Five Minute Friday: Rush

Gentle Reader,

It’s the last day of the semester.

I don’t know what I feel. Exhausted. Elated. Hungry for caramel corn.

Vanilla- and cinnamon-scented candles flicker, flames casting oddly-shaped shadows on the walls. The wiener dog snores softly next to me. All the schoolbooks are put away. I can read whatever I want to for six weeks. I might spend a good bit of time reading the inside of my eyelids. Someone said that grad school tired is a whole different kind of tired. It’s true.

Kate says: rush.

Go.

Today is leg day.

I loathe leg day.

I’d rather go for a run than do squats and lunges, and that’s saying something right there.

But I laced up my shoes, grabbed my weights, and pressed “play.” Forty-five minutes later, I was a sweaty mess – but a happy one. Happy because I recognized the progress. I’m stronger than I was when I first decided to take fitness seriously. I don’t enjoy the squats and lunges, but I can do them. I can also throw a mean cross punch and hold a solid plank.

But that didn’t happen overnight. There was no rushing the progress. No shortcuts. We all want the magic pill and the quick solution, but they don’t exist. You have to put on your tennis shoes and do the thing.

That’s got me thinking about the rest of my life. I think I somehow manage to over-complicate and over-simplify, often simultaneously. But maybe all that’s ever required is to show up, willing to do the work, one little bit at a time.

Maybe there’s joy and purpose to be found in the slow, steady, and sweaty.

Stop.

Weary with Moaning

Gentle Reader,

Check me out, writing something that’s not for a seminary class.

I decorated the house for Christmas last week. A sign reading “all is bright” sits on the cabinet, just beneath the television. I can’t escape the words. All – everything. Bright – light.

That’s not Advent.

This year the darkness of Advent settles around me. Candles and tree lights pierce the gloom, pointing to the joy of Christmas day and the hope of Christ’s return. But just as I can’t escape the words on the sign, I can’t escape the tension of the season. Longing. Waiting. Wondering. For what, exactly, I think cannot be defined. Something – a peace, a fulfillment – that is just beyond the brush of our fingertips.

Humanness, aching for ultimate reconciliation with the Divine.

Words swirl together in my mind:

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing;
O Lord, heal me, for my bones are shaking with terror.
I am weary with my moaning;
    every night I flood my bed with tears;
    I drench my couch with my weeping.
My eyes waste away because of grief;
    they grow weak because of all my foes.

Then he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.” And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.”

– Psalm 6:2, 6-7; Matthew 26:38-39 (NRSV)

Are you tired? Do you find yourself thinking that you should (terrible, soul-sucking word) be feeling a certain way – joyful, energized, ready – but instead you feel drained?

That’s okay.

Really.

Let that out, in the presence of God.

I can’t get the image of Jesus in the garden out of my mind. I understand that these verses speak in multiple ways. They record: Jesus wanted His friends to be with Him in His hour of need. They point: us needing to be watchful and waiting, eyes fixed on Heaven. But they also instruct, something I have not picked up on until today: Jesus calls us to stay awake not only to and with Him, but to and with each other.

So when we’re feeling tired, when we’re weary with moaning, when the darkness of Advent threatens to snuff out the candles and the Christmas lights, we don’t only need to express that emotion in the presence of God. We need to express that emotion to each other.

Be watchful, for how God moves in these days.

Be watchful, too, for shadows of grief on the faces you see each day.

The movement of God and the movement of the shadow come together in an opportunity for you and me and us together to love – really love – as we are meant to.

Five Minute Friday: Wait

Gentle Reader,

Somehow, another month has passed without my releasing words into this space. And what a month it’s been. A trip by plane to Kansas City to spend a hard but wonderful and transformative week with my classmates. A trip by car to Boise/Nampa to attend a conference for students exploring their calls to ministry. Many, many cups of coffee. Hundreds of pages read.

A deep and settled sense of joy and purpose. A knowing-in-my bones that this is what God has created me to do. Even when the days are hard and long, I am committed, because my God is so good.

Go.

There is wisdom is silence.

Wisdom in not commenting on every little thing.

Wisdom in allowing everyone in the room to assume that you agree with their position(s).

Sometimes it’s hard to keep our fingers still and our mouths shut. It’s hard to wait for the right place, the right spirit, the right time. We’re so used to jumping online to spout off about anything and everything, that to wait – to listen, to pray, to think – seems impossible.

But then, there is wisdom in speaking.

Wisdom in sharing your thoughts, no matter how insignificant the topic.

Wisdom in not allowing everyone in the room to assume you agree with them.

Sometimes it’s hard to allow our fingers to type and to open our mouths. It’s hard to stop waiting, to recognize that the place, time, and the spirit are right for conversation. We’re so used to shying away from conflict that bravery – boldness, courage – seems impossible.

So what do we do?

How do we navigate this tension?

These words float into my mind:

Don’t abandon wisdom, and she will watch over you; love her, and she will guard you.

– Proverbs 4:6 (CSB)

Ask God. God will faithfully reveal to us when it’s time to wait and when it’s time to stop waiting. God will give us the wisdom that we seek. In that giving, God will also provide the assurance of God’s presence, and therein we find the peace and safety we crave.

Stop.

I’d be no kind of Beatles fan if I didn’t include a link to this song, which is completely unrelated to the topic, save for the title.

Five Minute Friday: Success

Gentle Reader,

It’s been almost a month since I’ve published anything.

What.

I’ve been writing – discussion posts, reading reflections, a presentation, lengthy journal entries – but have missed this place and our little community. “Real life” relationships matter, we need to be able to hug and see people, but there’s something special about the way God weaves lives together across the ether.

Kate says: success.

Go.

I had to take a ministry skills assessment for one of my seminary classes. To no one’s surprise, I know nothing about leading or organizing music for a worship service. Some people tell me I can sing, but those people are liars; I do not have a musical bone in my body. While I care about theological accuracy in songs, I’m quite content to leave the guitar strumming to the talented ones. A pastor doesn’t have to do everything. That’s kinda the point of each of us doing what God created and gifted us to do.

To my great surprise, I discovered that my greatest strength is in pastoral care. Listening to people. Praying for and with them. Being present in their lives. As introverted and easily drained of energy as I am, I thought that this would surely be far down on the list. I guess none of us ever quite sees ourselves clearly.

So when I think of success, I think in terms of ministry, and for me, that means being faithful to preach the Gospel and to love others. That’s it. I am not a success if I pack out a huge auditorium with eager listeners. I am not a success if people are willing to open their wallets. I am not a success if I get a book deal, develop a following, appear on a podcast, or show up on television. Success is found only in the hidden faithfulness, the daily grind of showing up and speaking truth, whether in word or in action.

Success lies in serving Christ wholeheartedly.

Stop.