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.

Five Minute Friday: Distant

Gentle Reader,

No idea where the last two weeks went. Hours lost to the same black hole that eats socks and hair accessories, I suppose. I thought I’d have a lot of time for writing, but nope. Here, there, and everywhere went I, and any moments left over have been dedicated to sleeping, because summer camp is next week and sleep is not a thing I will not likely do for four nights.

May the odds be ever in my favor.

Kate says: distant.

Go.

Part of my heart has been roaming around Utah, Arizona, and California, traveling with my beloved youth group. They explored Arches National Park, attended a conference with 8,000-plus other teens, participated in service projects, spent two days in Disneyland, splashed around in the Pacific Ocean at Huntington Beach and are now making their way home. I didn’t get to go on this trip, as I stubbornly dragged my feet in responding to God’s leading, but I thought I was okay with that until the vans pulled out of the church parking lot two Sundays ago.

It wasn’t the trip itself I minded missing, because I am not a woman who ever wants to go hang out in the desert in the middle of summer. It was them. I missed them.

And so I am thankful for the beast that is technology, because

Good news from a distant land is like cold water to a parched throat.

– Proverbs 25:25 (CSB)

They kept me in the loop. Shared pictures, stories, and videos. Called me a few times, both to vent about things that would make anyone cranky when it’s 114 degrees and you’re operating on very little sleep, and to share their joy as they began to hear God’s voice. That, indeed, is the best part. God is still speaking, still working. Still drawing people in.

My dear ones learned that they are not the future of the Church, but that they are the Church right now. I am delighted that they heard this message and I can’t wait to see how they begin to take ownership of their place and role. I am excited to walk alongside them as they continue to grow.

Teens are not a lost cause, you see. They aren’t useless. They can be used by God to impact their communities for His glory and everyone’s good, just as adults can. Yes, I am human and no saint and there are moments when it’s awfully tempting to walk away because they can test you like nobody else can (especially middle schoolers), but they need me. And they need you. They need those of us who are a little farther down the path to hold out our hands and pull them up alongside us. They need us to show them how and why to follow Jesus.

I am excited for them to return from the distant land. Excited to hear all the details of their grand adventure. Excited to hug them. Excited for new relationships began with Jesus and old relationships deepened.

That, I think, is one of the little miracles, the subtle touches of God’s hand, that we don’t always notice. A year ago I would have never imagined I’d feel this way or be so invested in their lives. I had purposefully distanced myself from many people because of deep hurt. I can’t say that I’m completely healed, but I can say that the in-process work of the Spirit lies in bridging the distance, in moving me toward when I want to pull away.

Simply, God is good. He has given me a beautiful, complex family, one for which I never thought to ask.

Stop.