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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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.

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.

Word, 2019 Version

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So, the word of the year thing . . . I’ve meant to. Really. And what, it’s only January 17th as I write this. Maybe I’ll go with this popular sentiment I’ve seen floating around.

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Except February is just around the river bend.

I Do Love Words

I never picked a word last year because, well, one never picked me. I find it disingenuous to force the issue if no one word is calling to me. Or maybe I’m just too lazy to search. But this year, I know I want one. I just can’t quite decide which one. And one has not decided on me.

What I’m searching for is more a feeling than a word—and I can’t find the exact word for the feeling. This coming from someone who makes her living finding the right words.

Last year was hard. Exhausting. (Maybe if I had picked a word it would have made it better?)

It was also valuable and beautiful, but these things commingle often, don’t they? We’re already facing some potential significant loss in 2019, so I’m not certain the new year promises better things. I am certain they will also be valuable and beautiful, and I will find that the anchor of Jesus holds still, giving meaning and hope to both joy and loss.

Yet I am at a loss for the word that encompasses it all.

We’re All Just Tired. And Toxic.

Last year was emotionally exhausting, too. When the Oxford English Dictionary chose “toxic” as their word of 2018, they baptized an entire year with an overlay of anger. They’re not wrong.

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There are so many parts of 2018 I am angry about. So many things I simply cannot. I cannot with jailing children, erecting walls, shooting children, fine Nazis, drowning children . . . I cannot. I cannot with the defense of any of these things by people with whom I share a faith.

And yet . . . I also cannot let the toxins invade and make a captive of me. To quote, well, myself when I gave two talks on this topic last year,

“When we begin to attack other humans we are engaging in the tactics of the enemy, and he is not our friend. He will use us. We will end up being what we fight against.” 

We will end up being what we fight against.

I say “no” to that toxin in 2019.

So what words have I considered top define this longing?

Candidates have included:

  • Rest
  • Peace
  • Wonder
  • Joy
  • Adventure
  • Return
  • Restore
  • Simple
  • Me

(Yes, I’ve considered “me.” I have. I find no shame in that, even while I’ve looked for it, assuming that choosing “me” as a focus word for an entire year must contain more than a drop of self-absorption. It doesn’t. It’s time to be good to me for a bit.)

More Than a Feeling

What am I longing for this year?

  • A pulling back, a recalibrating of what I really need and what rabbit trails I don’t need to follow.
  • A reminder of what battles I don’t need to fight and which ones I really, truly do.
  • A restoration of some things that have fallen away.
  • A return to some of the joy-sparking things that I’ve let go. (Let’s channel Marie Kondo here, because why not?)
  • A peace in the midst of evil that isn’t going away but must not wash me out in its tide.
  • A solution to this perennial puzzle of what matters versus what demands my limited bandwidth.

A way to do this unhurried, unscheduled, restful thing perfectly so that I get it exactly right and accomplish all my other goals as well.

. . . . . .

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She appears skeptical. Photo by Thomas Jörn on Unsplash

I’m longing for wonder this year. The kind that gobsmacks you full in the face and and leaves you wide-eyed, smiling with dumb amazement that you never saw it before.

Because the thing about wonder is that, almost all the time, it’s always been there.

(Also, I wouldn’t mind bringing back the word “gobsmacked.” Because how perfectly descriptive of its own action is that word?)

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Photo by Kenny Krosky on Unsplash

Most years, I find a song as well as a word that I believe will, or has, defined my year. Like the words, they find me. This year, I think the song that has found me is Sarah Groves’ Expedition. She sings about going toward that next river bend—but unhurried, refusing to rush there just to say you’ve been. Not going down the river because you have to get to the next port or cross off the next point of interest on the to-do or to-see list.

Going because the bends are the exciting parts, and taking the trip slow allows us to savor those parts with wonder, not anticipate and strategize them until there’s nothing left but the same water you’ve traversed, thousands of times.

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Photo by Jack Anstey on Unsplash

In defiance of her words (you really should listen):

  • I rarely approve of extravagant, and never wasteful.
  • Striving is sometimes my middle name.
  • I don’t have time for deliberate and slow.
  • I always feel I have something to prove.

“Strategy” is among my top five StrengthsFinders, and I am an enneagram 5!!! Do you not understand these important realities, Sarah???

This simply floating stuff does not come naturally. At all.

Yet for this year, I want to venture downriver and see what God has for me there, and I want to embrace it without reservation of whether or not I have the time or the capability. (Enneagram 5’s don’t do anything unless they feel they will be undeniably capable. That’s also exhausting.) I want to go around the turns and marvel at the glory and wonder of it rather than have it already planned out and categorized.

I want to be gobsmacked.

(No, that is not going to be my word. Even though it would look great in calligraphy hanging on the wall. A conversation starter, to be sure.)

What’s your vote? What’s your feeling or longing for this year? Do you have a word? What should mine be? I’d love to talk with you about it. After all, if I want to focus on what matters, one of those things would be you.