Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Holy Ground

In churches of Christ over the last 20 years or so, we have sung #100 & #101 from the blue book in a woven medley style. Given that I haven't used a song book in years, it is also shown in a media form in a woven medley style. Even though this is an older set of songs, there is something very moving to me in the words. Something holy, rich, awe inducing.

Today those words are rushing over my spirit in regards to relationship. Our relationships are holy ground. We risk, we seek approval, we hear pain, we gain affirmation, we struggle together, we see ourselves most clearly in relationship to others, we confess, we forgive and we love. Just doesn't get much better than that.

And so God is calling me, yelling at me actually to say thanks for the Holy Ground of relationship. I believe through God I can live out his covenantal character with every person I meet. In my marriage I can seek to be conformed more fully into the image of Christ so that I can be a wife that empowers David to be the best he can be. In my friendships I seek to love more fully and unconditionally. In relationships that I am just starting I seek to be open and safe.

But rarely are these things so easy to order. Issues arise, pain intrudes, woundedness and brokenness sometimes hijack our best attempts at holy relationships. Sometimes we over function, other times we under function. Boundaries are crossed and then realigned. It gets messy. Our hearts are pulled in directions that surprise us and we have to step back. Did I mention it was messy? And so in each of these moments of less than stellar relational behaviour, I ask the Lord to cover me and make me new. And to be an agent of forgiveness, grace and strength to those who are struggling.
You redeem my life from the pit, and crown me with love and mercy. (Psalm 103)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Monday, July 20, 2009


While driving home today from Abilene, I believe the Lord really revealed some things to me. I am part of a small group that is seeking the presence of the Lord through the book Sacred Pathways and community with each other.

In this group I have shared my struggle with this thing we call "church." Church as we know it, is hard for me. Probably will always be. I love rapid change, I am a product of Post-Modernity, I am uninstitutional - all things that make regular church hard. But God, in the gentle whisper is speaking to me.

God prompted me to begin defining what my ideal church would look like. And so I made a mental list. The ideal church:

Works for justice:
for the under-represented in this country
for the marginalized around the globe
for the gay community who are denied basic rights in their relationships

Has full and equal participation in worship, in ministry, in service:
the only qualifying question is: who is most gifted to fit this role?

Has worship that is vibrant, dynamically current and engaging.

Encounters the Lord through the arts.

That sees itself as a place for hundreds of intimate communities to experience "worship together" and to equip Christians to go and live like Christ in their actual worlds.

Is organized around, defined by intimate communities within the larger whole.

I felt smug and proud of my mental list. And then God prompted me again. What would David's list look like? What about Michelle, or Allyson? What about Sally, Missy, Adam, Greg. What about Matt? Slowly I began to realize all the "Ideal Lists" would look significantly different. Some of what is core to my list, would be unattractive to David. He would probably fill his list with things that reach back to his Catholic roots - things that have shaped him and he loves and adores. Clearly, I heard the question, So why should your list prevail?

And I began to realize what God was leading me to. The real challenge is this. What is stopping me from being church (the ideal list) in every aspect of my life. What is stopping me from working for justice, of creating the kind of community I value, worshipping regularly in the way I described. I already have wonderful opportunities to teach across the globe, recently, even preach - what a joy that was! And God has opened the door for me to work with Center Peace to help provide a place of belonging for those struggling with same-sex attraction.

Instead of an unholy discontent with church as it exists currently, what about being an incarnational example of what I believe in. Why not be the church. If being like Christ is really the goal, if sharing His heartbeat is what I am aiming for, does the representation of church really matter. If my inner life is so God directed that I am fully present with Him what does it matter.

These are hard things. Kingdom things. Relational things. My prayer is that God will continue to call me to a holy discontent: a real hunger for Him. And when my spirit of unholy discontent about church creeps in, I can ask Him to temper that with what really matters.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Fully Alive

Currently, I am reading Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton. It is a rich read. In the opening pages she addresses a struggle that surfaced all sorts of emotions in me. She talks about the longings of our heart. Those linked to our faith journey. The deep, often hidden, ever present longings. You know the ones. They make you ask the question: "Is there more than this". These same longings often express themselves as the desire for more, for deeper, for greater significance. Barton suggests that Jesus invites us to surface the longings and give them to Him. She refers to the times when Jesus approaches people and asks the question; What do you WANT from me? Have you thought about that. Really? Jesus asks Bartimaeus this question. I am thinking, sight was probably high on his list. Surely Jesus knew this. But there is more going on here. This question is meant to surface the obvious needs and the longings of our heart.

These longings can be satisfied. As we draw in close to God through living out the spiritual practices the longings of our heart can be expressed. Once they are named and offered to the Lord, He is faithful to honor.

And here is the other aspect of this. Longing is our hearts way of begging for life. Our faith walk HAS to be about more than heaven or some eventual ultimate salvation. It has got to be about our life here and now. A life that is devoted to seeking Jesus. A life devoted to being shaped by Jesus. A life devoted to seizing moments and living them for Jesus. A life devoted to justice, to mercy, to love. A life lived in such a way that our being empowers others around us to live fully too.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Oh What A Day!

Sunday was a first for me. I was asked to preach for the Amarillo Unitarian Fellowship. I have never spoken to such a diverse group before, especially regarding spiritual things. The days leading up to Sunday had me tense. I wanted to speak a word that would be heard in language that would be credible to such a diverse crowd. Yet, the burden of being faithful to my love of Jesus.

God came through and together we formed a message that was relevant and true. The members of the Fellowship were gracious, welcoming and hospitable to me.

Travels and such

I recently returned from two weeks in Australia and a week in Papua New Guinea. I was part of a team that hosted two renewals with Come before Winter. What an incredible blessing. God does amazing things in us and the women who are attending the renewals. Too much happened for me to summarize in a blog post. But some of the enduring thoughts are this:

1.I have made some of the most incredible friendships that will last a lifetime. Inspirational, strong, intelligent, heart directed, spiritual woman. What a gift. It was so hard to leave.

2.Even after teaching a block on how to read the Psalter and a theological reading group on Psalm 103 (several times), I gained insights into this Psalm that were profound and forming. Continued revelation is a gift.

3.After the renewals I got to hang out with friends from years ago in South Africa. Few things are as fulfilling as sweet reunions.

4.The missionaries (linguists who are translating scripture, traditional missionaries, support ministers etc) in Papua New Guinea are awe-inspiring. This is not an easy country to move to but they have done it with grace and love. Their work is hard and long term. They are isolated and often alone for projects. They make you want to be better. Lift them up in prayer. Lift up Wycliffe, Pioneer Bible Translators, NewTribes - all of these sending organizations.

5.My heart was touched by the single women who are on the field. Working hard. Maintaining boundaries. Sometimes lonely. Quite amazing.