Yes, I’m still here!!

I promise; I’m still here.

Just doing some spring cleaning of the soul, and it has slowed progress. And changed a few things. 
When the idea for this blog first came about, I was angry. I would never have characterized myself as such, but it is true. For personal reasons that if the Lord so leads I will share at some point, as well as things happening in my country and the world, anger seeped into my heart and took root. Outrage was the order of the day. Not a good place from which to encourage. 
In the intervening months, I have done a lot of soul searching. As I was spring cleaning my closets, the Lord was spring cleaning my soul and revealing some not so nice things. They had to be expelled before I could move forward. 
So I come to this mile marker and I see the road bending in a slightly different direction. My first thought was that my focus would be women, and the myriad ways we are given dangerous messages about ourselves from both the world and the church. Then another subject that hits close to home for me began to creep into my mind, that of race and ethnicity. Then the whole married/single dilemma cast a shadow on my thoughts, leading me in that direction. I found myself unable to focus. 
It seemed that I was asking questions that I either was not finding answers for, or I was finding answers and didn’t like them. 
And then I happened upon Psalm 131 and these words leaped off the page: O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. (vv. 1-2)
After marinating in this short psalm, the following thoughts occurred to me: I have been demanding answers to questions God has never promised He would answer. I need His help to no longer concern myself with that which He has chosen not to reveal, those things that are beyond me, that are infinite and therefore can never be grasped by my finite mind. I will always seek, I will always wonder…that is part of what makes me who I am. But I must trust the answers He gives, that they are enough. That He knows better than I. 
So…my initial purpose in writing has been completely transformed. The theme is the same: Encourage to wholeness. We are broken; our world is broken. And Jesus came to put things back together again. 
We are all broken in any number of ways; we all need to be restored to wholeness. And so I want this space to be about that. About the journey to wholeness. I’m still on the road of discovery in terms of where this will lead me. I will likely touch on all the subjects I mentioned above and more. Wholeness entails the whole person, no stone un-turned. It is a process that lasts a lifetime, and its chief end is to conform us to the image of the One we worship…

More to come; until then, grace and peace… 

Coming soon…

I know…it has been a long time! I can almost sense the words echoing through an empty terrrain. Is there anyone still out there?

I hope that changes soon.

I’ve moved some things around and have made some changes. Not only has the name of this blog changed; the direction has changed. And it corresponds directly with the changes that have been happening in my heart.

But I’m getting ahead of myself…for now I would just ask that you hang tight and stay tuned. There is more to come.

See you soon!

A smallish diatribe…

I shall begin by apologizing for the length of this post. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. So much going on in my heart right now…but I’ll try to be as brief as possible. I just can’t make any promises…

I have noticed that of late, my heart has been resonating deeply with the generation known as “the Millennials”. At 42 years old, I am squarely in the Gen Xer group as far as demographics go; but there are aspects of my thought process that land me squarely in the Millennial category (ML will be the abbreviation I’ll use; GX for Gen X).

One of those areas is church. As I’ve watched the squabbles that go back and forth between certain camps within American Christendom, I am, quite simply appalled. There is no end to the vitriol, accusations of heresy, and the like. The spats I have witnessed on Twitter make me cringe with embarrassment – and mostly for the conservative side of the argument. Surely these folks (mostly guys) are more mature than they let on when they have only 140 characters to get their point across. You wouldn’t know if from what you see…it’s sad.

And don’t get me wrong: the vitriol comes from both sides. But it just amazes me when I see it come from the so-called older and wiser of the crowd. Shouldn’t they be showing a bit more maturity than their younger counterparts? And yet they are doing the same stuff, if not worse! That is, until they stop their virtual ears and refuse to listen – by blocking whomever chooses to challenge them. That takes the cake for me altogether.

But this is the deal: does this accomplish anything? More pointedly, does this accomplish what you are setting out to accomplish? And what exactly is it that you seek to accomplish? Is it enough that you seek to prove by any means necessary that you are right? Even at the expense of someone’s heart or even faith? Or are you seeking something more, something deeper? Because, let me tell ya, if that’s what you’re after, you are sorely missing the mark.

I speak to the nebulous “you” because I have no earthly idea who exactly I am addressing. I mean sure, I could name some names and point to some ministries, but I would rather not, lest I be the next person in someone’s cross-hairs. Not that I think my opinion is all that and a bag of beans; but somehow, if I link to certain people or ministries, that could potentially make them aware that I exist, and I like being safely anonymous. I even went so far as to delete my old Twitter account and begin a new one because I grew weary of watching the civil war ensue daily in my newsfeed. Yes, Twitter now has this nice mute feature, but who has time for all of that when you follow over 1,000 people? As melodramatic as it may seem, starting from scratch, with an eye to careful selection of who I choose to follow was the better route for me…

But, I digress…back to my main point. MLs and GXers…and my being an official member of the latter but resonating with the former. 
Rachel Held Evans is the example I will choose because it seems she gets the most crap from the other side of the theological fence. My favorite example is when she “made it official” that she had jumped the Evangelical ship in favor of those nasty, heretical Episcopalians (the sarcasm is strong with this one…). Anyone who has read her blog for any period of time would know that there was no fanfare involved in this – she simply announced one day that she was speaking (preaching…! Gasp!) at her church – her Episcopal church. And the Evangelical world lost its collective mind. Really?

This episode actually sparked my curiosity and led me to dig deeper into the ML angst that RHE seems to represent. And now I find myself reading books like Jesus Feminist and RHE’s new book Searching for Sunday…and nodding my head and my heart in solidarity with these two women and the ache of their soul. The questions and doubts that they are not afraid to wrestle with out in the open. The realness and raw transparency with which they share their lives and their hearts.

And what do they get in return for this? The left foot of fellowship from brothers and sisters who cringe at their audacity to be honest about who and where they are? I mean, do we seriously believe they are being contrary simply for the sake of being contrary? Or could it be that they are simply being real, sharing real experiences, real struggles and a real and genuine desire to find truth? That’s what I hear when I read their words, when I listen to what they are saying.

I straddle a fence that makes life deeply uncomfortable for me. I am a bit older than most of the men and women I have discovered lately, and I do have many of the characteristics of my own generation and even the generation before me. I believe that truth can be known; I have a strong assurance that the Bible can be trusted and is reliable and accurate in all it teaches; that it must be the plumb line that we use to evaluate everything in our lives and our cultures. So there would be very really differences of opinion on certain issues, particularly certain social issues. I believe the words of Jesus – all of them, including the part where He said He is the only way to the Father and all that – and want my life to reflect His character. That is, after all, what we are called to do, isn’t it? And that entails far more than simply knowing certain things. There is a “do” element that must spring from the “be” and the “know”. I’m just sayin’…

I guess you could say I am a demographic mutt if you will – and I happen to be Black, which I believe casts a slightly different angle on my personal experiences. To be a Black woman who has gifts that are normally attributed to men (like pastoring, shepherding and teaching); to be a Black woman who does not feel at home in either an entirely Black or entirely White context; to be a Black woman who has felt like an outcast in her own race her entire life; the struggles and questions of these leaders all feel so very real to me. I have written elsewhere of my identity struggles as it relates to ethnicity, and perhaps that is why I resonate so much with the struggles I see in these beautiful women and this generation.

I understand doubt and struggle. I understand the feeling of being muzzled and fearful of expressing that doubt and struggle. I get the pain and frustration of being silenced, unheard, cast aside, or disregarded. I have been marginalized and misunderstood. And all of this has happened in the context of church. And yes, I know what it feels like to want to just simply give up on church altogether. What keeps me going is that the Lord has said that the church is His body. I’m a part of it whether I want to be or not…and I can’t choose my family. So I press on; I don’t give up in the face of doubt and questions, and hurt and frustration. Because I understand we are all in that process, and it won’t all make sense until we see our Beloved Savior face to face….oh how I long for that.

But in the meantime…perhaps the answer to all this collective angst is not to rail against it; to not seek to silence it. Maybe this is the way the process works; maybe we need to just listen…pray…love. Speak truth, yes. But then wait…listen…pray…love some more. And let the Lord do His work.
I guess I can end this long diatribe by saying this: Truth is truth. I believe that wholeheartedly. But people work out their response to truth in vastly different ways. Some receive it readily with little fanfare; others come to it fighting and screaming. And then there are some who will never come to it. In other words, it gets messy; it not a proposition or logic puzzle; real people, with real lives trying to reconcile truth to their real selves. We should not be afraid of that struggle; we should embrace it; embrace them, and show that we will love them even if they never embrace Truth. Stop sanitizing it and let the nitty gritty show itself, so that the grace of God can shine, not our intellectual prowess or absolute certitude. The rest, in my humble opinion is up to God.

Burning radiance…

It was the first morning of our Women’s Leadership Team retreat at a beautiful lake house. We awoke that day to a thick blanket of fog hovering over the lake. The result was a beautiful grey gloom. It’s hard to describe how the gloom could be so beautiful, but it was all the same. The fog obscured the sun, which was slowly burning it away until brilliant light began to warm the air and transform the day. Soon the water sparkled as sunlight danced across the surface. A day that began gloomy and heavy had become grand and beautiful.

Later that afternoon, as I walked along the path that led to the water’s edge, I breathed in deeply – I could almost smell the promise of Spring in the air. My heart began to dance as I beheld the beauty of God’s creation. It was breathtaking.

Many times our lives are like that. A thick, seemingly impenetrable fog descends upon us and blinds us, leaving us lost and disoriented. Something unexpected happens that makes no sense. We attempt something we were sure the Lord was leading us to do and it falls flat. Heartbreak rudely intrudes and fills our days with tears and confusion. All we see is the fact that we can’t see; we can barely make out the next step ahead of us.

But what we don’t see is the burning radiance of God’s love and care working behind the scenes to bring all things back into clear view. Even when we can’t see it, He is working; and as we continue forward with trust in Him, he is burning away that which blurs our vision and confuses our steps. In fact, I have found that in those moments when I experience God’s silence, He is working the most. And although I don’t always get all the answers to the why questions, I become more and more secure in the Who that is holding and keeping me in the midst of it all.

I pray that if you are the midst of the fog of life, you would rest in the knowledge that God is there. He is working, and you will soon see the sun shining again as He burns away what hides your path. He is faithful, and He will do it.

Grace and peace…

When, O Lord?

I’ve been pretty quiet since Friday because I have been trying to collect my thoughts. Quite frankly, I still don’t know what to say. For someone who normally expresses themselves in words, that is a bit frustrating. As I watched the events of Friday unfold, my heart was filled with horror, anger, grief. I don’t have any deep or profound words here; I am rendered speechless and heartbroken in the face of such tragedy. There is nothing that can be said to make sense of it, to ease the pain of those who are suffering. And as I think about it, the one thing that keeps repeating in my head is “Come Lord Jesus. Please come soon.”

This morning we sung a song at church that seemed so appropriate for this time. Some of the words:

And in the despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said.
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men.”

I could not have said it better myself. How do you grapple with the reality that someone walked into an elementary school and took the lives of 20 precious children and 6 adults? What do you do when you cannot comprehend the incomprehensible? Indeed, each day things happen that defy explanation; and even if the the reasons were known, it still would not register. We still would not understand.

This morning, my pastor led us to the book of Habakkuk. This small, prophetic book in the Old Testament begins with words similar to my own:

O Lord, how long shall I cry,
And You will not hear?
Even cry out to you, “Violence!”
And you will not save? (1:)

Reality is not kind here. The tragedy of the fallenness of man plays itself out everyday, and in greater and greater degree. It will continue until the Lord’s return. The question our pastor asked was, in what or in whom do we put our trust? Do we trust that things may get better? Do we trust in the passage of stricter gun control laws? The sad truth is that we cannot. We cannot trust in man or in laws, however wise and well thought out they may be, to prevent such things from happening.

In what, then, shall we trust?

If it were left up to us, we surely would have reason to give up; we indeed would despair and have no reason to hope. But we cannot stop there. We must place our hope in the Lord. Our worship leader reminded us of the words of Isaih 60:19-22, that tells us that He is coming, and that He will end our days of mourning. The promise is that “I, the Lord will hasten it in its time”. Oh how I long for that time to come.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

There will be a day when there will be no more tears, no more sadness, no more pain. The cry of my heart is, “Make haste, O Lord. Come, Lord Jesus.”

*Lyrics from “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), 1867