Wednesday, October 24, 2012

It's Too Quiet

That’s a phrase I don’t understand in my personal life.  When I was a kid being shuffled between divorced parents, I’d often hear a parent say, “It’s just too quiet with the kids are away.”  I didn’t really know what that meant at the time.  I assumed I’d understand some day when I was a parent.  Well, I’ve been a parent for four-and-a-half years now, and I still don’t understand.

Noise gets to my son, too.  
When I’m home, the noise bothers me—everyday.  There are often 2, 3, or 4 of us talking at once while the Cars 2 soundtrack plays from the boy’s room and a kids’ movie plays in the living room.  And it makes it impossible for me to think clearly.  It makes it impossible for me to fully listen to any of my family members, because I’m listening to ALL of them.  I cannot tune out one who’s talking to focus on the others; I just can’t.

Yesterday I was talking to my son and hearing about his day while my daughter and mom were working a puzzle—three people talking at once.  Then my daughter started, “Momma.  Momma.  Momma!  Momma!” 
I turned to her and said, “Wait a minute, Lily.  I’m talking to Tristan right now.”

She stood up, pointed her not-yet-two-year-old finger at me and yelled, “Listen!  I’m talking to you!”
(First, I have no idea where she’s heard or seen that.  Second, you can pray for us; imagine this girl as an early teen?!)

And that’s what it’s like from the moment I enter the door each evening, until the kids go to bed each night.

This weekend, my parents took the kids for an evening.  I relished the quiet, and the adult meal I got to cook and eat.  I called to check on the kids, and Mom asked, “Is it getting too quiet over there?”

“No, I’m just calling to make sure everything’s going okay.”  And that was true.  It was NOT too quiet.

I don’t understand why it’s never “too quiet” for me at home.  It’s not that I like quiet all the time.  When I’m at work, I need a little noise most of the time.  I like to overhear a conversation, stop what I’m doing, and put in my unsolicited two-cents-worth.  (I’m sure my co-workers just love this part of me.) 

I am introverted.  I’ve always known that.  However, when I’ve read articles about introverts, I’ve always walked away with a, “Huh.  That’s not really me,” reaction.

 A couple weeks ago I spent two-and-a-half days being evaluated with my husband.  It was everything you’re thinking—shrinks, personality profiles, group work, couples’ interviews, public speaking and public interviews, walls held up by people watching—always watching—and scribbling notes on concealed clipboards.  Actually, it ended up being a great experience.  One of the many things I learned about myself was a breakdown of my Myers-Briggs type.  Turns out I am more introverted than extraverted by 1%.  Just one.  I’m reflective for sure.  I can be quiet, but I am capable of talking A LOT.  I’m reserved, but I can be outgoing—by nature, not by force.

So, I like some quiet and some noise at work.  But it’s never “too quiet” for me at home.  Still trying to figure this out…

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Worship as Pastoral Care

I took a seminary class by one of my favorite professors entitled, “Worship as Pastoral Care.”  The premise behind the class is that we can offer corporate pastoral care in community as we worship.  It’s not separate; it’s holistic.  When we worship, we can also give care and receive care, and we can do it together.  One of the things my church does best is worship as pastoral care.
This past Sunday, we were at our best in that regard.  We got back to what I think we do extremely well—worship as pastoral care.  (I know we cannot do this every week.  Once upon a time we did this so often, we were called Powhatan CRYING Church.)  But as this series approached, I saw this potential.  I have prayed for this series and the care and worship and community that I knew it could cultivate.
It was a good day.  And today, a few days later, I have seen and heard multiple people acknowledge and share their brokenness, and Sunday’s worship experience was part of the process.  And I love it.  I love seeing how God is working in and through people and service planning and yet another Nouwen book (In the Name of Jesus—an all-time favorite book).  I love how what happened on Sunday morning is changing people’s conversations on Tuesday morning.  I love how people will be different people, be more of the free, beloved people God created them to be, as a result of worship as pastoral care.
And…I am immensely aware of the brokenness that remains in my life.  I'm aware that there are parts of me that are broken that I haven't identified yet; I'm sure my counselor will help me with that.  I am painfully aware of the brokenness that exists amongst my colleagues.  I’m anxious, because I’m me, and I’m always anxious.  But I’m also hopeful.  I’m hopeful that the brokenness in my life is being addressed; that it will not enslave me, but will ultimately free me and take me to a place I cannot yet imagine.  I’m hopeful that the brokenness I sense around me can be addressed in community, that God will grant us wisdom and redemption as we seek to worship Him together.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Debate

I watched the presidential debate last night.  Honestly, I watched, and then I played on my phone, and then I watched some more.
And Isaiah 40 was in my head: 
Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket;
they are regarded as dust on the scales;
he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust…
Before (God) all the nations are as nothing;
they are regarded by him as worthless
and less than nothing…
He brings princes to naught
And reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.
No sooner are they planted,
no sooner are they sown,
no sooner do they take root in the ground,
than he blows on them and they wither,
and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.

I’m not saying our national election doesn’t matter.  I’m not saying that our faith should not inform our political views (sorry for the double negative.).
But I am calling for keeping it in perspective.  Our God “sits enthroned above the circle of the earth”—not behind a desk in the Oval Office.  Our God created the heavens—not healthcare reform or an economic strategy or immigration policy.
Our God is bigger than nations that “are like a drop in the bucket.”  And I’m grateful.  Because the two nights of TV I watched previous to the debate last night show that we need a God that big.  Whoever holds the office of President of the United States may be the most powerful man in the world.  But whoever he is, he’s not powerful enough or big enough or smart enough or rich enough or scheming enough or courageous enough.  He cannot be.  He doesn’t need to be. 
Our God is. 
And that’s what I’m counting on, and not so that I continue in my comfortable, luxurious, “safe,” “secure,” lifestyle, but so that the poor in spirit and those who mourn and the meek can find comfort and inherit the earth and the kingdom of heaven.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

I Take it Back

Yesterday I wrote about how I was asking God to hold me.  At the time, I felt pretty selfish.
Now I feel downright awful.
The last two nights I’ve been captivated by a special on PBS based on a book “Half the Sky.”  I’m ordering the book.  I’m checking out the website.  This movement addresses the world issues that wreck me most—human trafficking, forced prostitution, and physical and sexual abuse.  There are lots of world issues that I care about—the HIV/AIDS epidemic, starvation, lack of clean water, homelessness and street kids.  But the issues of trafficking, forced prostitution, and abuse destroy me emotionally, mentally, and spiritually—yet the destruction I feel is nothing, nothing compared to the destruction of countless lives in forgotten corners of our world.
Here are some clips from the program:
I sat on my sofa and cried last night.  I tossed in my bed, haunted by my own blog post from yesterday, and I prayed a new prayer:
God, gather these girls in your arms.  Hold them.  Keep them safe tonight.  Impress upon their hearts and minds that they are loved and worthy.  Carry them close to your heart.  Lead them out of their circumstances.  Use your power and your size to protect, strengthen, and provide for those who are working to bring salvation to these girls.  You, who can “reduce the rulers of this world to nothing” (Isaiah 40:23), break through the cultural, political, and economic barriers that oppress these girls.  Show me what I can do to help.  Forgive me for selfish thinking and writing.  Amen.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Hugging a Grasshopper

Isaiah 40 says a lot about the hugeness of God.  Nothing can compare to him (though we all make comparisons, don’t we?).  From God’s perspective, we “people are like grasshoppers.” (Isaiah 40:22)  I’ve been called a lot of things; grasshopper is a first, and it’s not very affirming.  From God’s throne, I look like a grasshopper.  Thanks, God.
God can hold the waters of the earth in his hand, can hold the dust of the earth in a basket, can weigh the mountains on a scale and the hills on a balance (Isaiah 40:12).
And it is that huge, powerful God who…
                …tends his flock like a shepherd:
                He gathers the lambs in his arms
                and carries them close to his heart;
                he gently leads those that have young. (Isaiah 40:11)

Days like today, I am overwhelmingly thankful that that God, the one to whom I appear as a grasshopper, is also willing to carry me in his arms, close to his heart. 

I gather my baby girl in my arms and carry her close to my heart.  Usually, I do so after she stands at my feet, arms outstretched, saying, “Hold you.”

Today, I’m standing at the feet of a huge, powerful God who “sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,” with my little grasshopper arms outstretched, saying, “Hold you.”

Monday, October 1, 2012

Isaiah 40, Part 1

If I can get back into the swing of writing, then I hope this will be the first of several posts on the Bible chapter I'm marinating in these days.

“In the desert prepare the way for the Lord.”  (Isaiah 40:3)
I've been to Cairo.  I've visited the pyramids.  I've experienced the effects of a sandstorm--sand in every facial orifice, contact lenses rendered useless.  I've experienced the heat, the rapidity at which dehydration can happen, the melting of film in a camera.  Yet, in the hot sand, where the landscape changes with every strong wind, where resources are non-existent, where the elements are extreme—that’s where God’s people are told to prepare his way.  To translate, when my reserves of energy, creativity, love, and grace are as dry as the desert, I am called to prepare the way for the Lord.  When I’m in the middle of a tornado of change (personally or professionally), I am called to prepare the way for the Lord.  When there’s no budget money, I am called to prepare the way for the Lord.
Preparing is my job, as a Christ follower, not just as a paid pastor. 
God does the rest.  God shows up.  God changes hearts.  God changes minds.  God changes families.  God changes lives.  God heals.  God calls.  God saves.  God redeems.
I prepare the way.  No matter what.
I prepare the way when I pray, when I smile and welcome someone, when I invite someone to minister with me, when I teach someone how to read and understand the Bible, when I sign-up a student for a mission trip, when I schedule a meeting of student or adult leaders, when I teach my kids how to pray, when I take them to church (even when they don't want to go).  All I have to do is prepare the way.
It’s still a lot of work.  But recognizing that preparation is all I’m responsible for lightens the load.  It also reminds me of my place and keeps me humble.