Friday, February 15, 2013

Sharing My Dream

“You tell us, Lord, that some shall see visions and others shall dream dreams. Give us courage to share our visions and our dreams with one another. Amen.”  —Enuma Okoro, Reluctant Pilgrim

Tonight I finished reading Enuma Okoro’s memoir. I finished it in five days and am sorry to the Pikes Peak Public Library because I make some small marks in it with a pencil. I promise to go through and erase each one after I write down the quote on that page.

The reason I had to mark this book was because I found myself relating, not only to Enuma’s story, but to her longings and to her ability to weave so many of her thoughts and dreams and doubts into one place.

I have wanted to do this for a long time. Too long. Earlier today I randomly found an old e-mail where I told a friend I needed to write a memoir. For my girls primarily. (Anyone remember I had that thought a few weeks ago?)

The e-mail was dated over two years ago. And I can say the compulsion to put my life onto the page has been there a lot longer than that. I think since 2006. Seven years. Seven!

I think it’s now gotten to the point where I am disobeying God by not at least starting—by not showing up to this particular project. I have been putting it aside because I was afraid of appearing arrogant or something by at least writing it all down. Do you hear that word afraid?

What have I spent the last few years doing if not getting over my fear of the blank page? I know that there will always be a little fear when that cursor blinks but I have also found the courage to discipline myself beyond that point. I think. For crying out loud I regularly encourage others to do the same.

And the beginning of Lent this week provided some much needed space by my choosing to give up a particular aspect of my life that has kept me looking at other people’s stories instead of writing out my own. Yes, I know we’re only two days past Ash Wednesday. God is working quickly on me this year, I guess. I wonder what the next six weeks will bring….(I’d say I’m scared but we’ve already been over this fear thing, and I did survive a full year in Kansas.)

Adding to my belief that this project needs to happen is the fact that I have been going through The Artist’s Way. I’m about a third of the way through and find that her words affirm many things that I have wrestled with and even maybe some aspects I’ve overcome. I say that in the sense that God has walked me through a path of overcoming, when I wasn’t even aware that I had taken that many steps within the creative life.

So, it’s time. It’s the season. The blank page beckons. And I know that is no small thing. For usually it mocks me.

I will answer and remain open to the movement of the One who calls, the One who is faithful to help me at least start.

“It’s not brave if you’re not scared.” –Bounce

“…I don’t like people telling other people they shouldn’t write about their life. All of us earn that right by being born; one of the deepest human impulses is to leave a record of what we did and what we thought and felt on our journey.” –William Zinsser, “The Right to Write”

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Broken And The Beautiful

"Hurt people hurt people.” -Florence Marr, Greenberg

“We are just breakable, breakable, breakable girls and boys.” –Ingrid Michaelson

Last night I attended my favorite worship service ever.

There were clergy from all over the United States and overseas, sections of worshippers from other Anglican churches in town, and a whole host of other individuals from our city. Every row from the front to the back was filled with a patchwork of broken and beautiful believers.

How do I know we were both broken and beautiful? Because among this group gathered to worship and celebrate were people whom have both hurt me and offered me healing.

Yet, I love them all.

I love them even though they are the crazy uncles Donald Miller wrote about last week. They are the people who hold my hands up when I can’t go on anymore. They are the ones who help me know that forgiveness is a real and possible thing, even if that realization comes by what they have done to me. They are the ones who lead me in worship. They are the ones didn’t give up on me. They didn’t give up on the church in North America. They are the ones who turn me to Jesus.

Let me tell you, we are broken and beautiful bunch.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how I have experienced spiritual abuse. When I stepped out of mainstream evangelicalism and fundamentalism, I vowed that I would never, and I mean never, put myself or my family back in a place where we would experience abuse at the hand of people who said they were believers.

Well, that did not turn out to be the case. I was exposed to such along the Canterbury Trail too. There is no right or wrong denomination. We are all susceptible to sustaining hurt at the hands of others.

Hurt people hurt people.

And among us are leaders who are wolves rather than shepherds. Among us are leaders who struggle with narcissism and probably have other personality disorders. Among us are people who live in denial rather than reality. I have been the victim of their contradictions, their manipulation, their delusions of grandeur, their lies, and their own hurt they are projecting among the flock. That is a fact.

The other side is that I have received healing from those among us who love Jesus with a love that can’t even be put into words. Some of them simply put their hands on theirs Bible, and they are moved to tears. They move me to tears.

We were all in that chapel last night.

During the sermon Bishop John Rucyahana, told our pastor (and now our Bishop), not to take the Gospel lightly. We can’t because we know there are these deep and dark places where the Gospel needs to penetrate. These places are among our own churches.

Dear people, we can’t take the Gospel lightly because we can’t take sin and hurt and abuse and denial of truth lightly. We can’t turn our back on what needs to be handled and forgiven and brought out into the open.

It must be dealt with. It must have The Light shined upon it. It must.

And I will not be silent about this.

This is a time when we need to turn ourselves inward and ask if we are taking the Gospel lightly. Are we? And, if so, why? Is it because we are afraid to admit that among us is brokenness—in our own families, our own churches, and in our own leadership?

What is to be done about the brokenness? For we cannot be effective in our charges to go and preach the Gospel among the nations if we have not been changed by the Gospel ourselves, right here in our own pews. If we have not been utterly undone by Jesus Himself in spite of the hurt we have sustained.

The work that God does in our life includes choosing to live into pain and hurt, just as Jesus did when He went to the cross. When He entered our world for that matter. It involves love and forgiveness, just like Jesus taught and just like He lived when He said, “Father, forgiven them. For they know not what they do.”

I want to be the first to say that God can work out love and forgiveness. He has done it for groups of people in Rwanda who murdered each other’s family members.

He is doing it for me in my own relationships.

I believe He grieves when we hurt one another. I believe He sits with me as I work out the wounds from the abuse. I can’t understand why He didn’t choose to stop it. But I can believe that He has never removed His hand from me or from any of His children all of these years.

That is why I can sing among the broken and the beautiful, just like I did last night. That is why I can walk forward to receive Eucharist with and among those whose actions played a difficult part in my life.

Hallelujah, glory be to our great God!

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Retreat: A Holy Battle

I am not supposed to be home in sweatpants right now.

In fact, just this morning, I was across town with a lovely group of women retreating in the upper level of a coffee shop. But the call came for me to pick up a sick little girl from school. So off I went.

Initially, I was very disappointed and frustrated about the turn of circumstances.

See, today is no ordinary day. Today is a day of celebration. Our pastor is becoming a bishop this evening, and there is a full schedule of activity planned for the clergy in our network.

For me to get our family ready to attend events today, there were babysitters to call, schedules to make, bags to pack, and work to push through so I could have one day off. I was so looking forward to being with other clergy and their spouses throughout the day.

But, as usual, life circumstances happened. I got sick earlier this week, which made working hard, and I finished a lesson at 4:57pm last night, instead of the 3pm I had hoped for. I was a bit frazzled as I shuffled off for a network dinner last evening.

Now poor Kyla is lying on our couch. She’s disappointed too because she was looking forward to having fun at a friend’s house while we were at the service tonight. I was able to find a relative to watch Kyla tonight so I will still be able to attend the service, which is good.

But here I am in sweatpants for the moment.

And I can’t help but reflect on the utter battle this week has felt like. I have been trying to faithfully pray for our pastor and our church during this transition. I just want to take a moment to say I have never been under a church leader like our pastor, Ken. He has no desire for control or manipulation. There is grace and freedom in the way he leads. I am so grateful for his leadership. I can’t even express it fully here in this post. And I think there is no small thing afoot now that he is taking over a whole network of churches. Really. No small thing.

I wasn’t much aware of spiritual warfare until these last couple of years. Now I can see it. I can sense it, and it is here this week. I am amazed at how quickly discouragement or frustration set in, and how the enemy can twist and destroy and steal.

Today kind of feels like it could be stolen easily. I’m tearful about missing the meetings this afternoon and wonder where the week went. All my careful planning feels like it was in vain. My selfishness is showing, I know. But it’s hard to be at home sitting when I want to be lunching with people I rarely get to see.

However, I think maybe this is exactly where I’m meant to be. Kyla is feeling better. At least emotionally. She’s not so sad anymore about leaving school or missing out on going to our friend’s. You should have seen her sitting in the office alone waiting for me to get here. My mommy heart felt so sad for her as I gave her a big hug and walked her to the car. Now she’s curled up on our couch, and I am serving her instead of being served.

Plus, now that I am home, I am not so concerned about details anymore. There are no more to take care of. I am going to use the time to just be. With my little girl. With my heart and with my God as I pray for tonight. For all involved. For the days ahead and for the work that is surely to take place among a group of people I am growing to love. At the dinner last night, we had a prayer time. The Holy Spirit was there. I could feel Him.

The sense of being exposed or vulnerable to attack was absent, at least for a little while. Those moments deserve to be cherished. For, we can’t stay in those places. We gain encouragement so we can be sent out to do the work that needs to be done in spite of likely and imminent attacks.

So I pray for tonight. I pray for that same Holy Spirit soaking. I pray for God’s hand to be on our leadership. I pray for our hearts to be listening when He moves. I pray for us to be able to continue working in grace and freedom that comes from the True Source of all grace and freedom.

I don’t know what kind of prayer it might take for those things to be a reality. I am just one woman sitting in sweatpants on her couch. But I am also not called to be concerned about that. I am called to trust. I am called to believe He works good out of the sad and disappointing circumstances, whether big or small. Even if they involve leaving a retreat.