Five Minute Friday: Stay

Gentle Reader,

It’s been roughly half a year since I’ve participated in this weekly writing challenge. I read that sentence a few times, hardly believing it. Tonight I intended to join in the chat and reconnect with dear writer friends, but caring for a blind wiener dog whose puppy sisters smacked him in the face yesterday distracted me. So late I am, but here I am. Ready to pick up where I left off.

Kate says: stay.

Go.

There are four young African-American women in the youth group. Each is full of potential, promise, and an incredible amount of sugar. (Youth ministry and candy do go hand-in-hand). As I watched them play games and eat all that sugar last night at our first physical gathering in months, I felt a profound sense of gratitude at God’s allowing me to be in their lives. They teach me much. They make me think.

And Church, we have got to start thinking. We have got to start coming to terms with the fact that some of the positions we have taken in regards to political affiliations and the treatment of marginalized populations in no way reflects the Gospel. Yes, I say we, even if these are not positions that you personally take, because we are in this together. When one of us clings to classism, nationalism, racism, or sexism, we are all impacted. We all, frankly, suffer. In turn, the world around us suffers, because the message of grace and truth is obscured by elitist, entitled, and false beliefs.

Church, Black Lives Matter. I shouldn’t have to follow that with an explanation, but I will: Saying “Black Lives Matter” is not equivalent to saying that no other lives matter. It’s not a no-reservations-or-disagreement endorsement of a political organization. It is saying that we have a deeply-rooted, evil problem in this country, one that must be clearly labeled and confronted. People are being murdered, and it’s captured on camera for all to see. No jumping in with some other argument here, some “what about…?” People are being murdered. Men and women who bear the image of God are having their lives taken from them, and those doing the taking must be held accountable.

Church, to say “Black Lives Matter” is to look into the face of our brothers and sisters and say: “You matter.” It is to watch those four young women, so full of life, and determine to do and be better, for them.

Church, we must stay in this discomfort. We must stay engaged in this process of confronting our cherished biases. We must stay standing alongside our brothers and sisters, ears open as they lament. This isn’t about choosing Democrat or Republican. We’re way beyond that. And the truth is that it never was political in the first place. All that is, is a distraction. This is about choosing what is right and just – even if it makes us squirm.

Stop.

Image Credit: Maria Oswalt

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.

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.