Thanksgrieving and Believing

The eventual end of grief is an eternal promise we look forward to. In the meantime, Jesus assured us that happiness is available to those who grieve because of a present promise for comfort.  For any comfort to come, there must be a hope. Sometimes that hope is cloudy.

Sometimes grief which would love to linger is lightly carried away by the wind of the Spirit. Sometimes, God places you in circumstances that no emotion you could feel is adequate.

This week I received two phone calls virtually simultaneously to respond to, circumstances completely opposite and unfamiliar to me. One was to the West Wing of the hospital to the Labor and Delivery unit, the other call to the East Wing, the Emergency Department. Both instances had to do with babies, one joyous, one tragic.

I responded to the situation I felt I was needed least first. A family was adopting a healthy baby girl from a woman who delivered the baby, and the birth mother requested I pray a blessing over the baby and the adopting parents. So, I prayed, had no parental advice to really offer and affirmed the sense of joy in the room, despite being unaware of any dynamics as to how this situation came about. I was happy to be a part of it, but lingering in my mind, was the other call I knew I would be responding to immediately following that moment:

A one-month year old without a pulse that would not make it.

For 3 hours I offered prayer and presence and became witness to parent’s and grandparent’s grief. I offered some of my own grief but mostly I observed, stood silent, waiting on God.

Together, we’re all waiting, not always in grief, but we are all waiting.

Waiting for Life

In 2 Samuel 12:15-16, there is a Scripture that is concerning: “After Nathan returned to his home, the Lord sent a deadly illness to the child of David and Uriah’s wife. David begged God to spare the child. He went without food and lay all night on the bare ground.”

The child doesn’t make it. After 7 days, the child dies. David mourns for 7 days then stops once the child dies because David is aware that the child will not return to him. God’s grace was enough to spare David’s life but was not extended to David’s child. It seems utterly cruel, doesn’t it?

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In Scripture, the prophet Nathan affirms that the child’s death is the result of David scorning the word of God. This theologically seems like a bad look. It would be much easier to explain the circumstances using the Devil as the scapegoat doling out punishment for David’s sin, but Scripture does not give us this luxury.

Instead, we get a God that seems willing to employ extraneous means to keep his people tender-hearted. And this, I feel, is a viable tactic of God. God will use grief and the worst of circumstances, perhaps circumstances God authors, to return humanity to the love of God.

I will by no means try to explain the why nor use this or any tragedy to try to convince us that these are demonstrations of love. Rather, they are circumstances that give us pause, cause us to reevaluate, to seek what’s preeminent, namely seek God, the Author.

There, at the end of our grief, is resurrection life and belief.

Quit Nice

I’m continuing with a theme of pulling back a curtain of pretension. Perhaps my recent posts have provided some insight into an unintentional social experiment that is now becoming more intentional. I’ve chosen to cut back significantly on being nice.web_logo_large

In part, this might be a reaction to the smiley, often pretentious culture that the south gets billed for. But also because niceness defined as agreeable, pleasant and satisfactory is not enough. If you swim in this territory, I find you relinquish identity, vulnerability and the ability to tell people “no” or let them go.

Kindness however which Scripture admonishes us towards is to be generous and considerate of the other but also for ourselves.

When was the last time you were generous or considerate to yourself in order to better serve another?

Sometimes being generous and mindful of your own being requires confronting or outright rejecting the behavior of someone else. I’m confident that Jesus did this and continues to do this with relationships. Reject destructive behavior in order to restore relationship. I bold-faced the important part in case you don’t like the rejection of the destructive behaviors piece.

I did not come up with this advice. I had to be told this by my friend Hannah. Hannah is awesome. She’s a straight-forward woman who has her Masters in Theology, watches pro-wrestling, likes the Yankees, Super-Heroes, Harry Potter, Disney, cats and dogs and doesn’t tolerate BS and will let you know if you are trying to feed it to her. She’s engaged and if I don’t go to her wedding she would murder me mentally.

I don’t want Hannah to do that, in part because I am mildly fearful of her but also because Hannah is both honest and cares. I wouldn’t call her nice honestly, she also  wouldn’t want to be called nice. But she does take ownership of what’s hers and recognizes misuse and selfishness.

She isn’t afraid to tell you to cut people out, which I have now had to do twice in the last month. She isn’t afraid to tell you to stop doing something and don’t do that again because when you do it you suck. Those things don’t feel nice but they might be right.

It’s something we are empowered to do without changing our internal identity. You can still be an extremely loving and loyal Jesus follower without being overly nice. In fact you do this better when you refuse to subject yourself to the unchecked mistreatment from another human, especially a Christian.

So quit, try honesty and raw kindness instead.

Foolish Loyalists And Prophets

Now is as good a time as any to question which of your loyalties are hindering you. It’s also a good time to question the messages you’re listening to. I’m not talking about becoming a paranoid cynical skeptic because those kinds of people tend to lean into the most uncomfortable, unhelpful assumptions of their paranoia.

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What I am calling into question is what we are quick to believe and who we are quick to defend. Our current American climate I think supplies some evidence to the danger of our foolishness. It’s too easy to take a side of what we feel are our only options. And we become staunch about our side glossing over its potential or obvious evil.

It’s amazing confounding how quick we are willing to discard accountability if it will delay our desire, whether we’ve questioned the validity of our desire or not. It’s amazing confounding how quick we are to demand justice from an institution that consistently proves to us is broken and flawed. It’s disheartening to see how we (me included) so often subject our faith in Jesus to the performance of people.

We only have one perfect savior, and it wasn’t someone in your family or the subject of your romantic affection, or your political or judicial candidate. This doesn’t mean we cease our loyalties or our prophecies.

It does mean, however, that every one of our loyalties and prophecies are foolish.

See the Apostle Paul talks about the foolishness of the Gospel and the foolishness of preaching as the sole way we receive our deliverance and salvation. The thought that God would have his son murdered as the way we come out of this thing eternally alive is a foolish yet an astounding reality.

The command to faithfully pursue the unity of faith within the Body, the Church despite our persistent division and struggle to love seems foolish especially in light of familiar and frequent accusation. But we need the exposing and expelling of darkness as we acknowledge our need for one another’s light. This is the eternal benefit of confession, another foolish invention of God.

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How does admitting my sins contain with it the potential for healing and restoration?

How does being immersed in water bear any evidence on our faith?

How does our love for one another provoke the love of the unfaithful?

 

I don’t have a succinct answer to any of these, but I also know from what I watch and what I read outside of Scripture is individuals we elect don’t know either. They are bound by constituencies, lobbyists and emotions probably more-so than most of us. And the worldly wisdom each of us espouse is flawed.

But Jesus, that sweet loyalty to Him and the foolish prophecy that He is busy reconciling the world to Himself patient for our devotion is audacious. It is real and raw, foolish but completely freeing. When I subtly perceive this kind of loyalty in others that forsakes every other affection, I am left convinced of the goodness and genuine love of God.

Our willingness to look foolish for the Gospel (knowing the true gospel required) contains a great reward. The reward is receiving and revelating love in greater ways.

You become rich in love.

How do you write about yourself?

For a vocation that is supposed to require me to minister to hurting people, I am also required to do an enormous amount of self-reflection. And as a result I am now writing about myself, writing about myself.

I was asked to write a personal mythology. Because the word mythology is used, I’m writing about myself in the third person for the assignment.

The assignment did not specify for me to write in third person, but I am choosing to because I write too much about myself outside of my job. So I thought as a creative exercise I would try to step back and summarize my life in less than three pages by stepping outside of myself.

I wouldn’t say it is challenging , but I will say its tiring. It’s tiring because I spend so much time visiting my past trying to work through it and workshop it, only to keep realizing I can’t change it. I wonder what God thinks when we keep revisiting old things. I wonder what people are like who never have time to revisit the past and are solely fixed on their future.

I want to be that way, but I don’t think the process I have signed up for will let me.

For me, life is not laid out in stages of boxes that I can check, only to never look at again. Even if the seasons have past, the experiences and lack of answers seem to keep looking for closure. Which, I think is what death is about.depositphotos_2189599-stock-photo-dying-sunflower

Scripture says in John 12:24: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

One of  my goals for the first 3 months of this residency is to be comfortable with things that die, specifically become comfortable being in the room with death.

Why?

Well in part simply because I have to. I don’t think I can work day in and day out and once a week overnight at a hospital as a chaplain and avoid encountering this. But my goal is more than encountering it which is inevitable; my goal is to become okay with it while maintaining the confidence in Christ that it is not the end.

I want to become okay with it because notice what the Scripture says, “unless the gran falls in to the earth and dies; it remains alone.” Doesn’t that portion of statement fascinate you? I don’t want to be alone. I don’t even want to be alone in my apartment (Just get a cat already).

Jesus is announcing that there is so much in my life, in my desire, even in my “innocence”, in this world that must be subjected to a dying, in order to bear much fruit. In order for me to find life and love and genuine friendship and fullness of life, I like Jesus, must enter that fullness of life through death.

Well that’s nice, but what in heaven does it mean when a Christian says some whacked out jargon, “die to yourself,” “be dead to sin.” Because in theory I get it, but if something dies, isn’t their finality? Isn’t their loss? Isn’t their ending? If I have died to something how in the world does the pain, the sin, the stubborn refusal keep coming back? Butterfly-Life-Cycle_Christina-Whitefull

Does the apostle Paul really mean it when he says he dies daily and exhorts us to do the same? Unfortunately, yes, it means I have to suffer loss and ending, and taking the life out of the things that would otherwise kill my love for God and others.

You and I must do this daily with our greatest temptations and fears because the life available on the other side is far more abundant. I know this in part from experience, but I also know because of this internal hope that has gripped me. There must be something better than the fading false promises of the temporal.

The temporal just can’t be it because Scripture also declares that God has set eternity within our hearts. That is why the closer we get to death, the more aware we should become of the eternal but also the present.

How does any of this help you or I write about ourselves?

I think it simply helps us to write or tell our stories with hope. When you have surrendered the false myth that death leaves a permanent sting, I think we are free to embrace with confidence the promise of life through Christ to give us and others something worth reading and remembering.

Then once you write about yourself have the courage to let others read you. You might give them courage to find fullness of life and the courage to let something die that needs to so it doesn’t remain alone.

Mommy and Dad (as you are in my phone) I Hope I get this Right

I’m so naïve. It didn’t take long. I wept for the first time today, and it wasn’t because I visited a church during an emotional service where they were saying goodbye to some people they really love, to send them to Burundi perhaps indefinitely. I didn’t weep because I was confronted with my own darkness, sin, and fears although that would not have surprised me.

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I broke because I am naïve and spent $26.00 on a signed copy of comedian Louie Anderson’s book “Hey Mom: Stories for My Mother but You Can Read Them Too.” Louie Anderson plays a mom, as a man, on the TV show Baskets, a show I have developed a strange affinity for the past few years. I bought the book hoping to laugh. Instead, I read the intro and bawled my eyes out (won’t say for how long).

Yet this shouldn’t surprise me or you because, it is commonly stated that often comedy is birthed from a place of pain. Being able to laugh at the tragic or the familiarly uncomfortable is what allows us to cope. In this book, Louie writes to his mother who is 25 years deceased to recount to her his successes and his regrets as expresses his desires to speak to his mother face to face.

This utterly broke me because it touched on a very raw and vulnerable area of my heart that I have battled with over the last 2 weeks: the leaving behind of those who have known me longest and the fear of losing time that could have been spent with them, spent searching their soul.

It became suddenly real during one of my recent visits to my grandma. After all she is 92 and while healthy, I feared moving now would leave me with less time with her or worse the last time with her. And it became suddenly more real a week out when my dad was quickly and suddenly diagnosed with leukemia and started chemo 2 days before my move.

This news and uncertainty kind of cast this fog or shadow over the move or more so just me. Rather than being able to adequately process it all, I tried to drown it all out or at least find relief because nothing seemed to make sense even if it all made sense. I felt absent in my mind. When decisions become uncertain for me, it’s easy to forget yourself, forget who God has called you to be and sadly forget the intimacy that comes from a relationship with God. I feel like I was underwater slowly forgetting all of it.

It’s easy to turn my back on God when I feel like He has become the author of my distress. And that lie and the forgetfulness that the Devil also exists and is a liar contributed to the fog I lingered in too long.

And while I’m exiting the fog or the darkness of my descent, I now, weep. I weep despite hearing from my parents and brother that they are proud, despite consistently trying to sink back into this place of trust that God will care for the things that I seemingly cannot. I weep because I know how time works and I know it can feel unforgiving or like something slipped through my fingers. And I weep because of my lack of access.

My love language is Quality Time, occupying space with the people I love is important to me, and the new distance is scary.  And the distance becomes scarier without guarantees. I can’t cut this deal with God where I promise I’ll do a good job so long as nothing changes at home. I mostly can’t promise that because I can’t promise to do a good job.

I also can’t just have access to friendships quickly like I had at home. There are so few people in my life, like the Lane’s or the Victor’s or the Andrew Millins that I can call and expect to hear back from or see quickly. There are so rare friends like the ADK squad or the Daniel’s that I rest in assurance that they have me in their prayers and thoughts.

And while my first fear is based on what I could miss at home, my second fear is based on what I could miss here. I’m so afraid to fail at this. I’m so afraid to find out that the first ministry position I was let go from now 7 years ago got it right, and I’m not cut out for vocational ministry. I’m afraid to lay behind things that I was good at and comfortable with only to find out I sabotage the things I feel called to.

I’m afraid of it because I feel like that success and failure is in my hands. And my hands are soft, except for callouses on my upper palms where I hold weights. I have soft hands for someone who worked on a farm and in construction yet doesn’t give a dime about how firm a handshake I have.

And while I very strongly believe my hands were called and created to minister to the hurting and the growing, I weep over the sense of my self-constructed inhibition. I weep over my doubts about God’s plan and that the only measurement of success  that matters in eternity is faithfulness to love and live as Christ.

And I’m also afraid to screw up my new relationships/friendships. I’m so concerned about giving an honest rendition of James/Jimmy Passaro that I often don’t know where to begin. Do I share too much? Did they see me lick my fingers while eating(thanks Dad)? Did I accidentally say something that offended someone? Am I too needy, too worried? Did I listen enough? Did I listen so much that I forgot to share? Am I still in a fog/ in a “wonder where I am” place?

I think what I realize as I read this book and as I look at me in the mirror is:  I am my parents. I learned my disposition and ticks and qualities from them, yet I still have this unique essence that hasn’t changed since childhood.

On Sunday I probably met 40 new people. I even went back to church at night at 4:30 to attend a going away pizza and ice cream party for people from the Church who I never met, only invited through a generic come one out from the pastor from the stage that morning.

Then I played soccer afterwards with more new people from 7-8:45. That is exactly what 4-6-year old Jimmy would have done. He would have just gone anywhere and I tried to meet as many people as possible until he found someone he just clicked with. He would have done this to try to forget the loudness sometime scariness of home.

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Back then it was the loudness and scariness of disunity, now it is the quietness and scariness of the potential loneliness. And that can be scarier unless our okay with yourself. If you have healthy self-worth and a perspective of your purpose, being alone is not so daunting. But if you question that and are alone that isolation can be destructive.

So for the next week until I start work, I have some good practice ahead of me. Learn to live alone while maintaining contact at home while trying to meet new friends without scaring people away and becoming too self-reflective about whether or not I am presentable or worth love from other new people.

God I hope I get this right.

 

 

Settling the Stages

IMG_0013I’ve been in Charleston for 3 full days settling in, meeting neighbors, sending my brother off back to New Jersey and tonight will be my first night sleeping in my new apartment alone (with Jesus).

It hasn’t occurred to me yet that I’ve moved. It partially feels like I’m staying at a hotel with all my stuff on a short vacation. I’m sure it will feel like it soon, maybe next week, maybe when I start my new job, maybe when its fall and doesn’t feel like a typical Northeast fall, which in the past few years I have grown to love.

I feel like this process will continue in stages. I’m anticipating the break down and crying while asking myself what have I done stage to come soon. We are all waiting for that one with bated breath, hoping it will produce some strong writing and insight. Maybe that’s just me.

I don’t know when that stage comes either, but I can tell you about the stage I’m at. It’s the writing late at night after eating fast food (Cookout) and wondering what I bought at Kohls that managed to cost $60.00 and why I bought it (candles, spatula, chocolate, tootbrush holder). I’m embarrassed for typing that.

I’m embarrassed for not bringing dining room chairs with me or a DVD player or a video game system. I’m embarrassed for leaving behind or misplacing fashionable articles of clothing. I’m embarrassed for being the only single dude, almost only dude walking around Kohl’s at 9 pm not having a clue what to buy.IMG_0220

Maybe scratch all the times I wrote embarrassed above and replace it with inadequate. It’s a reality God wants me in. I must be completely reliant on God, on the Holy Spirit as the source of my breath and my strength, as the one who settles me in.

The truth is I don’t want to be contented, I don’t want to be at rest within myself, or pleased with myself unless I am experience that sense truly from God the Father. I want to be right with the Father reconciled to the Father by the Son as a son.

I don’t want to feel like an idiot or foolish for spending $60.00 at Kohl’s but am willing to if he speaks to me in the process.

This moving process makes Moses’s life make so much more sense to me. God doesn’t give a hoot about my inadequacies. God does give a hoot about my sin versus spotlessness which is why God is willing to wipe those sins away through the blood of Christ. But God does care about our willingness to obey without excuse, without hindrance, without weight.

God cares deeply about my freedom through Jesus Christ to live a life of trust and love. I want both without measure and at any cost. I want it even if it leaves me utterly poor and destitute. I want it more than riches and praise. I want to be faithful, sacrificial, and marked by contentedness in Christ.

And I think part of that process is enduring the stages and meeting God in every moment along the way.

It’s settled. Let’s meet God in our moments before after and during  and even on this stage.

Buckets of Lists

Normally, I would not say I am a list person. I have a few lists don’t get me wrong, but my lists don’t serve as motivators. I make lists passively. I put things down and feel if those things happen then great, but I will not grind to accomplish the list.

If I make a list that I feel like I am not even close to checking off, I will usually rationalize a way to feel satisfactory about my list, or I will just laugh at the list thinking it was a bit ambitious and beyond my threshold.

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I am simply a put things on paper person. I make Idea-Lists because I am an idealist. Practicalities hinder some people, but not me. I don’t make lists to achieve, I make lists to remember.

All this to say I’ve recently made a list of things I wanted to do before I left New Jersey. And the exercise has been exciting, even more exciting when you have a few people devoted to helping you check those things off. Even more exciting when they are people you love spending time with.

My blogs/reflections over the past several weeks are running a similar theme, sounding like a lot of the same. Maybe this blog always feels that way, who knows?

It’s about to again.

What I’ve found about the way I write lists is: they provide me with settings or activities for writing a story with people I adore (not worship, just to clarify).

And some of those stories I will tell and remember and cherish and others that don’t happen will fade.

I remember living with Brian and Nate and made a list of my daily schedule. It was when I was unemployed and ghost writing/writing my fiction story/interviewing church people. I made it as a joke to put on the fridge, basically to say, “I’m free and would love to spend time with you guys whenever.” Also, “I probably need motivation to be a productive human being.”

I kept that list until 2 months ago. I finally threw it away because as funny as it was, my life feels so full of purpose  with God that the list itself felt like a different person wrote it. The list became a reminder I no longer wanted to remember because I never want to return to that season of life. But also it was part of a story I cannot forget.

When the list became a motivator (which is why many people keep lists), I threw it away. Because for me motivation has always took residence in a deep within part. And when it starts to burn there, it takes a lot to quench that motivation.

On Bible Lists

In Scripture, people, places and things are often listed.  But infrequently if ever are someones future goals listed. The Apostle Paul had one goal. Preach the gospel everywhere but especially Rome. Jesus had a few goals but all pointed to the one of reconciling humanity to God through His death and resurrection.

Scripture reserved lists for the concrete, and on rare occasions, past accomplishments. Usually references to the past exclusively serve to direct our attention to a better future with God.

And that my friends is my dream, my goal, my ambition for myself and my hope for everyone I know and meet whether I can contribute or not. A better future with God is far superior than a future without him or a future trying to replace him with (warning a list):

  • political ideology
  • idolatrous relationships/romances/fantasies
  • celebrity aspiration
  • becoming a servant to opulence
  • hating yourself (not sure why I or we ever choose this)

The Final Item

Now I can only imagine what it is like because I’ve never actually checked every item off a list. At least a meaningful list. I make lists and check them off at work to make myself feel like I accomplish things.

I imagine what its like to have a list you really devote your time and attention to and the anticipation one feels when they are about to check off the last thing on it. I imagine that sense of accomplishment feels good but I would guess it can’t possibly last long.

And here in lies my problem and suggestion. Never end your list. Use a sense of creativity and discovery and decide to anticipate the what else rather than the end.

I think why I don’t use lists as goals or motivation is because I don’t actually want to reach a point of lethargy where I actually think I’m close to finishing. If there is a list of things I want to do with people I love, I discover I want more.

It’s why I love Heaven so much. The Final Item in Heaven is eternal adventure with the God I love and the saints that love God and one another well.

Why would anyone want that to end?

When You Get Long Notice

In August of 2013 my boss Jeff, gave me less than 2 weeks to decide if I wanted to move from our job in New Jersey to work on a natural gas pipeline project in Pennsylvania. After talking to everyone I knew, I moved. I lived in Jeff’s trailer on a pull out couch for 2 weeks, then found an apartment.

I made the transition because of the trust I had in my boss. I valued our relationship and enjoyed working for him more than the company we worked for. I also knew he would help me succeed in a position that was way over my head.

It was a quick transition. I only owned clothes and a car so there wasn’t much in a material sense to figure out. Despite this, I still found ways to make things in my life complex. (Stories for another time)

When I went to college I was accepted to JMU off the wait list in June, visited the school for the first time in July, and started in August. That was a relatively quick transition because I assumed I was going to Towson, in Maryland.

When I moved back to Jersey, that was also a quick transition which allowed me to work and live on a farm in Pennington.

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I have chosen to live most of my life in such a way that long-term planning is either unnecessary or inconvenient. However, that does not correlate in my mind to not knowing what I want.

I normally am confident about what I want but often do not have a clue how to get to it, or I naively assume the way to get to it, will allow me to carve my own path.

And in that approach, I’ve found a lot of detours and unexpected stops while giving the appearance of wandering.

But I’ve also collected stories, which is what I value second only, to relationships.

I’ll give you a fact that will give you some insight: I will do just about anything that would not compromise my relationship with Jesus, if it means that I will acquire an intriguingly unique story.

When you understand this about me, I think, I become more relatable and easier to understand.

But what do I mean by an intriguingly unique story?

Here’s what I don’t mean: I don’t mean skydiving, I don’t mean adrenaline rushes, I don’t necessarily mean achievements although sometimes they coincide.

What I do mean is: I want this experience to shape me, I want who I’m with to tangibly make a positive difference in my character, in my heart. I want this experience to be something I carry internally and when I tell it, others feel it. I want them to feel like that story mattered even if it was ridiculous or seemed unnecessary.

And I mean: Jesus.

Jesus’ story is the opposite of most of my stories. He always had the long-game in mind. If there were stoppage time in His game, He would offer as much stoppage time as possible so as to extend an offer of salvation to as many as possible. Jesus’ story doesn’t end but is marked by specific moments that have humongous implications for the ones He loves.

Jesus’ story is simultaneously linear, yet not bound by time, it is interconnected while bringing people in, whom we would not expect. This is especially true in the Gospels. Jesus stops for people simply because they are people. And this is why I love Him.

This is why I want to be like Him. He is so generous in love, so secure in the love of his Father, God, that he can take an extended pause from his journey and goals to make the person in front of Him a part of the journey.

Jesus leaves a mark and makes every person better. So if you’ve ever met a Christian and thought, “Wow that person says they’re a Christian and is a miserable human being.” I would suggest imagining how much more destructive and  miserable that person would be without Jesus.

But Jesus’ mission and work while in part is instantaneous also has eternity in mind. The work being done is a long notice kind of work. It is also a work that he thoroughly enjoys.

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On the Long Notice

This long notice kind of work has only recently started to make sense for me. Perhaps it’s due to my 7 months of anticipating a move in location and vocation is now 12 days away, and it feels more real.

It is only recently that I’m making sense of my journey, that I’m leaning in to what it looks like to engage in tangible ministry in the day-to-day. I am also recently learning to be okay with the length. Or rather I’m learning to be okay with time and process and flexibility. I’m reminded of why Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 starts with “Love is patient,” when he sets out to describe love.

Because love whether for yourself, for someone else, even for God requires adjusting over time to a process of choosing.

Even Jesus who gave us long notice that he would return for his bride the Church understood the value of our waiting. There is something in the process that increases our love. There is something in the anticipation that strengthens our resolve to press on.

Which is why I hopefully am becoming the type of person that trust God’s love in his seemingly long notice. I am in good hands; I don’t need to rush.

On Giving Long Notice

I gave my job 2 months notice which was more than enough time for my title and position. I gave that much notice as an exercise in trust, plus if they fired me I would have last-minute went to Italy with a few of my best friends. I also tried to give ample time to the people I would be leaving because this transition has always felt too real.

Although this week, after visiting my grandma, it became all too apparent. Time does not stop for me. I can request all the more time I want, but even with long notice as the moment approached to go, it continues to feel like there isn’t time enough.

In the same breadth, I have so much time. I have had time every night this week to go to a 2-hour worship service after work.

There is a lesson in giving long notice. When you give notice you extend an offer of your time, and you learn a lot about who you want to spend your time with.

And I think what happens when you begin to spend that time with those you give it to, you find out how much people value you and how much you value them.

For me… in this season… I have found riches.

A Time Before Certainty

Matthew 13:1-32

I worked on an organic farm for 4 seasons. It’s interesting how many factors go into having a fruitful crop: the seed, the soil, the sun, the water, the bugs. Some of these can be controlled. We can add water, we can spray pesticides (technically not in organic farming).

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Much of farming maintains a level of uncertainty in regard to how abundant a crop will be. One thing you can count on though is you will get what you plant. Another certainty is: it does not matter how abundant a crop is, if no one harvests it, no one gets anything.

“You reap what you sow,” is familiar sentiment in Scipture and as much I hate to admit it, in life it is often true. But it is just as true that we may also reap what someone else  sows.

I am both grieved and adulated at the concept of sowing and reaping. I am grieved because I know what I deserve in some areas of my life. I am adulated because of the goodness God allows me to reap despite my efforts. I am also perplexed as to why God would give us so much good.

Why does our Creator, who owes us nothing want good for us despite the bad we choose for ourselves? And how can I become more poor (desperate) in my posture to willingly receive good things?

Psalm 51:17 states:

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise.

This verse gives me an indication of what God looks for. He doesn’t want a puffed out chest or a lofty, knowledgeable mind that thinks it knows best. His utmost priority is not even my greatest talent. God’s desire on his way to death and resurrection and God’s desire today is my heart in its most vulnerable condition:

A heart when it is broken, a heart when it is sorry, a heart when it feels like it can’t love right, a heart that seems uncertain how to love, a heart that gets giddy at the sight of friends and significant others. God is so keenly and intimately close to this hidden organ. This unseen imagination is the place God chooses to meet us.

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God meets us behind the doors of our skin, so when we step out into the world, the light of God’s Kingdom might shine forth through us.

I have a hope as I read Matthew 13 because I am reminded that as much as I am responsible for what I sow, I am also responsible for what I harvest. When the harvest comes, what will I choose to reap? Will I gather weeds or damaged fruit or will I gather what is best and what is abundant?

I can be forgetful of the seasons. I can be afraid of abundance and things working out well. (I know that’s weird). Which is why I am the type of person that is keenly aware that I need Jesus more (even if it is really only just as much) when things are going well than when things are bad.

But even when things are going well, things are seldom certain. That is the limbo of my life currently and for the next month, perhaps the next year… so much uncertainty. And for some that can be daunting, but I’ll be honest, this is where I thrive, or rather this where God thrives me and sustains me.

The best seasons of life have been the uncertain ones because my reliance and trust has been heavy on God, while a sense of urgency to obey is tangibly at hand. I am thankful.

I am thankful that I have a Father that sustains me and knows exactly what is happening even when I am not certain.

The Appearing Gospel: Look Who Showed Up

John 20: 1-23 – Stay in Awe

When was the last time you stood in awe or wonder of something?

When was the last time something left you dazed and confused?

IMAG1053In the Gospel of John chapter 20, individuals are still living in the shock and shadow of the death of Jesus. Early, on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb of Jesus, finds it empty, and ran to Simon Peter and another disciple, presumably John himself.

Mary relays to them an incorrect story. She thinks someone took Jesus’ body and now does not know where it is. The disciples run to the tomb and notice strips of linen and a cloth that covered Jesus’ head. Surely no one would take a corpse and unwrap it first.

This line of thinking brings John to write that in that moment he believed. The disciples go home but Mary stays by the tomb.

At the tomb Mary weeps, bent over near the tomb until she sees two angels. Mary has a conversation with the angels still supposing Jesus had been taken away by the “they”. Who know’s who the “they” were? Who knows if Mary was rational in this moment?

She neglects the clues.

Then, Jesus shows up, and she doesn’t realize. Perhaps, she is too overcome by emotion in this moment to look at her surroundings. Maybe she finds it hard to see through her tears.

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Mary thinks Jesus is the gardener, and she says something that I don’t quite understand why it makes my eyes water while I write this at work. She says, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

And Jesus says back, “Mary.”

At the sound of her name coming from her Lord and friend, her disposition and perception changes instantly.

Have you ever so misinterpreted a situation that it muddled your outlook on life to the point where truth became very difficult to comprehend?

For Mary, the death, the empty tomb, the angels were for her, all reminders that Jesus was not there. Yet in the mind and heart of God, these were all to serve to remind that Jesus has always been there. To the end, his love was present and powerful.

And it wasn’t until Mary heard her name from Jesus that this came into view. Hindsight flooded her, and Jesus sends her to deliver a very good message: “I have seen the Lord!”

I like to imagine Mary frantically out of breath recounting this story. “I went and saw the tomb empty and talked to people dressed in white and then I saw the Lord. I thought he was the gardener, but it was Jesus. He said my name. I knew as soon as he said my name. He is really alive.”

I imagine in that moment Mary felt alive too, more alive than ever before.

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Later, that same night, Jesus appears to his disciples, who are hiding from the Jewish leaders. He reveals himself and they are overjoyed. He breathes on them while giving them instruction to receive the Holy Spirit and to forgive.

This chapter moves from surprise to surprise, but the surprise doesn’t at this point lead to unction. Jesus tells them to receive the Holy Spirit, but I’m not sure they do in this moment. That’s not to say they don’t, but later he will tell them to wait for the Holy Spirit.

In moments of awe, we are to embrace the surprise and wait for instruction. If something awes us, it should change us even if only slightly. Moments of awe make way for the eventual unction to move.

And when we move, we likewise, appear.