Saturday, January 25, 2014

Presence of God. January 13, 2014

When we pray for God's presence, we think we are praying for a grandiose entrance, when what we actually get is a humble king riding in on a stolen donkey. What we get is the King of Kings born as a baby in a cattle stall.


There is nothing big or grandiose about our Savior's entrances. He has proven full well that he prefers to take the back road, the low road, the road less traveled. That's the road where all the low-lifes and screw-ups are. That's where the broken dwell, those on the fringes of society. That's where there are people hurting who need a Savior's lowly entrance. Because they are low to the ground, they can see with full vision the lowly coming of the King.


May we see with eyes like theirs. May we behold our King. In all our great and wondrous efforts, may we not miss him. His birth was first announced to shepherds, after all.






Further.


I don't think that there is ever a season in life in which God is not speaking. Indeed, there are times we feel that God is silent, and I do think God is a great listener. But it is in the times that God seems silent, that God is speaking a language we cannot yet hear, a language in which there are no words. And it is in those times that God feels most distant and most silent that God is in fact most at work.

January 6, 2014.

Precious Lord,


I can hear your voice calling. I can hear the sound, but I cannot make out the words or the direction in which you are leading me.


Give me open eyes to see and open ears to hear.


Give me open hands and ready feet, ready to follow you on this journey wherever you may lead.


Help me to hear you; help me to follow.


Amen.

Waterfall. November 1, 2013

Waterfall flow over me, and cover me up,
And fill my weary soul like a cup.


Fill up my cup til it runneth over
With goodness and love, mercy and grace, generosity and wisdom.


And let it pour forth into other people, that they may share of the goodness as well.

October 15, 2013

When I talk to my Grandmom and Granddad on the phone, it makes my heart so happy. Hearing my Granddad's voice again makes me realize how long it's been since I've heard it. He complains about his back problem; meanwhile, he doesn't know that I just love hearing his voice. It's strange, he suffers yet I delight in him speaking.


Family is a powerful thing. It's indescribable, something for which words fall short. Since we have the same blood running through our veins, it's like we breathe the same air, and we can know one another on a deep level, even when it feels like we don't. It's like the rhythms of our hearts are in sync and we can sit together in total silence while the air between us speaks thousands of volumes of our kinship and love for one another. Even if that love is strangely shown or never finds words of expression.


Life is good. And family is a blessing. Let us rejoice in the God of our Creation.

Book - Yet Another Chapter. October 15, 2013

I cannot help but see the juxtaposition that is and has been my life.


I love wearing dress clothes and heels while I view pictures of a real-life community garden.
I love deeply both conservatives and liberals.
I have been treated with hostility by people who preach love and forgiveness and God's grace.
I love to be still, but sometimes I love to move.
I hate sitting at home, yet I have a deep need for a place to call home.
I love a nice, fancily decorated suburban home, and I love a quaint, small space.
I want to be rich and comfortable in America, and I want to live in Africa.


My life is a great mystery and paradox. Maybe the thought of things I want are not always what I actually want. And what if God is ok with two contrasting things coming together? Just like God made us, God's enemies, to become God's friends because God gave God's own self to make it happen. God has given us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:17-20).

Thoughts. September 23, 2013

Until you see every little thing you do as vitally important, you will never be a good leader. Quality in the seemingly small things matters, and to lead well you must be able to see the small things people do for you and the overall good of the organization or cause.

My Reflections on Seeing Lee Daniels' The Butler. September 13, 2013

I had never seen a movie about the Civil Rights Movement in which the main character wasn't white.


Why does it always have to be about the white person? To hell with all that, give others a chance to speak.


I had never seen the videos of what happened in Birmingham and Selma and all over back in those days. I had seen pictures but not the videos.


Of how they were sprayed with powerful water hoses, how the dogs went after them like rank meat, how people poured ketchup on their faces and spit on them and jeered at them while they sat at that restaurant counter. They looked mighty close to Jesus at the time of His Crucifixion.


Why the hate? Why the blamin' the hate on God's Holy Scriptures? Why the violence? What the hell is wrong with you, where is your  humanity?
Where is your humanity.


Somehow you lost it, and you try to take it from someone else too because the fact that somehow they still got it after all they been through makes you scared. Like they stronger than you. Like they got somethin' you ain't got. And you can't stand that.


And so you lie and scream and spit and throw and punch and set on fire and abuse the very people God done laid God's own hands on.


What the hell is wrong with you.


We ashamed. We ashamed of our past, and we would rather pretend it never happened. And we hide behind excuses like, "I've heard it a million times" and "That was a long time ago" and shit like that.


But you know what? You don't let us forget the cross, where our Savior died. You don't let us forget what happened to Him, and you want us to forget about the people who looked just like Him, laying down their dignity and their very own lives for the sake of someone else? For the sake of someone they don't know? For the sakes of those not even born yet?


Naw, I ain't gon forget. Because as soon as I forget, I lose my humanity. Just like those people did. Just like they forgot who they were and who the people were standing before them. That's right, the PEOPLE. Because we all human beings. We all matter and are important, just as equally as anyone else, and God's got dreams for all of us.


May we press forward to make God's dreams for us come true. We ain't got no right not to. We was bought at a price, and I ain't gonna go a'wastin that sacrifice, no no. I ain't gonna go a'wastin my Lord's sacrifice for me.

My Intentions

Dear Readers (the thousands of you),


I have this condition in which I think mostly in words. It's called being a Thinker. I'm pretty ok with it, like it actually. But it means that thoughts come to me at random times, and often I do not have a way to write them down.


That's when my handy dandy iPhone comes in. Sometimes.


Anyway, I have lots of random thoughts in my Notes that I will be posting shortly. So don't be alarmed by the randomness or frequency (because you are used to a very low frequency rate).


Ok, enjoy.


Happy Saturday!




Peace,
Michelle

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Sacredness of Staying Home

I grew up with the expectation that Sunday is church day. Unless I was sick or out of town (and even then I must have been out of reaching distance of any Southern Baptist Church), I was expected to be in church. This expectation set for me an internal clock that always got me rolling out of bed on Sundays, despite the knowledge that I would inevitably be late. But this Sunday morning, I decided to do things a little bit differently.


I say that as though I have never missed church on a Sunday; that would be false. I went through a time in college (don't tell my mother) in which I hated church. I hated the organization of it, the hierarchy, the country-club feeling, the terrible music and awful analogies, all of it. And so I stopped going. Until I got involved in a charismatic church that helped me believe in church again, and until I later fell in love with a Baptist church and their children's ministry that led me to believe in Baptists again. It's been quite the journey.


Recently, I moved to a new city, and I have found myself on Sunday mornings among the company of some really great Presbyterians (USA). It is a church made up of pseudo-Presbyterians; in reality, we all come from different denominational backgrounds, which makes for interesting conversation when talking about faith traditions. But it is always respectful and very beneficial.


I wound up at the Presbyterian church because a friend and I used their parking lot to access our favorite walking trail at a preferred entrance; we had no interest in the church itself. I am still not sure what brought me to visit it one Sunday, other than that I had waited until the last minute to decide where I would attend, that it was five minutes from home, and that the service started late in the morning.


What kept me coming back to the Presbyterian church was the liturgy. Having grown up in the Baptist tradition, I was not exposed to the word liturgy, much less the tradition of it, until college, and even then I didn't know how to appreciate it.


In my short time with this church, I have come to thoroughly appreciate the liturgy, even long for it throughout the week. I love to feast upon every thoughtful word, allowing it to stretch and challenge me, to lead me down new paths, and to leave me changed from the inside out. It's why I get up at 8 every Sunday morning; no kidding.


But this Sunday (today) I didn't go, and the reason is simple: I was tired. I, along with two fellow interns, moved to a new house two days ago, so yesterday was spent cleaning and running errands in an attempt to make the new place feel like home. I was very much behaving like a Martha, and I loved every minute of it. But today I needed to be a Mary.


When I awoke (definitely later than 8:00) this morning, I felt very guilty for not going to church. I knew the Presbyterians would notice I wasn't there, though I knew there would be no judgment (at least I assumed there wouldn't). I tried to work through my guilt by telling myself clich├ęs that never work for anyone, until finally I just accepted the fact that I was tired. And that was ok.


As I sat, slowly eating my breakfast this morning, as opposed to the usual daily rush of gathering the day's first meal while rushing out the door, I came to think that maybe there is a sacredness in just staying home on a Sunday.


The story of Mary and Martha somehow constantly creeps into my life from various sources and at unexpected times, perhaps because I never learn the lesson well. Or maybe there are just so many facets from which to see it that one look is hardly enough to catch them all.


I have heard far too many well-meaning people discount Martha. Give her a break; the woman gets things done! And she is dang good at hospitality! She patiently works and slaves away at preparing a way for the Lord in her home while her sister just sits on the couch watching football with Jesus, and she is kind of over it. So the pressure builds up until she finally vents her frustration to Jesus. And gee whiz, the punk answers her by saying that Mary has chosen the more important things.


The nerve! I think I would have said to Jesus, "Ok, fine, then I will sit on the couch and we will have no dinner, and eventually the bills will never get paid because I am the one who sends the payment off in the mail, so we will have no electricity either, and oh, guess who picked out that TV at the store that you are watching?!" And on and on my frustration would go.


Unless maybe Jesus is right. Maybe His presence beckons us to come and just be and to let the work wait for just a few moments. He knows it needs to get done, but He also knows that our souls need rest and the presence of the Prince of Peace.


And maybe the example is not so literal; maybe it's just an example that the people of his day could connect with to help them see that precious time spent with their Lord, who would not be physically among them forever, was valuable and could offer something to their souls' wellbeing that getting things done could not.


It was in Martha's very nature to take care of people. The Lord calls us to that, too. And that is ok. Very ok. But maybe, while the souls of those of whom she was taking care were resting, her own soul needed rest too.


In our grandiose efforts to take care of the family of God by always keeping our tradition of gathering together on Sunday, which inevitably leads the faithful to be frustrated with those who have other things in mind for that day, what if we allowed ourselves, only every once in a while, to take a Mary stance, a stance of sitting with the Lord alone rather than worrying with the details of making Him happy? And what if we allowed our clergy to do the same?


Barbara Brown Taylor, in her wonderful book Leaving Church, writes in reflection of her time as a clergywoman, "There were days when I was as full as a harvest moon and others when not so much as a sliver appeared in the sky. My soul's health depended on the regular cycle of these phases. I needed the dark nights that gave the stars their full brilliance as much as I needed the nights when the moon shone so brightly that I could make shadow puppets with my hands. The problem with the [clerical] collar was that it did not allow for such variations. It advertised the steady circle of light, not the cycles, so that it sometimes scorched my neck."


Our clergy need vacations from the demands of church. We should give it to them. But sometimes we need vacations too. Sometimes we must disengage in order to reengage. In order to hear the voice of our Lord more clearly. In order to become more fully ourselves rather than someone else's expectations of what we should be. In order to live.


I can't wait to return to the Presbyterian church next week to chew on some more powerful words from the Lord in the powerful liturgy. In the meantime, happy resting day.