Five Minute (Saturday): World

Gentle Reader,

Have you hugged a children’s ministry director lately? Brought him or her a very large coffee? You should. I don’t know how they do what they do, apart from the empowerment of God. I spent 8 hours with a group of elementary students on Thursday, filling in for a counselor at my church’s summer program, and I’m wiped out.

I may not be able to tell you exactly where this calling of mine is going to end up, but I’m pretty confident that it won’t be in the children’s department. I’ll take 50 hormonal teenagers who just broke up with their significant others over someone screaming at me for no apparent reason (translation: they need a nap) any day.

Kate says: world.

Go.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard about the humanitarian crisis at the United States-Mexico border.

We can argue with each other all day long about immigration processes. And I do actually believe that there should be a process; I really don’t know anyone who is for the idea of “open borders.” The problem right now is that the system is broken. Blame the President, blame Congress, blame whoever. But that misses the point.

We have people crossing the border, some through official channels and some not. Whether you think they should be doing so or not doesn’t matter. The reality is: They are here. And we are not treating them as fellow human beings.

Particular sorrow wells up in my soul when I think of the children who are being taken from their families. (Yes, some children are being trafficked. That makes my heart break and blood boil and I very much want the perpetrators of this evil to be brought to justice. But, let’s be real, every child who comes to the border is not a victim of trafficking, and using that as an excuse to separate families is wrong). Government officials claim that it’s not necessary for children to have access to things like soap and toothpaste, because these things do not fall under “safe and sanitary” regulations, displaying an incredible lack of common sense. Prominent evangelical leaders wonder why we can’t just send these people back where they came from while in the next breath claiming their hearts are broken for them, displaying an impressive cognitive dissonance.

This isn’t a political issue. I don’t care what side of the aisle you normally sit on, what party you identify with, or who you voted for in 2016. It’s a waste of time and breath to argue about minutiae and legalities. Further, it’s an attempt to escape responsibility, because we who follow Christ, who truly know Him as our Lord and Savior, know that we have a holy obligation to care for others. No, not an obligation, a privilege. The whole of Scripture repeats this command over and over again. God does not take kindly to the oppression and marginalization of the least of these.

And if children aren’t the least of these, then who is? If people fleeing violence aren’t the least of these, then who is?

I know, I know. Some of you reading this want to tell me that we should care for our own fellow Americans first. If I may step on your toes a little harder, we, the church, as a whole, aren’t doing that, either. We are stuck in a mindset of occasional handouts and hoping that problems will magically disappear. Because caring for others, really caring for them, involves relational investment. It takes time and the giving up of our own agendas, which we don’t want to do. And I’m right there with you; I struggle just as much as you do to surrender my will and take up the will of the Father.

Once more, this is not political. Our inability to address these issues appropriately arises when we think of them as merely political, when we cast fellow image bearers into the “other” category and deem them enemies. This is a Jesus issue. How would He have us bring light and love into this chaotic, dark world?

The words at the end of a well-known parable echo in my mind:

“Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”

“The one who showed mercy to him,” he said.

Then Jesus told him, “Go and do the same.”

– Luke 10:36-37 (CSB)

What does it mean for you to “go and do the same” today? What does it mean for me? Let’s wrestle with this together, and then do as God leads.

Stop.

Please read this letter and consider adding your name to it. Doing so may not feel like much, but it’s something. Then, join me in praying that God would grace us all with compassion and wisdom, from those in positions of power in the halls of government to those in the smallest communities around the nation.

Signature

Five Minute Friday: Question

Gentle Reader,

June in North Idaho is a strange month. Monday the temperature reached into the upper 80s. Today it’s been clouds and rain.

Kate says: question.

Go.

“You want to be a pastor?”

Want might be too strong a word. I identify strongly with the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel, neither of whom were initially thrilled to receive the call. In fact, I just finished reading Ezekiel recently, and this verse had me laughing aloud:

The Spirit lifted me up and took me away. I left in bitterness and in an angry spirit, and the LORD’s hand was on me powerfully.

– 3:14 (CSB)

Commentators are split as to whether his anger and bitterness was in response to the sins of his people or in response to being commissioned to do a thankless job. I suspect it was probably a bit of both. When God, in His kindness, confronts us with our sin, we rightly feel a rush of emotion. When God, in His wisdom (and honestly, sometimes with His sense of humor), guides us toward the path He wants us to travel, we wrongly get mad and stubborn.

At least I have.

I don’t like getting up in front of people and talking. A lip sync battle, sure, because that’s funny. A part in a play, fine, because that’s not me; it’s a character. Just myself, Marie, behind a music stand, daring to declare that God has given me something to say…wow. That’s a lot.

But like I said, God has a sense of humor. I think He gets a kick out of using unexpected people in unexpected ways, because it brings Him glory and creates goodness in our lives.

Do I want to be a pastor? Truthfully, I’m not quite there in the wanting department. Still a lot of fear to overcome. The better question is this: Do I have to be a pastor? Yes, I really do. Absolutely no idea what that’s going to wind up looking like. All I know for right now is that I’m meant to keep showing up for our youth and I’m supposed to go to seminary. (Yeah, I just signed away at least four years of my life).

The real question, the one that circles ’round and ’round my mind, the one spoken in the quiet yet authoritative voice of the Holy Spirit: “Will you obey Me?”

Even though I don’t know where this path is going.

Even though it scares me to the point of tears.

Yes. I’ll obey. Not because I’m awesome, but because my God is. Because when I stand up there, longing for nothing more than to run away or to disappear, a greater longing overtakes me. I want these precious and wild young people to know just how deeply they are loved. I want them to understand the glorious Gospel that sets them free. I want them to meet Jesus. I want them to grow in relationship with Him. I want to see them grab hold of transcendent truth, to be enraptured with their Creator – and then to go out and set the world ablaze as they live in grace.

Stop.

Side note: Super weird to have people start referring to me as “Pastor Marie.” Pretty sure I’m not ever going to get used to that.

Signature

Private Woman, Public Walk

Gentle Reader,

The tree just outside my window transformed seemingly overnight. Sad gray branches suddenly full of green leaves and delicate pink blossoms. Winter has finally passed. Spring, with all it’s bluster and showiness, is here to stay.

When through the woods
And forest glades I wander
I hear the birds
Sing sweetly in the trees,
When I look down
From lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook
And feel the gentle breeze…

I’ve sung these words more times than I know, and yet, somehow, they remain fresh to me in ways that other words do not. Something in the poetry captures my mind. Perhaps this is because I am inclined to solitude. I don’t mind listening as the wind rustles the new leaves. I like stopping to listen to birdsong. If there’s an opportunity to watch the sun set in real time, I’ll take it. There is such complexity and wonder in nature, such a mark of God’s presence. Others can have the noise of cities and constant movement. I will sit and observe as the clouds change shape.

And yet…

My walk is a public one. My business is in the world, and I must mix in the assemblies of men or quit the post which Providence seems to have assigned me.

– William Wilberforce

God really does choose the foolish and powerless things of this world (1 Corinthians 1:27) through which to pour His light.

…the logic of the Gospel defies human wisdom and conventional expectations.

Asbury Bible Commentary

I don’t know what God is doing right now, what exactly He is calling me to. I do know that I am most wholly myself when engaged in ministry, whether that be through writing, teaching or preaching. Oh, yes. This shy and often tongue-tied woman has been behind the pulpit (well, music stand) before. It’s exhausting, but I like it. I like it a whole lot.

What I like even more?

Serving.

I want to be of good use in this world. I want to be helpful. I want others to see the hope and love of God when they’re in my presence. Perfect, that’s not a word to describe me, ever, and a state for which I no longer seek to strive. But consistent, constant? Those I like.

What I like even more?

Humble.

The greatest saints I know do the dirtiest jobs, and they often go without recognition. Yet their faces shine with a light that must be akin to that of Moses after he spent time with God (Exodus 34:29-35). They are full of joy, because they serve the King, who sees all. Perfect, they are not either, but definitely consistent and constant. Their wisdom impresses me. Their soft hearts convict my own that is so often hard and impatient. Their complete willingness to do as God leads stirs up a longing inside me.

A longing to be that immediately obedient.

I stood at the front of the sanctuary on Maundy Thursday, loaf of bread in my trembling hands. Thank goodness the pastor thought to wrap the base in a napkin, otherwise my clammy palms would have soaked the crust.

“The Body of Christ, broken for you,” I whispered, seeking to look every person in the eye, even as my vision blurred with tears. Blue eyes, brown eyes. Young eyes, old eyes. Eyes full of life, eyes full of pain.

Hands tore as much off of the loaf as they wanted. Smooth hands, wrinkled hands. Hands of office workers, hands accustomed to manual labor. Chipped nails, glossy nails.

Feet, in sneakers, in heels, in sandals, shuffled over to the cup. “The blood of Christ, spilled for you,” the pastor whispered. Her face, it was shining, a tender smile extended to all.

At once the fear left me and I focused simply on the holy moment. People of disparate backgrounds and experiences drawn together by the sacrament. The remembrance of Christ. The beginning of three days’ somber contemplation before the celebration. The noise of chairs, coughing, the clang of rings against the cup no longer registered in my ears. All I could hear, see, or feel was Christ and His love.

What an incredible privilege!

How wondrous it is, to be part of something logic-defying. How strange, to walk against convention. How utterly impossible, if not for Jesus.

So I will continue, one step at a time. I do not know where this bend in the road will end up, but my business is in the world. My task is among the people. And I think that, because He is a very good God and He knows that I need time and quiet, that there will be space for walking in the woods. There will be moments to feel the breeze. Somehow, solitude and service will join together in the beautiful and mysterious way that bears His mark.

I can’t wait to see what that looks like.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE NEWSLETTER, REST STOPS ALONG THE WAY
PONDERINGS DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX EACH SATURDAY(ISH).

A Shattering Peace

Gentle Reader,

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.

– Matthew 5:9 (NIV)

Don’t you crave this? Not only the peace, but the being called a child of God?

Christians experience joy and self-fulfillment as they contemplate what God is now doing and what He will do when He fully establishes His kingdom at the second coming of Christ. … The reference to the peacemakers involves more than simply avoiding conflict or even attempting to reconcile warring parties (5:9). It stems from the OT understanding of peace (shalom) as comprehensive wholeness and well-being. Those who pursue this kind of peace do all they can to promote the welfare of others (cf. 5:38-48). Since God actively desires wholeness for all persons, He gladly will claim as His own [children] those who share in this enterprise.

Asbury Bible Commentary

Here’s the thing, though: The pursuit of comprehensive wholeness and well-being, for self and for others, doesn’t always feel peaceful.

Such is the nature of obedience. Following where God leads is exactly what we should do. It is the way of fulfillment, of true life, of deep holiness. But it’s not always fun. In fact, sometimes it’s very much like standing at the proverbial fork in the road, knowing in your bones which way to go while also knowing that the next step will take you off the edge of a cliff. Into thin air. Into the wild and unknown.

The other road, it winds away from God and His will, but at least you’ve got footing. It’s familiar, though lacking.

I am desperate for peace. Faulty biology leaves me with a brain consistently on red alert. Experiences, both far and near on the timeline, have me looking over my shoulder. The world is large and noisy. I am small and quiet within it, just trying to get through without causing too much trouble or drawing too much attention. Always ceding space. Allowing my voice, my words, to be smothered. Or claimed by others, never daring to challenge them.

God, He tells me that this isn’t really peace.

And I know that. Because the familiar, it’s frustrating, even as I cling to it.

Something within is begging to be set loose. Perhaps has been for a while. There are things I want to do, things I want to try, desires and dreams and passions long ignored. Pushed aside for…what? Mediocrity? Safety? Keeping others comfortable?

That can’t possibly be the life God designed for me.

Can it?

And so peace can be pain. Deep, sharp, heart-rending pain. Because you can’t be made well and whole until Jesus pulls you apart and puts you together in a way that is for His glory and your best. You can’t step off the cliff until you trust that His hand is there to catch you.

You can’t be a peacemaker until you’ve experienced the peace that shatters your orderly world.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE NEWSLETTER, REST STOPS ALONG THE WAY.
PONDERINGS DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX EACH SATURDAY(ISH).