Friday, March 30, 2012

Smarty Pants

I am pretty sure I have known everything there is to know about the Bible since I was like 5. No, really no one has ever needed to teach me anything, because I know it all. Every youth minister, and pastor, and Sunday school teacher I have ever had can attest to my knowledge.

Or total lack there of. (Proof that I didn't real know everything: In 12th grade I thought that Calvinism had died with the pilgrims. I told my youth minister that. He was a Calvinist. Oops!)

Growing up, I was that kid in church and as an adult I am that woman in church: the one who knows everything. Even worse, I am now armed with an MDiv to prove it.

Seminary should have broken me of this: as the main thing I was confident of upon graduation was that there was so much more I needed to learn. Still, there are some lessons that are just too easy to forget.

Recently, I started taking the Eucharist University Class at my church (aka- Bible study on crack, in which we are given geography quizzes!) Armed with my MDiv I should be doing fine, but I am behind in my reading and realizing with each reading assignment how much I don't know/don't remember. (My professors at Treutt where pretty awesome, so I am more than confident they taught me this stuff: I just don't remember it.)

I am writing this out not simply as another confession on a now very confession oriented blog- but to say what I am learning about my arrogance as I observe it.

  • It makes me silent with fear of being exposed as a fraud, and lazy when I should dig deeper and ask more questions. 
  • It makes me feel superior to people and therefore prevents me from learning from them, loving them, and serving them. 
  • Most significantly it prevents me from living in the way of Jesus and following his example.
When Jesus was 12 he went to the Great City for the Great Feast and his parents left him there. When they returned they didn't find him scared and hiding or even playing. They found him in his Father's House with the teachers. He was listening to them and asking them questions! (Luke 2) If Jesus, the Son of God who gave the scriptures to us, can see the need to spend his time learning and growing in wisdom and knowledge I am pretty sure I should rethink the smarty pants act. 

Even more as I look to Holy Week next week I should remember what real humility looks like. It looks like that same child 21 years later willing to take on the ultimate shame of the cross. Jesus taught with wisdom and truth that changed peoples lives. His knowledge of the Law was perfect. Even armed with more knowledge than I will ever posses: he didn't feel the need to prove himself, instead he gave himself.

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.~Philippians 2:3-11 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The SOLD Project

I got to meet Tawee tonight. After three years of supporting The Sold Project's work in Thailand, it was an honor to meet the Thailand Director. His story was inspiring! His passion was evident and his vision for his village is amazing.

Most impressive to me is how he talked about the girls that 'made bad choices' but still needed support. His desire to continue to offer grace even when prevention has failed but the girls still need a place to come back to, is so beautiful.

He told the story of a young girl in their programs who was shamed by her family and the village. She left for the city. She was in school in the city, but she dropped out and got a job at as a beer girl. Still, The Sold Project pursued her and invited her back. The admitted that because the village had hurt her they would need to earn back her trust, but they offered her support and a way back into the community. Tawee said it better than I did, but more than anything he made the point:

Prevention is meaningful and hard and necessary, even if what you are preventing is preventing them from going back.

Please watch the video and learn more about how you can help prevent child prostitution.

Stand 4 Freedom from The SOLD Project on Vimeo.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

“It’s a gift to joyfully recognize and accept our own smallness and ordinariness. Then you are free with nothing to live up to, nothing to prove, and nothing to protect. Such freedom is my best description of Christian maturity, because once you know that your 'I' is great and one with God, you can ironically be quite content with a small and ordinary 'I.' No grandstanding is necessary. Any question of your own importance or dignity has already been resolved once and for all and forever.” Richard Rohr

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Good books

I am grateful for good books and coffee.

I am grateful the opportunity to learn and grow, for the luxury of reading and imagination, for the chance to loose myself in someone else's story and from that experience become better able to understand my own.

I am grateful.

Monday, March 26, 2012


I am grateful for friend's kids to take photos with.

I am grateful for a job that I love and coworkers who check in on me with genuine interest.

I am grateful for trips out of the city.

I am grateful for rainy days.

I am grateful for opportunities to volunteer for an amazing organization that is seeking to support work done in the developing world. (Do Good Lab - you can volunteer too!)

I am grateful for opportunities to grow in my faith, and reminders that Holiness is not sin management but finding identity in my Creator.

I am grateful for Mad Men parties and vintage dresses and hair and makeup that gets a reaction.

I am grateful for late night movie showings on opening weekend and chocolate covered espresso to keep me awake for it.

I am grateful for cheese and gluten free crackers.

I am grateful for lattes and americanos and coffee.

I am grateful for the reminders to grieve, even when I don't want to and even when all I can do is cry for the fictional character, because crying for the real life and death of those I have cared for still feels like too much.

I am grateful for Christian family and biological family and for the reminder that I was created to be in relationship and I that I want to find love and I need to find love and I am grateful that that reminder reminds me that seeking love is worth the risk, even if it is hard.

I am grateful for close friends and best friends and sisters.

I am grateful that God chose to take on flesh and show us what living a life of love looks like.

I am grateful for reconciliation and forgiveness and hard conversations that lead to better relationship.

I am hopeful that the issues of racism in our country that are being brought to light will someday lead to greater reconciliation as we acknowledge that we have yet to fully seek restoration but have instead sought to hide our mistakes. I am grateful for friends and community that are willing to take these issues on and seek healing and renewal and admit that we are still wrong.

I am grateful for grace.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Finding Sabbath

As this weekend approached I pretty much had every minute booked up. To be honest I was kind of dreading the weekend of unrest, despite the fact that I loved everyone and everything that would be filling up my hours. Then a flu outbreak (not me or anyone I know) canceled my Saturday morning plans, and my friends postponed a crafting party scheduled for Sunday afternoon. I almost feel guilty about how relieved I felt to get the news about both of these events, almost.

With that said, I think it is highly appropriate timing that I am about to read the book Sabbath with a group of lovely women. Despite the fact that I have written on Sabbath a few times here, I am terrible at it. Even more in the past few months I have given myself intentional permission to over book myself, and I am happier than I have been in a long time. I am a bit torn and tired. I have a handful of friends who are dealing with some really heavy things and I am not sure that I have been able to be there for them the ways that I would like to. To be honest I just spent much of my evening with an amazing woman, mostly talking about me. So, clearly, I do not have my life figured out. Nonetheless, being busy is making me happy, while observing the Sabbath is a commandment I tend to forget. 

With just 9 minutes left in the seventh day of the week, I am confessing: I need to develop this discipline, evan as I am loving the sense of productivity I am feeling these days. I need to take a day each week to trust that God can get everything done without my help and take that day to celebrate and enjoy God's goodness. I did that today, as my plans changed the day opened itself up to only fun and relaxing endeavors, and it was wonderful, and I am deeply grateful. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Give it and feel love

Lately I feel like I am constantly taking new risks, making new friends, and allowing my desire to know people to let me be a bit more on the side of pursuit than pursed. I often feel terrified that all of me is too much. Tiny rejections leave me in fear that my friendship is undesired or misread and I am a burden to bear. I hate crying. I buy girly dressed just to stare at them in my closet each morning afraid to wear them for fear that they make me look childish and weak. I hate vulnerability, risk, and shame. I am terribly embarrassed by the idea that I have ever and will ever again have a crush on someone that sees me with nothing but a great deal of respect, but has little to no desire for me. I am equally terrified of pursuing friendship only to have hard times made harder by the reality that I have no idea who to call when I need someone to cry with.

I am surrounded by friends, and being highly respected is worth more to me than being thought of a pretty/desirable. I cannot think of anyone in my life that doesn't speak wisdom and love into everything I do and seek to do. I have amazing people all over the world who love me. So, I have to ask myself: why is that I am constantly chasing more? What is it that I am chasing or holding onto with clinched fists?

I am reading Free of Charge by Miroslav Volf. (I bet no one expected a Zooey Deschenel quote to be followed by a theological reference.) In reading this book I am constantly feeling challenged to accept the gifts of God in order to give them, to be a channel. How can I be a channel of God's gifts if I am afraid of truly experiencing them? The primary gift I am thinking of is God's bountiful love and acceptance.

I also have become a HUGE fan of Brene Brown's work on vulnerability and shame. (Thank you TED talks!) In her first talk she talks about those who experience love are the ones who most believe they are deserving of love. So, my fear of being undeserving of love seems to be the biggest thing blocking me from it, well isn't that just nifty.

I guess this a confession. I am deeply joyful and deeply discontent all at once in my one heart and soul, and it feels about bit overwhelming. Yet somehow, I think that by being fully myself in the world: a bit overwhelmed by both its goodness and its brokenness, and filled with both love and rejection, I am more able to offer love and to give the gifts I have been given. At least that is my hope. It is my hope that even as a am deeply afraid, I can also be courageous to face my fear and offer love. It is also my hope that in doing so, I will inspire others to face their own fear and offer love.

I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love. ~Mother Teresa~

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Gratitude and Lament

I remembered tonight that part of Lent is lament, and therefore maybe my goal of happy gratitude as I prepared my heart for Easter might have been a little misplaced. Instead it might be wiser to think of gratitude in terms of repentant thanksgiving for who God is and what God has done and given for me. This reminder came today from an unexpected story.

In my Context Group (read: Bible Study, Life Group, Community Group, Small Group, whatever your church calls the smaller meeting of people during the week) we are going through Genesis. In three weeks we have busted through creation, eating the fruit, and fratricide. So today we were discussing that lovely nursery decorating, children's story of Noah's Ark. You know the story, where all of humanity aside from one family is drowned in a massive flood. In short one of the messier and darker stories of the Bible that we tend to dress up as something cute, because we don't want to deal with the harshness of it.

I realized tonight how much of the story I have missed. Not in that I don't know the details, or the historical context it was written in or any of that, but I realized I have read the character of God wrong. I always read the story as the story of an angry God, but if you read it closely most of the emotions attributed to God are the emotions of grief and sorrow. Yes, there is judgment, but there is a redemptive plan and sorrow: unspeakable painful sorrow, for the state of the world. GOD IS SAD, that he* created humanity because humanity is evil, and in this evil we are hurting ourselves.

Furthermore, even after the flood God is resigned to deal with our evil instead of choosing to destroy us once and for all. He goes so far as to enter into covenant with us, knowing that our hearts are evil.

In response to this, as best I can, I want join God in God's sorrow instead of taking it on as my own. I want to remember that God has been at work redeeming this world over and over again, and he has done it at the cost of his own heart and his own sorrow. I want to say that I am grateful for holy memories of the story of God.

*Being a bit on the feminist side and a HUGE fan of inclusive language for God, I want to apologize for calling God 'he' all the time. I just sometimes find the inclusive language more distracting than helpful. If you need to mentally edit to 'she' I will not be offended. ;)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

I said I would post daily during lent. I would post about the things I was grateful for. To be honest, I hadn't thought about how that commitment would play out if anything bad happened. I didn't think about how writing daily would work when I was grieving or angry. I had thought that finding joy and beauty in the little things would make it all better and I would grow in my relationship with God.

It turns out it isn't that easy.

I don't want to be ungrateful to God for all the truly good things he has done. I will confess I am a bit frustrated with myself for how easily my devotion to God crumbles when I feel God has been unjust, and when I think just maybe he didn't ration out his love the way I think he ought to have.

So, tonight as I think about gratitude: I am grateful that God's love doesn't falter as easily as mine.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Grateful Day 7 or something... I just know I missed a few

Writing about my gratitude feel frivolous and hard today, not because I am not grateful, but because I can't find words strong enough to state how grateful I am and how broken the world is all at the same time.

I am grateful for the opportunity to do work that impacts people's lives, and I grieve that sometimes those lives cannot embrace change.

I am grateful for colleagues who are willing to hold space and think through how we can best create safety for the people we serve.

I am grateful for pastors all over the country that are seeking to live out the Kingdom in their communities.

I am grateful that I serve a God that cares deeply and loves more fully than I love and offers infinitely more grace than I do.

I am grateful for conferences, and adorable hotels, and southern hospitality, and Irish pubs, and friends I have not seen in years, and flights that don't connect so that I end up spending the night in Dallas with an old friend who lives in Africa but is in Texas for a few months.

I am grateful for friends that are able to understand my emotions.

I am grateful for people who are willing to listen.

I am grateful for hope.

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