While the politicians and bureaucrats had some influence, it was ultimately the people who assumed and acted upon their freedom that brought down the Iron Curtain. Giving politicians power is akin to turning a 3 year old loose with power tools. It is ultimately people assuming and claiming the lives of “intimacy, dignity and beauty” for which they had been created that brought down the wall. I fear we give the political process entirely too much credit. To believe the rhetoric and live our lives by it is foolish at best. It is toxic for us to allow the narrative by which we live our lives to be defined by 3 year olds fighting over the power tools. It paints everything in a dualistic way that creates division and discord. We were created for so much more than that.
It’s been a difficult Advent to try and speak about peace. Every where one looks the evidence of its absence is overwhelming. I would write a few sentences here summing up the news headlines of late but I’d rather not. We all know them far too well.
If I turn from the headlines toward my expanded neighborhood of friends and acquaintances on social media, it seems there is an election looming. In fact, there seems to be one looming 365 days a year. And a cursory look at the posts on my feed seem to imply that one particular brand of politics or the other has the solution[s] and/or “leader[s]” to remedy this chronic lack of peace we’ve all been experiencing for quite some time. Call me cynical but, I’m not really buying what they’re selling. Seems as though this has been the claim by all sides of every issue for as long as I’ve been alert enough to pay attention.
So, what to do? Do I give in to the cynicism of the age?
I don’t have an answer. But I do have my faith. The faith I have is rooted in a God who loves. Call me naive. Call me idealistic. But, the older I get, my cynicism toward the powers of this world only grows and my faith in this loving God is continually confirmed. Even when someone throws the turmoil of this world at my “loving God” saying the chaos is proof that my faith is in vain, I realize that I would rather live my faith in this loving God than in the false hopes and unfulfilled promises of the powers that be in our world. It’s simply a better way to live my life. I would rather live in that love of God than in the fear and frustration offered by the alternative.
One of my favorite quotes about peace is by Nicholas Wolsterstorff:
“The state of shalom is the state of flourishing in all dimensions of one’s existence: in one’s relation to God, in one’s relation to one’s fellow human beings, in one’s relation to nature, and none’s relation to oneself…An ever-beckoning temptation for the [American] evangelical is to assume that all God really cares about for human beings here on earth is that they be born again and thus destined for salvation… [However], what God desires for human beings is that comprehensive mode of flourishing which the Bible calls shalom…God’s love of justice is grounded in God’s longing for the shalom of God’s creatures and in God’s sorrow over its absence.”
If the system you subscribe to isn’t offering this type of peace…this shalom…then, well, it might not be worthy of your faith. And it just might be contributing to the absence of peace we’re all enduring in our world.
I think my favorite Christmas song is Christmas Bells and my favorite rendition is by John Gorka. Check it out here. (Here is a live version of the song.)
I’ve tried this once before. A Facebook Fast for lent. It wasn’t easy and I wrote a couple of blog posts about why. (You can read those here.) I know some folk have begun to get down on Facebook (too many “cat videos”; “who wants to hear/see pictures of someone’s dinner”; “it’s all Humblebragging; etc.
I for one am not ashamed to admit that I LOVE Facebook. Still. Whether it’s cool or not, it’s fun, mostly informative, and has reconnected me with people I knew in high school, college, past churches, past jobs/careers, long distance family. It’s been an extension of community in a very profound way for me since I first started my Facebook page back in 2007.
This practice of giving something up for lint has been mostly a fail for me for years. (If you’re reading this, I hope you’ll say a little prayer for me for strength and discipline to not merely sign off but to pick up a new awareness of God’s presence in my life. You’ll probably still see an occasional post show up on my time line (I have some things set to automatically post…like my occasional tweets and blog posts like this one.) I’ll have to log in occasionally to post something to my youth group FB pages. However, I’m going to ignore the addictive little red number that shows up in the top of the window and on my Facebook app…(note to self: you probably should delete that app for the time being.) This was very hard to do last time (I wrote about that here.)
Peace and blessings to you during this time of lent! See you Easter Sunday!
I LOVED this book. And that’s odd because I probably can’t recommend it to all my friends. Many would be strongly offended by it. They would quickly react to Nadia Bolz-Weber‘s application of sailor language to godly topics. Many would take offense at her welcoming and affirming stance on LGBTQ issues. And I’ve come to a place that it’s ok if they are offended. I can’t control that. Don’t read the book if you fear you’ll fall in that category. I honestly don’t want to be the one that riles you up and disturbs your peace. (I would like to point out that LGBTQ is about people long before it ever became an “issue”. Like every “issue” out there, when it’s your starting point, you often end up somewhere Jesus isn’t and you walk on a lot of people whom Jesus loves on your way to the smug destination you’ll find at the end of such a path.)
Because of my reading of Pastrix, I recognize the smugness of that last sentence. It comes across as if I’m the one enlightened and all who disagree with me are intolerant and bigots. Now, don’t get me wrong…I absolutely stand by the sentence I wrote above. However, there is a heavily underlined paragraph on page 57 of my copy of Pastrix that says:
Matthew once said to me, after one of my more finely worded rants about stupid people who have the wrong opinions, “Nadia, the thing that sucks is that every time we draw a line between us and others, Jesus is always on the other side of it.” — Nadia Bolz-Weber
To further quote Nadia, “Damn!” Pastix shined a light on all the lines I’ve drawn between me and people with whom I disagree. And in so doing, it shined a light on Jesus that I’ve needed turned on for a while now. What I continually discovered in Pastrix was resurrection. It was a continual stream of stories of death and resurrection. Persons and lives dying deaths large and small only to encounter the risen Christ and be raised to new life again in profound and graceful and loving ways. It’s a resurrection that one can and should experience daily. (That’s what Jesus meant!)
Reading Pastrix was something of a cathartic experience for me. It was hard to put my finger on what continually resonated with me as I turned page after page. But as I reluctantly put the book down this morning I recognized a long lost itch (p. 204) that I had continually and unconsciously been scratching all these years but had slipped from my awareness. I realized that I had rediscovered a distant call to ministry that animates my life. It’s a call we all share and it manifests itself in all sorts of different jobs and vocations and roles. But it’s absolutely a call. It’s a call to discover who we were created to be. And its a call to death and resurrection. Thanks Nadia.