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Pushing Grace

Jill1Hi. I’m Jill–writer, speaker, pastor, editor, and what my business card euphemistically refers to as a “grace pusher.” We all push something, and that’s my favorite thing.

I talk about a lot of things on my blog and in my books and articles. But usually, they focus on a few main topics. Breaking through fear (and using it). Doing faith with the next generation (and loving it!). Women as half the church. Kindness in the midst of an unkind world. Using the Bible for wisdom not warfare.  Justice. Freedom. Grace. Always grace.

I’m the kids who refused to step too far into the back yard after dark. The woman who slept with a nightlight when I was twenty. The person who would still rather face a rabid bobcat than walk up to a stranger and begin a conversation. Fear has been a close acquaintance of mine. After a few very rough years, however, I decided it wasn’t the boss of me. Fear has only the power you give it–and I wasn’t giving it anymore.

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It_s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What_s next, Papa_”

Yes–there is God, telling me to live “adventurously expectant.” To look at each day and ask, “What’s next?” Even on the days when I fear what might, in fact, be next.

“Fear not” may be the most common command in the Bible, but fear is also perhaps the most common human emotion. It’s certainly been driving a lot of our national conversation, too.

I don’t want to live life as a grave-tender, so wrapped in fear of what might be that I lose the time in between. Grave tenders may live safely–there isn’t much to fear when you’re keeping up a nice, neat backdrop for dead things. They don’t demand a lot of change. But living among dead things isn’t living at all. The abundant life Jesus promised isn’t safe, but it is an adventure, if we’re willing to leave dead things behind.

I want to live an adventure for God’s kingdom, and I want to do it with you. I want to know who I am, and I want you to know who you are, because of who He is.

I want us both to know the identity God planted in us when he chose to give humans his image. That imago dei, straight outta the garden, is still there. He hasn’t rescinded the deal. He made you and me his ambassadors–shining his image in difficult, dark places. Just like my scary old back yard, only sometimes darker.

I want to see you and hear you and know you–and I want you to know He already sees and hears and knows you. If you’re tending a grave, he wants to pull you out of there into life.

So, let’s join one another. I can’t wait to see what happens here.

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PS– I’d love it if you want to hit the button to subscribe or be put on my mailing list!

*I also write occasionally for Christianity Today publications, MOPS, (in)courage, A Fine Parent, and others, as well as blog regularly for Theology Mix and The Glorious Table. If you would like to view recent articles, go to my Media page.

I Can’t Shake the Church

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Photo by James Baldwin on Unsplash

Today’s post comes from a dear friend and divinity student, Kirsten Trambley. Kirsten surprises me always with her creative thinking and passion. I can’t wait to see what she does with her degree and her wonderful heart. Here are her words, in answer to my questions about the next generation and faith.

Disclaimer: I have chosen to interview young people of several traditions for this series. Their beliefs may not be the same as my beliefs. That’s okay. Dialogue is the best way to understanding one another and living in the peace and unity that Jesus spoke about. Yay for not all thinking the same.

 

If you could tell us one thing about your generation, what would it be?

Millennials are not ignorant, uninformed airheads. We are pushing 40, we are past college, we are not only entering the workforce but becoming established in our careers. As a middle millennial born in the early 90s, I can attest we are not a pack to be defined as one but an evolving mystery of knowledge with care for justice and change that is already being employed. We are not “leaders of the future”; we are people who have been leading for over a decade, many even longer. We love to learn from older generations, yet we have much to learn from the generation below us. GenZ’ers are fantastic, phenomenal, witty, quick-thinking, problem-solving, fun, amazing children of God.

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Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

What do you need from older generations?

We need openness. One does not necessarily need to be open-minded because I’m not one to say that I’m always right. But, with open listening and open dialogue (I think we used to simply call this conversation), we can see each other – not as sides, parties, progressive vs. traditional – but as humans alongside each other on the journey. We are in this together for life and for meaning-making while searching together for faith, beliefs, and sacred texts. We need to hear the positions of reason, scripture, tradition, and experience from older generations in order to balance our understanding of the world and the ways in which we work to move forward.

As a youth leader, we need intergenerational work. To bring life into a dying church, we can’t cluster into age segregation. Rather, it must be intergeneration to engage youth with a reason to find their sense of purpose within a religious community. I need different age groups working together to make my work with youth be productive, and I need friends of different ages in my life to share their perspectives of experiences and interpretations of my experiences to help guide my path.

What are your dreams for the church / faith?

One of the Drew Theological School professors, Mark A. Miller, who is the director of Craig Chapel and the composer-in-residence has a song that I love, “I Dream of a Church.” The modern hymn opens with, “I dream of a church where everyone is welcome. I dream of a place we all can call home.”

In a service at Drew, Miller recently said that everyone is welcome “as we are all pilgrims on the journey.” Sometimes, I see this welcoming as an act of inclusion via the work of Jen Hatmaker (whom I have read and followed online for a few years, my link to Jill), but sometimes inclusion feels too much like “us” having power. I agree with those who say the church needs a divide so we know where / with whom / on what we align, though I also think we have a place for great hope of a church that radically works together despite its differences as I have learned from Bishop Karen Oliveto, the first openly-gay bishop of the United Methodist Church.

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We could divide over racial desegregation, women in leadership, human sexuality, etc., but we are already divided on ableism that literally keeps people out of our buildings or on issues of migration that separate our families. While I dream of a church where everyone is welcome, my current contexts are very left-leaning. We won’t deny people based on physical or identity factors, but our views on social factors are well-defined and dividing. There is conflict among moderates and conservatives in my liberal progressive spaces, and it’s not always handled with respect toward all. The ideal would be for all to come together under a common good. I am determining the reality of where I sustain hope for this shared well-being or if I lean toward the divide.

What’s your greatest fear for the church?

We are cutting off people because they are not the majority, the privileged, the people with social capital. When we limit and say Christianity can only look like / be like / enacted like / live like one certain understanding to experience God, we cut off the marginalized.

We lose the voices and experiences of women when we deny their callings or do not intentionally include gender-balanced leadership.

We ignore the faith of those identifying as LGBTQIA+ when we discount their Christianity for being in the queer community, even if they display the training and skills needed in their positions.

We exploit people of color when we lead all-white churches, have tokenized people of color on church staff, and / or we say we “don’t see race.”

We harm children and reject their faith when we don’t allow them to participate and lead in worship because of their age.

I can continue to give examples for days, but it concludes with the fear that leads to exclusion. We cannot be an ecumenical body of Christ if we are not communally affirmed in our faith and in living with the divine Spirit in each person simply on the basis of humanity.

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If you could contribute one thing, what would it be?

I desire to contribute many things as a theological student with some skill in a lot of places.

I hope I’m funny. I hope I’m relatable and honest with myself and with others. I hope I’m contributing to engaged thought through writing. I hope I’m creating change through social action in “big” things like rallies or marches and in “small” things like adapting worship service liturgy on art and justice or providing resources for engagement in immigration rights.

Even with all of this, my greatest contribution in my current context and in the past seven years of my work is to mentor youth. I work to provide hope, a place for creativity, space to explore faith, somewhere to ask questions without always coming to an answer, and opportunity to be involved in the local church and in demanding justice. I’m analyzing my work every day for its potential long-term effects and for finding resources for meaning in life to connect that with the quest of our youth. Engaging with the younger generation is beautiful, overwhelmingly-pressured, and an honor.

What do you love about the Bible?

I love that the library of books of the Bible that I’m reading through my current lens as a progressive theological student are entirely different than the one cohesive book that I read as a young person who was given a conservative story from the same text. I think the books really have space for that varied interpretation, and that honors each of us in our place with God.

Some pieces of the story are too cool to not recognize. I love discovering that Genesis has two creation stories and finding the references to early cultures’ origin texts. I love that the canon includes four different readings of the life of Jesus the Christ. I love that the books include divine representations as feminine and gender-neutral and masculine, warrior and lover, crucified and resurrected, Creator and Sustainer, and encompassing ideas of what God can be.

I love how the books that I’ve read have real-life locations that I have visited in Turkey. I love that I don’t understand or believe all of the writings to be historically true because that contains an unexplainably holy mystery. I love that I don’t have to purposefully engage with the text every day for it to make an impact on who I am and how I live my life. I love that I can read the Bible entirely differently than I did one, five, eleven years ago, and I still find a sacred nature within the text.

Other thoughts?

I have great hope and hurt for the church. I don’t know what exactly it means in my life right now, but – as hard as I’ve tried – I can’t shake it away or abandon its purpose. It’s a messy bunch of weirdos, but it’s our mess.

Kirsten Trambley close up

Kirsten E. M. Trambley is a second year Master of Divinity: Social Justice Advocacy student at Drew Theological School. She is originally from southernmost Illinois where she worked with youth in a public high school, an ecumenical biannual camp, and various churches and small groups. Kirsten puts her faith into ministerial action by working with youth, engaging with social change, and expressing herself creatively through visual and performance arts as well as through writing. Through her leadership, she persists in encouraging courage, creating community alongside storytelling and partnership, and working toward God’s call for liberation, justice, freedom, peace, and love for all.

Wisdom from the Young

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This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.

Young people. They’re my heart. You can see that by my tagline up there. “Repicturing faith with the next generation.” They’re my favorite people to listen to. They’re where our faith community is going. They’re filled with ideas, passion, mistakes, dreams, hopes, compassion, and fears.

Three of them are responsible for carrying out my retirement plan of living in a foreign country for three months and then rotating living with them for one. It’s a sweet plan.

They are also one of the more maligned populations in our country, and, statistically, the loneliest.

I want them to speak. I’ve dreamed of doing this blog series since last year in January, when we saw the courageous action of a group of young people from Parkland, Florida, speaking the truth about the unthinkable.

They were brave. Brilliant. Passionate. Right.

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I loved it. Even though I had doubts it would change anything. Even when they didn’t do it perfectly. Even considering the horror that they had ever had reason to to be that brave.   

Scripture offers us several snapshots of young people whom God did not consider too young to have a voice and a mission.

When Jeremiah objected that he was too young to speak, God told him not to stress about his age—God had all the words he would need. (Jeremiah 1.6-9)

Josiah took the throne of his country at the age of eight. He ruled long and wisely and was one of the few the scriptures mention as one who obeyed the Lord and followed him. (2 Kings 22-3, 2 Chronicles 34)

Samuel was a child when God called him toward the post of leading some of the most difficult, hard-headed, self-willed people on the planet. Much like most of us.

Mary was a teenager—the age of some of those Florida kids—when God handed her the most difficult, most blessed job ever performed. He trusted his choice.

A young girl taken captive and made a slave still pointed people toward the power of God in ways adults would have feared to do. (2 Kings 5)

David is thought to have been about seventeen when he had the faith and the background knowledge to pick up five stones from a creek bed and tackle his giants. His victory is usually lauded as an unlikely blip in history, but there is evidence that David prepared well for this confrontation and followed his beliefs. He was not a young pup determined to show off despite his inexperience, as his older brothers suggest. 

Miriam had the presence of mind at a young age to save the life of her baby brother, offer some solutions beyond what people would have expected of a child, let alone a girl, and thus pave the way for the salvation of all Israel. Not bad for a child thought to be 10 or 12.

“Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.” (1 Timothy 4.12)

I love that God never disqualifies people from serving him because they are too anything—and he welcomes the contributions of the young. He doesn’t create criteria they must pass before they can be good enough to bear his images in this troubled world.

I love that the gifts of the Holy Spirit have no age limit, and we are free to use them whether we are three or 103. (That, in fact, was a big reason for our first mission trip as a family and my book.)

So for the next few weeks, we’re going to hear from young people. If you’d like to be included or know someone who might, let me know.

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We’re asking questions such as:

  1. If you could tell people one thing from/about your generation, what would it be?
  2. What are your dreams for the church? What are your dreams for your faith?
  3. What are we missing that you’d like to see?
  4. What do you need from us?
  5. What’s your greatest fear for your faith and/or the church?
  6. If you could contribute one thing, what would it be?
  7. What might stop you?
  8. If you could tell us to read something, what would it be? Why?
  9. What do you love about the Bible? About Jesus?
  10. Anything else?

I think you’re going to love it.

Pokemon GO and the Salvation of Western Civilization

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As a prelude to what I hope will be a series on young people, and a follow up to last week’s discussion of Growing With–I’m retuning to a favorite of mine, originally run here on the Theology Mix blog.

I have to update–statements made in the first paragraph are now invalid. My daughter taught me to play a few weeks ago. And all my assumptions that I could get addicted were accurate.

Pokémon GO will save the world

Well, that could be an overstatement. Other things are doing their share.

Still, it’s a valid hope. I don’t personally play the game. It looks fun—and I do have an inherent passion for collecting things that is totally compatible with the idea of going around catching various creatures, indexing and organizing them like my junior high insect collection that took on epic proportions. My highest StrengthsFinder score is Input–ie, collector of things. Any things, really.

\So, really, best I don’t touch the thing. I know my limits, and with time an endangered commodity in my life right now, another way to spend it should not be on the table. I will stick with geocaching when I feel the need to hunt outdoors.

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Yes, this is actually mine. Yes, it’s fun.

However, I have trailed along as a cultural observer when others play. In the trailing, there is a tale to tell. Pokémon players are changing the lonely landscape for the better.

Fact: Millennials are the loneliest age group in America.

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https://www.themarshallproject.org/2016/07/12/who-loves-pokemon-go-the-police

This as determined by researchers from the University of Cologne and the University of Chicago. They have eclipsed the presumed leaders in that race, the elderly. Their buzzword of choice may be community, but the reality is, they are finding it less and less. Blame social media, economic issues, mobility, competition, overzealous parents and ovescheduled lives, and fear of commitment. Whatever we blame, the reality is, our culture finds friendship and relationship disposable, and no one suffers more for it than the generation that learned friendship online.

Enter Pokémon. What I witnessed when accompanying my two Millennial daughters was nothing less than a modern social miracle. Dozens of young people wandered around the lakeside park. Some in groups, some alone, everyone staring at their phones. Suddenly, a random “Charmander!” rang out from across the field. Once, twice, three times. Strangers were calling others to come share the mecca of fiery creatures they had found. Other people who passed us offered up clues—“Dratini right over there.” “Go to that willow tree—there are Bulbasaur all over the place!” Everyone in the park was helping one another play the game. Something made them act as a team. Some sense of “we’re together here” permeated the area.

They are not becoming fast friends. They’re not walking away together linking arms and singing kumbaya or planning to be in each others’ weddings. But they are helping one another toward a mutual goal, with no personal gain at all.

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In a particularly contentious and angry time in the US, a game on a cell phone is causing strangers to work together. This is nothing short of miraculous. We should all be standing and applauding.

Of course, we’re not. Instead, I read random rants about how young people are staring at their phones again/always and how this makes them self-centered. I see older people condescending to younger ones with broad assumptions like, “If they put this much effort into getting a job, they’d be out of their parents houses’.” Such assumptions bother me, since my children, and most players I know, are gainfully employed and/or full time students. But they bother me further, on a much deeper level, because they prove the speaker has never had a conversation with any young person. At least, not a mutually respectful one.

This matters in the church. If we care about the loneliness epidemic outside (and inside) our walls among the Millennial generation, we will care about ways to bring them together. We will want to understand how they form community and why it matters. Pokémon GO has a few things to teach us about our relationships with and continued learning from the next generation.

Pokémon GO reminds us that Millennials don’t think play and work are mutually exclusive.

Will our leadership accept that work and play often look a lot alike for Millennials, and sometimes they are doing their best innovating when they are having fun? Can we adjust our committees, classes, and teaching to reflect this?

Pokémon GO is a game. It’s also a community, a place to belong, and a network. It didn’t take players long to realize that a game can be used to meet people, learn about other cultures, find job opportunities, or shatter their Fitbit goals.

Cities report that police officers are joining the game to create relationships in their communities. People are using the social phenomenon to solve seemingly intractable problems—like racial tensions and law enforcement woes. While the lines are blurring between work and play, they are also completely blurred between fun and practical change. Will our churches follow suit, or will we retain our insistence on old methods of solving problems?

Pokémon GO reminds us that Millennials want to ask questions rather than be told where everything is and how it works.

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Note Attention Road Sign Right Of Way Duplicate

Can our discipleship involve the kind of seeking that Millennials seem to prefer over the straight telling we have embraced for so long? Maybe we should ask more questions rather than give so many answers, so the search for being like Jesus can consume us like the search for Pikachu.

Pokémon GO reminds us that Millennials value relationships over formulas.

Can we encourage evangelism that’s more like playing games with a group of new friends than sealing a used car deal? Do all the right words mean less, ultimately, than being with another person? What would that look like in church programming?

Pokémon GO reminds us that Millennials want for a place to belong.

Will the church embrace that need and offer a balm for loneliness? Will we hold out the ultimate relationship rather than rules to live by? Will we invite them in regardless of their tribe or background or beliefs? Will we be the ones standing on the path calling, “What you’re looking for is over here! Come be with us. We understand the search. We’re with you in it. Let’s look together.”

It could save the world, you know.

Growing With–a Book You Must Know About

Growing With parenting_ A mutual journey of intentional growth for both ourselves and our children that trusts God to transform us all.

As a pastor, I am “in a relationship” with the Fuller Youth Institute. I’m not even shy about it. In a culture that makes it challenging for our kids’ faith to thrive, I have found abundant resources for both parents and church leaders in their publications. I’m even using a number of them for my thesis project.

That’s why, when my email magically notified me they were looking for a book launch team for their next resource–– Growing With––that was one of the few emails I didn’t scroll past or trash with abandon. I applied immediately.

I mean, my tagline you can read above is” Reframed: Picturing faith with the next generation.” It’s kind of important to me.

Growing With’s subtitle– –Every Parent’s Guide To Helping Teenagers and Young Adults Thrive in Their Faith, Family, and Future––captures the thing well. The authors, Kara Powell and Steven Argue,  use three verbs to help parents during the three stages of their children’s growth.

Growing alongside our kids requires holding our future snapshots loosely, because our dreams may not end up being theirs

Withing

  • Withing––how do we relearn to actually be with our children, not simply around them?

Faithing

  • Faithing—how do we help our kids navigate the changes in their faith with patience and optimism, realizing that our faith, too, is or should be ever-changing?

Adulting

  • Adulting– –what tools do our kids in need to thrive in their own new life, and what is our role in supplying and them?

As parents, we remember the lyrics to our kids' past dreams and sing them back to them when the timing is right.

I won’t lie ––Growing With can be a tough read if your kids are already in their 20s, as mine are. You can’t help but notice the many things you could have done better. Yet Powell and Argue lace Growing With with grace. They are parents, too. They have made their own mistakes and are not afraid to let the readers know it. The message comes through––

We’re all imperfect humans raising imperfect humans.

We all need some help. Both generations need grace to understand that the other is still growing, learning, and making mistakes. That understanding alone it is worth the price of admission for this book.

The authors talk about the cultural changes that have made growing up in this generation far different than the world their parents knew at their age. They lay down some of the stark facts that might depress us about our children’s faith, but they also debunk some of the myths about the Millennial generation and iGen that keep parents awake at night in fear.

The clear, well-informed, and fact checked understanding of the next generations’ hopes, worries, and beliefs is invaluable to parents, grandparents, and church leaders who wants to understand what is going on in the heads and hearts of these generations.

Teachers, Guides, Resourcers

I love how the authors explain the different roles parents need to take on as their children change. Parents need to evolve from teachers to guides to resources. We can’t hope to parent a 25 -year-old the same way we did a 14-year-old. At least, we can’t hope to do it and retain a good relationship. And genuine relationships are what it’s all about for the next generation.

A guide doesn't carry your pack or do the exploring for you. They walk with you, attending to the novice travelers untested instincts, wrong turns, missed opportunities, and awe-inspiring moments. Thus the parent of

We need to be, as one story puts it, ”A wall they can swim back to”—a firm and sturdy place that will always support them after their forays toward and into adulthood. The writers don’t just leave us with that pithy picture, however. They give readers wonderful ways to be that wall. 

The important words are verbs

I love that the writers, like our scripture writers, know that the important words are verbs. Parents don’t simply ”be with” their kids. They are withing, together. It’s a verb because it is active. We need to intentionally practice withing.

Likewise, faith isn’t a static thing we can hand off to our kids when we think they’re ready. It’s a verb we practice more than we preach. It can’t be given––it can only be lived together. This flows perfectly with the biblical view of faith. Faith is never a thing in scripture––it is always an active, living way of life.

If you’re intrigued, or if you know someone who could benefit from “every parent’s guide to helping teenagers and young adults thrive,” check out Growing With––and preorder yours now (before March 5th) to receive some very special extras as well. I know I’m going to.

Whose Face Do You See?

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Photo by Robin Röcker on Unsplash

“What’s the matter, honey?”

I heard her voice before I saw her face. My own face was bent into my hands, covered in tears. A lot was the matter, and I didn’t know how to fix it. But when I looked up into that kind face above mine, I saw Jesus standing there.

The summer after college, I traveled across the country with a music tour. Halfway through, my family called me to come home—Dad might not make it this time, they said.

A week later, after we’d confirmed that Dad would make it, my sister bought me a Greyhound bus ticket to rejoin my tour group. Unfortunately, when I got to Omaha, I discovered they were still four hours away—a geographical miscalculation that left me sitting in the bus station at 10 p.m., imagining what could befall a young woman in a place like that in the seedier part of Omaha.

 

For the rest of the story this week, go here to The Glorious Table For an amazing true story about loving your neighbor.

Practicing What We Preach

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Sunday morning, I didn’t have a sermon. That wasn’t planned. Perhaps you noticed that the following morning, I didn’t have a blog either.

Let’s let me recap.

Monday

My husband stayed home from work with the stomach flu. I spent the day in a combination of caring for him and living in mortal fear that I could not escape this doom. (So far, I have.) Also, Monday was snowpocalypse. So there’s that.

Tuesday

while routinely driving my daughter to the train station for work, we got in an accident. A very young driver, probably in a hurry and certainly not paying attention, turned left and slammed into my driver door and fender. Hard. I walked away with a broken arm, and more importantly, both my daughter and the young woman were unharmed. Unfortunately, my beautiful, far too young, metallic peacock, best-beloved car did not fare as well. Sally Ride is no more.

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Wednesday

No one went to work, except the doctor who casted my arm, as all of Chicago hibernated in the deep freeze.

Thursday

We took our ailing middle cat to the vet, hoping that she could offer us some treatment. Instead, she offered us a lot of medication that we could try at home, but cautioned us that he would almost certainly die. In fact, it became traumatically clear during the course of the treatment there that we would have to relieve his suffering immediately, and our dear Pippin would not be coming home with us.

It’s hard to dictate those sentences (since I can’t type right now given said casted arm) because just saying the words is making me cry. This is not the cat that was diagnosed in December with cancer-–yet he also had the same disease, under the radar, hiding it well, just like a cat/middle child. We expect still to say goodbye to #1 cat very soon as well. Merry and Pippin will both be gone-–the fellowship will be no more. I’m not good at pet goodbyes. Who is?

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None of us felt quite certain we should even get out of bed on

Friday

Was it the same old week, or was it a brand-new month? I didn’t have long to wait for the answer. That morning, I came downstairs to a loud roaring sound in my hallway and water gushing all over the floor. Have you ever simultaneously panicked, laughed, and cried? It’s pretty strange.

This all comes barely a week after we got the text that my mother-in-law would refuse treatment for her cancer and go into hospice. We expected her to make that decision—it was the right and best thing for her. That doesn’t mean the final choice isn’t devastating.

There are many things you cannot do without water. Also, there’re many things you cannot do without your dominant hand.

I couldn’t do anything.

I couldn’t even wash my grapes for lunch. So I sat here wondering if the next item in the series of unfortunate events would be my death by listeria. Do grapes carry listeria? I don’t know. I just know that I was eating dirty grapes, and I could taste the dirtiness, and that nothing was right in this world.

(Also, I came to the realization that I should never audition for one of those survival shows. When all of the plumbers said they couldn’t make it out for two or three days, my first response was not,” What must we do to cook and clean and survive for three days?” It was,” Where is the nearest hotel with a hot tub?”)

I never imagined I would stand in front of a group of people and tell them I hadn’t done my job. I never imagined that I would just blow off my blog for a week. I like my image as a fighter. I like people to know I will just power through and get the job done.

Except I couldn’t. The words wouldn’t come, even had I had 10 minutes not punctuated by calls from insurance adjusters or other emergencies.

And that is okay.

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Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

You see, I preach and write a lot about letting go of perfectionism and expectations. I know how dangerous they are–I let them control my life for far too long. They still lurk in the shadows, because that is who I am. Hello, enneagram 5. My highest need is to appear competent.

Yet this is not what I teach others. Our Word of the year for 2019 at church is Peace. My personal word is Restore. Right now, I feel like January pretty much failed me on that one. But I know the One who can and will restore all things, and I know that sometimes before restoration comes death. This is not what I had suspected or planned, but if that is what it takes, then I will wait expectantly for his restoration.

Restoration Requires Death

Sometimes, we are forced to practice what we preach. Sometimes, that takes the form of telling people that we couldn’t do what they expected us to do. Sometimes, it means telling the truth about what we are capable of handling. Sometimes, it requires us to lean hard on the arms of the one who tells us we don’t have to do every thing and in fact, we can’t do anything without him.

Maybe that’s a different kind of restoration and peace. It doesn’t look like I expected it to. But Jesus told me to be a peacemaker–-and if that means that I lay down my idol of competence so that others do not feel they have to take it up, then I am grateful to make that kind of peace in someone else’s life.

Jesus restores. We have evidence. This hasn’t been the wonder and amazement that I thought restoration would be. It’s been the tearing away before the healing.

God loves me when I’m not competent. God loves me when I cannot do what I believe I should be able to do. God loves me when I stand in front of a group people and say, “I’ve got nothing.” Fortunately, so do they.

God loves you. Full stop. There is no qualifier. I pray for peace and restoration for you today. I know how much you might need it.

Stay Angry

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Photo by César Viteri on Unsplash

I cant be finished talking about books. Not quite yet.

Childhood Classics in Adulthood

I seem to have developed a habit of reading childhood classics for the first time well after the expected range. This happened, as I mentioned before, with the Chronicles of Narnia. Also Anne of Green Gables (where was she all my lonely childhood???), The Hobbit, and today’s classic—A Wrinkle in Time.

I loved A Wrinkle in Time so much that I went on to devour all of L’Engle’s writing shortly after reading it. I now have one more book of hers on my shelf, and I have just discovered, after beginning to Kondo my books (hold me!), that I actually have two copies. I wanted it so much I forgot I owned it already. (This is not an unusual circumstance for me.)

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This is a photo of only five shelves of one bookcase. I am doomed.

When I heard a movie was in the making, I got that familiar mix of thrill and horror. Would they do it justice? Would it come across as beautiful and longing and intense as L’Engle wrote it? I had seen previous adaptations—and they were less than inspiring.

I didn’t love it, but I enjoyed it. Honestly, the acting was meh, and the departures from the book too many. I did love Charles Wallace—incredible acting from someone who was probably only eight at the time. My real love, however, was the costuming, as I decided in that theater last January what I would be for Halloween ten months later. Mrs. Which was stunning, and I needed those eyebrows. (Here’s an fyi—corsets covered in parachute cord are very heavy. And extremely hard to fasten. Now you know.)

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I should never be allowed to apply fake eyelashes. Never.

L’Engle’s ode to sacrificial love has never been so needed. 

TL;DR version: Meg’s father is MIA. Her little brother is an uber-genius. Both kids are ostracized for their oddness, brilliance, and, in Meg’s case, her angry insistence that her father would come home. She did not take well to naysayers.

Meg and her brother journey through the titular “wrinkle” to find their father, and Charles Wallace (said brother) gets ensnared by the evil “IT” that is consuming the universe. Only a rediscovery of the power of her love—the one thing IT does not possess, allows Meg to save her brother and her family. She has to face her fears and her anger to find that love. After all, we know that only a hard-won, bought-with-a-sacrifice kind of love can offer anyone salvation.

It’s not a story without precedent.

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L’Engle’s affirmation that there are some things worth getting, and staying, angry about is a vital corrective to our world. The transformation of Meg from a girl angry at the world to a young woman who understands the power of anger, and not to waste such power on small, self-centered things, informs us well if we let it.

Meg learns some things about anger that release her from her bitterness and propel her into a force that evil need reckon with. That is a change worth noting and emulating, fiction or no.

Too Much Anger?

I don’t need to mention that there are a lot of angry people out there in our world, too. (See last weeks’ post—re toxic.) That there is much to be angry about is as true in our world as it was in Meg’s, where the forces of evil threatened her beloved little brother and their tight relationship. Angry people sometimes sin, but it is not a sin to be angry. Sometimes, it’s downright holy.

Those who cannot handle the anger of others, wishing them to wrap it up in colorful bows of sweet Christian platitudes, confuse anger with bitterness. They fear doing the holy work of hearing the anger of others and the echoes of all the prophets who have gone before.

If you’re uncomfortable with another believer’s anger, you must not read Jeremiah very often.

The beautiful lesson of Meg is that anger is good. Anger is holy. But anger is like a scalpel—best respected for both the healing and the damage it can do.

“Stay angry, little Meg. You will need all your anger now.”

That parting line from one of her helpers defines the transformation Meg needs to make. She must confront the reality that mishandling her anger only fuels IT’s power. Using her anger to defeat IT, by refusing to let hate win and pulling all her love to the surface, brings them all home.

It’s the best line in the book.

I don’t know what you’re angry about, or if you are. I don’t know if you’re uncomfortable with anger and would rather not see it in your newsfeeds. (Good luck with that.) I do know that learning to wield our anger well and for God’s purposes is the difference between destroying ourselves and bringing ourselves home. I know that pulling all our love to the surface is the only way to stare hate in the face and tell it, “not today.”

I wish I had known Meg earlier.