Thursday, March 9, 2017

Dry and yet filled

As followers of Jesus we rarely talk about the seasons in our lives when our souls are dry.

We keep going through the motions but it seems as though nothing will quench the thirst.  The words on the pages are just that; words.  The scriptures seem hallow and flat as if there were written for someone else and some other situation. We read yet nothing sticks.  We journal yet our soul longs for more.  We go to worship and sing hymns yet our souls miss the movement of the music.  We bow to pray and our minds are blank.

If we were honest with one another we would confess that our souls are dry, that all the nourishment has left our soul and that we are weary.  Yet, alas we remain silent, walking into church, studying in our small groups as if we are perfectly filled and that all is well.

Let me share with you that you are not alone.  Last year I worked really hard with the church to fulfill our 5 year long term goals and am currently working our leadership team in new and exciting ways.  It takes a lot of energy to lead, pastor, shepherd, set the vision and keep the life of a discipleship as the priority.  I'm also a full time mom to a teenager. A teenager who is full of life, has difficult things happening in her life that need support and encouragement.  My husband is amazing yet he works full time and has endless hours of grading and school responsibilities that reach beyond the classroom.  Our lives are full.  My life is filled with breath-taking and life-giving moments and yet I've been walking through a season where my soul is dry.

TodayI was hiking and with each step my shoes crunched the dry leaves beneath my feet.  All around me were leaves that had been blown too and fro throughout the winter season.  They laid on the ground as if they had never held color, never swayed in the wind, never brought shade for hikers in on warmer days.  They were dry, crumbling on the ground.  Hiking along the rim  I could hear the rush of the springs flowing beneath me.  I rounded the corner and could see there in the midst of the dry branches a stream of water flowing freely.   I stopped to take in my surroundings and listen to the water flowing.

As I stood there listening and breathing in all that surrounded me, I was reminded that even when my soul feels dead to me that God is pouring God's self into all that I am.  God has not and would never leave me.  God emerges in my dry soul to fill me over and over again until my cup is overflowing.

I might not be able to feel God at this very moment. I might have given and given until my cup was empty but that does not mean that God has stopped filling my cup. He fills us when are dry, weary and feel as though we cannot take another step.

If your spirit is dry, go outside and take a deep breath.  Close your eyes and ask yourselves what you feel around you? What can you hear?  Now open your eyes again and take note of what you see.  God is there with you.  May you find the streams of living water running over you today.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Giving up

Today is one of the most somber days of our Christian year.

A day in which we gather together for a service penitence.  A service in which we connect to the sorrow that we have caused others.  It is a time of looking within the depths of our being to acknowledge the places where we have walked away from God, separated ourselves from God's purpose for our lives, and to confess the ways that we have chosen our selves over God and others.

For many Christians around the world, it is a time to give something up.  A time in which the dust that is placed on our foreheads in the stillness of the service reminds us that we are being called to remove the unwanted from our lives.  In year's past I have tried to focus on trying to take on a spiritual practice that I might not normally do within my daily routine and yet somehow something is different within my being this year (this season).

Recently, I've been thinking about Lent in terms of the characteristics that I possess rather than the things that I give up.  When thinking about what Lent entails I've been drawn back to Jesus sitting on the hillside, with the wind gently blowing and large crowds gathered around him as he conveys the foundation of who he is and why he has come into the world.

The conversation was about the way we treat others. His teaching and conversation wasn't legalistic, it was relational.

This year for Lent, I'm not giving up social media or even some favorite food.  

I want to give up making judgments about where people are in the their journey of faith or in their lives in general.  I want to tear down the walls between political parties that have caused a divide within families, churches and friends.  I want to give up the half heartedness approach that I take when approaching God's holy throne.  I want to give up the expectations of perfection that I place on myself and something on others.

Instead, I want to take on recognizing when someone is in mourning.  I want to look around and notice the deep wounds that parents are feeling when their child has wondered away, to acknowledge the grief that comes flowing like a river as friends walk through the loss of their parents. I want to take on being content in my life and my the design of who God has made me to be.  I want to take on compassion for those whose voice has been silenced or never heard at all. I want to stand with those who are hungry in spirit and in their belly; providing both nourishment for their physical body and their spiritual well-being.  I want to give up disagreement and take on being a peacemaker (not be confused with a people pleaser).  I want to give up thinking that I'm going to be persecuted and take on a spirit of righteousness isn't defined by my actions but by the love I share with others.

Lent, a somber season of sorrow.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The unseen

Yesterday I was in a meeting with people I love and while we were working through the details of the event someone jokingly said, yeah I'm OCD about that.  I felt my heart sink.  I knew that the phrase carries with it a complex layering of emotions and rules that cannot be merely dismissed.

I knew everyone laughed and we all knew what that meant.  It meant that we had a finite
way of approaching that particular area.  We've all heard it, we've used it as a way to dismiss a sense of rigidity in our organization, time and schedules.  I'm a person of structure, organization and schedules and in the past I've used the term myself but in the last year, I've come to understand I can no longer use the simple acronym as a way to describe my personality.

The things that you cannot are the very things that are impacting the person's everyday existence.

OCD is deeper than someone holding onto every single piece of trash, purchasing items that may seem useless and creating an environment that is overrun with items.  OCD is deeper than someone merely standing at the sink washing their hands a certain number of times before being able to move onto the next item on their agenda.  Living with OCD is like holding a different phone in each hand. Both phones are being held to an ear and on the other line is someone telling you what you have to do to make it through your day.  On one line there's a person telling you that you MUST count the tiles on the floor in to be safe.  On the other line you're having a conversation with someone else telling them how irrational counting the tiles sounds,  of course you're safe but wait what if they are right; what if you something will happen to you unless you count those tiles before moving on.  The conversation goes back and forth and eventually one of those voices wins.

Maybe it's not counting tiles, maybe it's that you have to pick your skin, hair or eyebrows in order to be accepted and fit in.  Maybe it's that you cannot sit on the edge of a couch and have to sit in the middle for fear of being harmed. Maybe it's that you have to touch a specific item in the room before going forward.  Maybe just maybe you are fearful that your pets are going to die and you have a certain routine that you have to accomplish in order to ensure their well being for the time being.    For each individual their obsession and compulsion is different and unique to, each having their own conversation with the voice on the other end of the phone.

The phone conversation doesn't stop just because you count the tiles.  There are always two voices; one that is rational and one that is irrational.  One that is boxing you into a corner and the other that is calling you to move forward.

Those of us on the outside are left to walk with a person who might seem to the world that they do  not a care in the world.  Left to walk along side someone  that the doesn't have a physical disability and yet is struggling in their own right to walk in the world, to hear the world through one earpiece and to see the world through one lens.

OCD, it's the unseen.    It's people fighting something within the wiring of their brain to make it through their day. It's people rising every morning with the courage that they can get sassy with the voices and over come the irrational conversations pressing down upon them.  It's people living in hope that they are not less than the rest of their peers with whom all things seem to come with ease.  It's the rising to do the things that you and I take for granted everyday.