…Sometimes I feel as if I am waiting for a message that tells me that this was only a test and that my life will now be returned to the original programming (in progress or not?)
“For I have opened my mouth to The Lord, and I cannot take back my vow” (Judges 11:35c) ***
I remember the day that my pastor and I drove to see the Committee on Church and Ministry. I was nervous. In my pocket I had a copy of an email that I had written to her. In that email I was wrestling with the mystery of God’s call to Ministry and how to tell the COM. One of the things that I had written was that I was going for broke, that I was putting my entire life into God’s hand. I struggled with feeling so “new” to the faith and so ill prepared and yet deep down convinced that this is what The Lord is calling me to do. I still am convinced. I knew there was no other way to answer to that fire in my heart but to quit my job and enter Seminary and see where The Lord leads me.
I read that email to the committee.
Going for broke…not only money wise but in many ways. Going broke meant to be separated from all my supports, from my family, from my friends, from all those sources that had helped me make it through the last two years because I knew that I would need to be in PA much of the time for Seminary. Going for broke because I would need to let go of all the safeties and securities that I had. Going for broke because I was leaving behind life as I knew it. And going for broke because it meant to give up my job as child abuse investigator and instead step into being a full time student with no income at all.
I went all in for The Lord. I went for broke.
I am reminded of these words right now as I sit here. I feel as if my words are being tested…but I am not taking them back. My partner lost her job. We are entirely without income. I don’t know what will happened, do not know how we will make ends meet over the next months. I am more employable than she is and yet…I can’t. The fall semester starts in August and I will once again be in PA. I will go back to Seminary. I have to. My faith in The Lord has to be stronger than the fear. Some people may think it crazy, wonder how I could do this. How could I put my walk with The Lord ahead of all else. But I say now the same as I did then: I am willing to go for broke for The Lord. I will face any test. I am willing to follow Him wherever He leads me. I am willing to walk toward that uncertain future. I am willing to walk the walk that I talked about…in The Lord…with The Lord. I will walk this road until that still, small voice tells me otherwise. Because I love Him more than I can put into words.
O Lord, I pray for faith that is stronger than fears, roots deep enough to withstand any storm, hands that will cling to nothing but You, eyes that always see the blessings in the difficulties of life, and a heart that remains on fire with love for You.
* **In the account of Jephthah’s vow, an unnecessary vow with tragic consequences was made. In no way do I want to take back my vow. I fully stand behind it, meant it, and still mean it. Nevertheless, it is a good reminder that any vow should be entered in carefully…vows are not empty words but binding covenants.
Letting go, O Lord
of the voice of the past
the one that calls me
fat and ugly
worthless and stupid
Letting go, O Lord
of that voice that
Letting go, O Lord
of the person
You never created
me to be
Not because I
do not love her
but because I
need to love me
to move on
Letting go, O Lord
of the voice of the past
and giving it to You
Psalm 51, The Message (Edited)
Generous in love—God, give grace!
Huge in mercy—wipe out my bad record.
Scrub away my guilt,
soak out my sins in your laundry.
I know how bad I’ve been;
my sins are staring me down.
You’re the One I’ve violated, and you’ve seen
it all, seen the full extent of my evil.
You have all the facts before you;
whatever you decide about me is fair.
What you’re after is truth from the inside out.
Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life.
Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean,
scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life.
Tune me in to foot-tapping songs,
set these once-broken bones to dancing.
Don’t look too close for blemishes,
give me a clean bill of health.
God, make a fresh start in me,
shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.
Don’t throw me out with the trash,
or fail to breathe holiness in me.
Bring me back from gray exile,
put a fresh wind in my sails!
Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God,
and I’ll sing anthems to your life-giving ways.
Unbutton my lips, dear God;
I’ll let loose with your praise.
After 20 years back to just visit
After 14 years back at all
seeing him after all these years
my father – so familiar
and yet..almost a stranger
No longer looking like the father I knew
and yet everything about him so well known
what did he feel as he saw me?
was he as nervous as I was?
what does he think and feel when he looks at me?
does he understand how strange it feels to see him
and not with my mother?
to be here without my mother?
to be here at all and
to feel torn between the woman and child
i look at the pictures in the hallway
they all look like pictures from another life
will we be able to find a way to be
he and I – simply each other?
I am who I don’t want to be
I am who I do not want my father to be
I am the judgmental person and the
that does not love and welcome
with an open heart and mind
I am the person I am most afraid
of encountering and being
I am who I do not want to be
Please grant me serenity
And faith stronger than my fears
And the ability to hear Your voice
Above all other voices.
I am scared of preaching. I am worried about preaching. I am….quite frankly…terrified. How does anybody know what to say? How do people weave these readings into sermons? Where do you even begin?
I finally said that the thought of preaching terrified me….and now I am on the calendar..told to preach..one Sunday in August.
I worry already. A lot. I have read the Lectionary for that day. And now?
Where do you even begin? I feel hampered by my fear. Paralized. Can not go a step to the right or left, much less forward..but sitting here with the text in front of me and question…
What if I can never do this?
She said I was a good writer..to write the sermon. How am I to write what won’t come? She does not know that the words here..they just come when the time is right. I have no control over them but only allow my fingers to type what my mind is dictating. At times I get stuck, but usually, if I make it here, the words are ready to come out. And there is never a prompt. How am I to focus my thoughts on the readings and figure out what to talk about? How to move in between story telling and education…and..my writing does not tell a story, my writing is not a cohesive beginning, middle, and end…my writing is not what a good sermon should be.
what makes a good sermon? Where do you begin, move to, end? I have heard many sermons but really..not that many. How many sermons can you hear in two years? Before that, I listened but did not connect with it. The before…I can’t tell you what was said; I was not open to receiving the messages.
I am praying for a thread somewhere..one I can grab and hold on to and pull on..and then the rest follows.
What if I can’t do this? I cannot being to write about the fear of failing at preaching.
I don’t know enough..don’t have the stories to tell, the connections to make. Too much of me in my own little world over the years.
I think it was last summer sometime that I pondered in an email whether or not it was possible to live ones life in the its entirety in The Lord. If it was truely possible to only live in this world but not be of this world. If it was possible to live in a way where every movement, every thought, every action is rooted in The Lord.
I can not deny a deep desire to get there. To find myself letting go of all that is secular and to live even the seemingly most secular moments of life in a spiritual way. Nevertheless, I often fail to live that life that hears and sees everything through Christ.
As I sit here I can’t help but wonder about that life…entirely in The Lord. Just what does that mean to me? To me its a life of constant discernment. A life that seeks God in everything. A life that constantly says no to the secular world (though I still need to define that further for myself). An Easter life. A life that doesn’t think of things as happening by chance or a matter of luck. A life that gives God credit for everything, no matter how big or small. A life that refuses to give into darkness and defeat and resignation but that constantly gets back up and nurtures even the seemingly smallest spark of light until it shines brightly. A life free of pride, free of the need to be seen or heard, free of the need to be relevant and popular. A life of free of constantly asking “Do you love me”. A life that turns every blessing back to The Lord in thanks and praise and that looks for blessings even in the dark nights.
A life that..oh..I could go on forever…
Such a life is a life long journey – a process of progress instead of perfection. It is a life with many failures but also a life that tries to overcome them…It is a life that never stops saying “Here I am, Lord”.
I asked at church today how many times He will ask me to say that: Here I am, Lord. I think the answer is every moment of every day, with every heart beat, every breath…every moment that I live has to proclaim his name and shout: Here I am, Lord.
Sometimes I just want to scream out “Why?”, but then I have to remind myself that You can make beautiful things out of life’s messes.
These days I find myself fascinated by the liturgical year. Many of us find special meaning in Christmas and even Easter, but does the liturgical year mean more than just something that reminds us of of the life of Jesus and the life of the church? Does the liturgical year also somehow reflect out own lives? As we…as I…go through the year, there are times of waiting, times of preparation, times of growth, times of feeling forsaken, and times of feeling lifted up. As we follow the Church as it re-experiences Jesus birth, life, death, and resurrection…..what impact does that have on our own lives and the way we live and experience life?
Is it a coincident that Pentecost and the 2 weeks after Pentecost are deeply spiritual in my own life? Or that I tend to feel more down and dark and depressed during Lent? Or that I anxiously await Christmas? Is it a coincident that this time, the Season after Pentecost, also called Ordinary times, that is celebrated by the Church as a season of growth, that it is also for me pregnant with the opportunity for growth and healing as well as a time for preparation for a new semester, new classes, new learning.
It comes as no surprise then that the Holy Spirit, in her uncanny ability to lead me to books that I need to read, has led me to books on the liturgical year and life by Joan Chittister and Thomas Merton.
And with that, I think it is time to start reading and to find answers…
Last Sunday was Pentencost Sunday. I was reminded that day that I was baptized on Pentecost Sunday in 1984 (June 10). In Germany, the pastor dedicates a baptismal motto to each child. Sometimes the family picks out the Bible Verse to be used, but I asked my pastor to do it. He chose Matthew 28:20
And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
That verse is part of coming Sunday’s lectionary. So while I was reminded of the anniversary of my baptism and confirmation last Sunday, I will once again be reminded of it this weekend. Life has become a constant affirmation of my baptism and so I welcome this reminder, during this difficult time right now even more than any other time.
In Baptism I was welcome into the Body of Christ. However, I did not know the significance of that. Only during the last 2 years have I learned to understand just what it means and just how beautiful it is. While I was welcome into the Body of Christ 30 years ago, it was 2 years ago that Christ beckoned me to come and follow Him. Not a day goes by that The Lord does not ask me in one way or another to come to Him and to follow Him. Not a day goes by that don’t tell Him “Here I am, Lord” and say yes to Him. Not a day that He does not tell me that He is with me, always, and that He has always been with me.
Lord – You for the gift of baptism. Thank You for Your Spirit within me. Thank You for welcoming me into the Body of Christ. And thank You for being with me – now and always.
“God created humankind in his image” (Genesis 1:27) and “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good” (Genesis 2:31).
I hold on to this truth every day as I deal with my feelings of not being good enough. Feelings that were triggered a little during the last few days but not to the point where I can’t control them.
I hold on tightly to these truths as I still struggle with learning to accept me and love me for the person I am. Not always easy. The “inner healing” journey sometimes is so incredibly difficult and it isn’t easy to think positive about myself when it seems that even the inner child does not want a thing to do with me…and/or I feel as if I can’t trust myself with the inner child…afraid to hurt myself even more.
I hold on to these truths as I read about God creating life and knowing that He too created me. That He created me exactly the way He wanted me to be. That God does not make mistakes.
As I read about Adam and Eve and The Fall, I can’t help but think of ways in which we…in which I…have gone against God even though I love The Lord with all my heart. Like Adam and Eve, I too find myself sometimes trying to hide, too ashamed and too afraid of being seen by God in all my nakedness. And yet..there is also that longing to do the opposite, to stand before Him exactly as I am, exactly as He created me….and without being afraid to tell Him anything….without a “…but”, without hiding what I know He knows anyway. He that is within me, knows all there is about me.
I can’t say that I love or even like myself, but I try to allow the voices of the past to be drowned out by the only voice that matters, and the voice that tells me that all of God’s creation, that creation of which I am a part, is good and loved. I will hold on to that truth until it becomes my truth.
From Loyola Press
Jesus, Son of God, you came to bring life and to proclaim the Kingdom of God. Help me to recognize the many ways I, too, can be a messenger of the Good News.
2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; 4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”
5 And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. 7 Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children.”
I think of all of the prophesies in Revelation this is one of the most beautiful ones. To envision God dwelling with us and wiping every tear from our eyes. To envision Him in a relationship even more intimate than what we experience now. To no longer have to wipe our own tears away but He is doing it for us while also quenching our thirst with water from the spring of the water of life. Imagine being gently held, comforted, and offered the water , “Drink. Live.”
As children we all have experienced waiting for our parents to pick us up…from daycare or school or a babysitter or even the home of a relative and friend. As Christians we wait for God to come, to be with us, to take us by the hand and lead us home. How beautiful then to know that He will not only come to get us but make His home with us. That He will come and stay and never again leave us waiting.
But as I read these verses I also want to say: But He is already here. He has already walked through the doors of our hearts, resides with us, in us, and is our comfort and strength. The Lord is already holding us in His gentle hands and, with His love, already wipes away our tears. There is no need to wait but only to take the cup of living water that is offered and to drink it. For all of humankind to drink it.
And yet, we still wait…I wait. Waiting for the day to not only know He is with us but to see His face. I am praying for the second coming of The One who is already with us. Waiting for the final fulfillment. Waiting for the day that there will be no more death, no more pain, no more tears. Waiting for the old to pass. Waiting for His new creation.
…Waiting with one constant prayer that voices my deepest desire: “Come, Lord Jesus!”
But they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb
and by the words of their testimony,
for they did not cling to life even in the face of death.
Clinging to life. The thing I hate most and yet the thing I do at all times. I think for many people it would seem strange to read that I do not want to cling to life. For some in the “helping professions” it may even sound suicidal or depressed. But so far from it. I don’t hate living but I hate my hold onto this earthly life because it drains me rather than builds me up. For as long as I can remember, I was looking for something that can fill the emptiness left behind by a life that just didn’t feel right…and I found it or, rather, it found me…He found me…while I was the one searching, it was He who found me. While love of worldly things drains me, love of Christ nourishes me. When I am able to cling to Jesus rather than the world, that is when I conquer the death. But it is so very hard to do. When fear or worry or doubts creep in, then it is sometimes hard to keep focused on The Lord and to cling to His word and hope and love rather than listen to the voices of the past, the worries, and the doubts and fall into old, life-draining habits
Right now is one of those times where fears and worries grab me and where my tightly clenched fists holds on to a worldly life. A life without hope and without promises. A life that will end in death without resurrection. A life that refuses to see light in the dark. A life without Easter.
O Lord, help me once again to open those tightly clenched fists that hold on to a worldly life filled with fears and worries. Help me live an Easter life.
What kind of love is this, that keeps so persistently giving after being rejected over and over?
What kind of Father is it that never stops whispering “I love you”?
I am going to Germany next month to visit with my father. I am going home to make peace with him and to tell him that I love him and to visit the cemetery where my mother is buried. But I feel hesitant about the trip. I find that I want my father to love me without holding back, to appreciate me and to celebrate me. I expect my father to be like the father in the parable of the prodigal son. I want my father to rejoice at his wayward daughter coming home and I want him to serve that “fattest calf” and bring out the “best robe” for me. A part of me wants him to do all those things that I feel I did not receive freely from him. And he is trying. But I…I am not.
The other night I wrote:” Too little too late” is the thought that came to mind. But it isn’t. It is never too late. It is never too late for The Lord to love us and for The Lord to rejoice at one of His children coming to Him…I welcome my heavenly Father’s love even though I wondered over the years if He really is..and why He didn’t seem to be there for me. Should I not also welcome my earthly father’s love in the same way and be glad for my dad wanting to be in my life? Should I not be happy that, though one of my parents is no longer with us, the other one is…I expect my father to welcome me with wide open arms and with genuine love. But I need to do the same and yet I find I am not quite there yet. I need to spend time the next month to pray about that, to pray for a soft and tender heart and for the ability to love my dad for the wounded person he is and to be thankful for all that he has provided rather than think about the ways in which he was not around. I expect my dad to be like the father in the story of the prodigal son…and yet I am more like the older brother…holding against him what he did not do for me.”
During the last two years the one thing that has always been clear is that The Lord is asking me to love like He does. To not judge others but to accept. He is asking me to put everything into His hands and to let go. He is asking me to start anew, to let go of the old life and begin again. Doing this is much harder than I ever thought it could be and yet there is nothing I want more. I want to take the past and put it on that cross and watch new life sprout grow from it. It does not mean to forget about the past and it does not mean to not hold my dad accountable, but it means to forgive and to love….to love like Jesus does. To love with the kind of love that never looks back but lives in the moment and the kind of love that is grateful and never thinks of any attempt at reconciliation as “too late”.
Luke 15:11-32 – The Parable of the Prodigal and His Brother
Then Jesus said, ‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.” So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and travelled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.’ ” So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate.
‘Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.” Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!” Then the father said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.” ’
I fell asleep last night with a prayer on my lips and woke up this morning the same. You are on my mind….reside in my heart and dance through my soul. I stop so many times during the day to go inward and find you there and to give into Your divine love; drawing strength from it to continue my day. A moment to feel that fire burning within my chest, that fire that is all consuming and yet life giving. A moment to stop and listen as you whisper “Beloved” into my soul and once again etch Your name onto my heart.
Oh there is no greater joy than to feel your presence and to yield to your demand to look neither back nor ahead, neither right nor left, but to simply look to You…and only You.
I loved doing
giving my time to the church
it gave me the ability to
define myself by what I could do
rather than what I failed to do
but I had to let go all of that to follow
and now I am left feeling
I realize that this may just be a lesson in
doing for You
rather than making myself feel good
A lesson in doing
even if that means waiting
and doing nothing