It Started Out as a Feeling

I haven’t been writing on the blog. And as I sit here examining why that is I feel a swirl of emotions. I love to write. I don’t necessarily like deadlines or required writing, but I like the therapeutic process of putting thoughts out there and trying to articulate and be open to God’s leading in my mostly ridiculous life. I love that dance of trying to articulate and reason and examine things that can be random and personal and hopefully my journey of trying to figure out how to be a Christ follower in this world. The beauty of this blog is that I’ve never done it to try to elicit some sort of response. It’s personal. Although I try to choose words carefully, I don’t always edit or re-read or censor myself. There’s pros and cons there of course.

I think that’s been the “catch” for me is the season of quiet. My life hasn’t been quiet in the slightest bit. We had a whirlwind end to the school year at Winthrop Wesley, the United Methodist Church’s General Conference, South Carolina Annual Conference, Florida Annual Conference, packing up and cleaning our house in South Carolina, moving all of our crazy earthly belongings to Gainesville, Florida, trying to get the kids reasonably settled in their new home, feeling the warmth, excitement and joy of Gator Wesley, going to Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference for our week of “vacation” with the family gathered in the mountains (this is a hilarious joke), and back down the mountain to the real world – back to our new home.

I think the quiet had more to do with things feeling so beautifully out of control and so full of conflicting emotions that my articulation-o-meter was a little busted. It’s hard to be super excited and grieving at the same time. It’s hard to hold the ache of disappointment and the hurt of betrayal in tension with the full belief that God continues to provide and call and ignite. As much as I tell students and others that God can handle our full range of emotions – anger, joy, frustration, fear, thanksgiving, doubt, trust, hope – it’s hard to go through those motions yourself. It’s personal. It’s real. Every day is not perfect. Some are pretty cruddy actually. And it’s hard to speak that when you’re trying to keep a “brave” face in the midst.

But we don’t have to do it by ourselves. And it’s more than just “a sin and a shame,” as some say. It’s wrong. It’s beyond prideful. As I can hear Evy say in my head, “All by myself!” We’re not all by myself people. We do not go on this journey alone. Just saying things out loud to our spouses, friends, loved ones. Asking for help. Going to God in prayer. Opening our worries, fears, frustrations up to the light takes away the power of the darkness. It’s not a magic wand where everything magically turns into fantasy land, but we more clearly see that we’ve got fellow travelers/warriors/truth seekers/justice workers/peace keepers.

I was looking at Ephesians 3:14-21 for this Sunday’s scripture and I kept thinking of it as a blessing, prayer, and hope for all of my students and loved ones. But it’s a promise for each of us. May we be rooted and ground in love. May we have the power to comprehend the love of Christ. May we be filled with the fullness of God. And may we trust in the power of the One within us that is able to “accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine.” Does that verse give you peace or freak you out? Who knows what we’ll encounter along the way, but I know that when we call, God is near.

“The Call” by Regina Spektor (thankfully played on my Pandora and made me start thinking…)

A Prayer for the Ephesians

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge —that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

I’m Still Listening

I’ve just gotten into using Pandora. I don’t know what the difference is between the things that I’ll jump on the bandwagon for and the things that I won’t. Some of them that I’ve just started – itunes (I’ve always liked actual CD’s – call me crazy), instagram (no idea yet), or even Words with Friends (the students have me playing it, but I’m absolutely terrible.) Maybe I wait and see if it will catch on (still waiting on Google+) or more than likely, I wait until I have some free time to try it out and it’s easy to access. I still haven’t figured out the “cool” Pandora play lists yet, but I have a couple that I love and regularly jam to. The thing that I’ve noticed more than anything is how long it takes me to realize that the music has stopped. You see, if you listen long enough, or if you like me listens while you work, eventually the music is going to stop and you’ll click on the box and you’ll see a message that inquires whether you’re still listening or not. There are some days when I immediately notice, whoa, whoa, whoa, the music has stopped. There are other days when I’m running a bit more on the ragged side or if I’m deep in thought or a project and I finally realize it but can’t remember where along the way it stopped.

Yesterday, for the first time in many, many years, Mike and I worshiped together at a local church. Neither of us responsible for any part of the service. No preaching, speaking, singing, playing the piano, announcements…nothing. Several things struck me all at once. One, I was tired. And it’s a lot easier to zone out and yawn really loudly and for a long time when you’re not the one leading worship. I noted that there’s something energizing or I would say more accurately – Holy Spirit infusing – about leading worship. Sometimes it’s hard to go from closing your eyes during the prayer to focus in on what’s being said. Then I began to wonder to myself about how the folks in the congregation feel? After a few moments I arrived at the conclusion, that a lot of it had to do with me. If you are an active participant in worship – singing, listening to the words of the prayers, paying attention to the children’s sermon – than you’ll get a heck of a lot more out of it.

When I calmed down in my own skin for a minute and actually tuned in to the word God was speaking, I was able to realize that somewhere along the way, the music had stopped and I indeed needed to click the “I’m Still Listening” button. As pastors or those that work in the church, how often are we tuned into the word God would have us share with our congregations, but we’re not quite as open, when we’re not the ones in charge, doing the feeding, and being open to the ways that word will be revealed to us?

I don’t know about you but I feel like there are times when we have been coasting and cruising and we’re doing the appropriate motions and the right spots, but our movements aren’t connecting with our brains. Things are going pretty okay, but if we tuned ourselves in just a bit more to the music flowing all around us, things would be going pretty fantastic…or at least more in tune. Once I got my head and my heart communicating and opening up, I heard a great, convicting, challenging, and well-thought out sermon that was a confirmation that I needed to wake up and do some listening. Isn’t it funny that God brings those things that we need to hear? We just need to clean out our ears sometimes and sort through distractions to get to the place where we can feel and know the presence of God clearly and actively.

What are ways that we stay in tune to God’s music?

What are the things that get in the way and distract us?

What are ways that we can practice listening or centering?