Happy Epiphany!

epiphanyausWe did it! We made it successfully through the holiday season. Maybe it doesn’t feel like it was altogether successful from your point of view, but since we are meeting here, that means we are both breathing and functioning at least to some level, so I would call that successful.

I am, as you may know, a cradle Episcopalian so for me, the actual Christmas season just ended with the celebration of Epiphany – the celebration of the Wise Men following the star to meet the baby Jesus. In my home church, we celebrate this day by having the children tell the Christmas story through a small pageant. Mary, Joseph, the Wise Men and angels all tell the story of the birth of Jesus with the help of an eclectic parade of animals including an owl and chicken.

I am always so amazed by the bravery of these kids. Some of these children are just barely walking yet they get up in front of people doing as they are asked without question, without fuss. They are participating for the sheer joy of it even though for many, the words they are speaking have no real meaning. This, to me, is the epitome of Mary, Joseph, the Wise Men, and truly all the named figures of the Bible did. They simply did as they were asked without question. This is true faith and I believe it is the faith that God really wishes for us to experience.

Of course, as we get older, it becomes significantly harder for us to act this way. Even though Nike has made a mint on the phrase Just Do It, how many times do we actually heed that advice?

No, more often than not we allow our mind to get in the way of our heart and we fail to act on nudgings from the Holy Spirit. Instead, we rationalize ourselves right out of experiencing the joy of the holiday. So focused are we on making sure everyone knows that Christmas is more that getting gifts that we destroy the wonder and joy that we were once able to experience without question.

Do you remember?

matthew18_3 Think back to a time in your childhood when you ran down the stairs or out of your room to see the tree and the multitude of brightly colored packages that were scattered around it. Or maybe your Christmas was smaller – there were only one or two packages or even just a stocking with some wonderful treasures to behold. Regardless, when we were little, it was all wonderful. We didn’t know we should be wanting the big expensive toys. We didn’t know that our family members spent hours trying to find ways to make the day special. We were able to experience Christmas in its purest form.

As I think about the people throughout the Christmas season who profess over and over about the finding the “true meaning of Christmas” or keeping Christ in Christmas, I can’t help but think that this childlike wonder is really the true meaning of Christmas.

Yes, Christmas is, for Christians, a time of the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ, into this world. It is a time of prophesies being fulfilled and God revealing His love for us in a new and wonderful way. All of those things are miraculous and should not be forgotten, but we have worked so hard to make the holiday Religious, Pious, and Spiritual that we have taken all of the celebration and joy from the season.

Matthew 18:3 states that we cannot enter Kingdom of God without becoming like children. While this verse has many applications and interpretations, when applied to Christmas, I find it so very truthful. I’s not about God keeping people out of His kingdom or judgment, but rather understanding that we will never understand or experience the joy of Christmas that God intends for us without becoming childlike in our view of it.

I know. You’re saying we aren’t children any more so how can this possibly happen?

Clearly, we cannot become children again nor can we remove our experiences and history that has tainted the way we look at Christmas. But what we can do is try to remove expectations on ourselves, those around us and the holiday itself and just experience things with fresh eyes the same way a child does; the same way Mary, Joseph and the Wise Men did.

2000+ years ago, Mary and Joseph had no idea that the birth of their child would be during their trek to complete the required census or that they would have to stay in a barn and use a feed trough as a crib. This was all unexpected, frightening and astonishing to them. When a child hears the story of the birth of Jesus for the first time, many of these same feelings arise in his or her heart. They can’t believe a baby would be born in a barn or that people would come from hundreds of miles away to see the newborn baby. We as believers need to watch for those feelings of wonder and astonishment and experience them with those who are just learning. We need to see Christmas through the eyes of children so that we might become children ourselves in the way we view our faith.

Now I know what you’re saying. Christmas is over. Why am I talking about how to experience the joy of Christmas when everything has now been packed away and we have moved on?

Well, the thing is our faith doesn’t end when Christmas does nor should our desire to see our faith through fresh, childlike eyes. Ok, so it’s too late to find that sense of wonder about the birth of Jesus for this year, but it’s not too late to find the faith that will allow you to just act when God calls instead of rationalizing your way out of it. It’s not too late to follow whatever star God has placed in your night sky. It’s not too late to extend the grace, mercy and love that we talk about during the Christmas season to those who desperately need it.

The fact that we all made it through the Christmas season to see another new year is a blessing that should be celebrated. What better way to celebrate than to scrape away the layers of cynicism that age has layered over our hearts and minds and look on the world with fresh, childlike eyes to see the wonders that God is placing before us every single day.

Come join me. Let’s be children again!

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GLORY TO GOD IN THE LOWEST

Sharing this lovely post from my corporate chaplain. It’s okay if the holiday season is difficult. It’s okay if you don’t feel the cheer that you assume everyone feels. Remember the Reason for the Season – Look up and be blessed!

It came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered…Joseph also went up from Galilee out of the city of Nazareth…to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was that while they were there…Mary brought forth her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn…Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold an angel of the Lord stood before them… and the glory of the Lord shone around them…and suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of heavenly hosts praising God and saying: Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward all. (Luke: 1-14)

Although most scripture scholars agree that the details of Jesus’ birth are more fancy than fact, it may still be comforting to wrap ourselves in the earthy familiarity of this story. Looking back to the time of Caesar Augustus, Joseph and Mary, the too crowded inn, a child born in a manger, and looking up to see the “glory of God in the highest” can serve to connect us to the spirituality that lies hidden beneath the materiality which so often characterizes Christmas.

But we run the risk of missing the true meaning of Christmas if we only look back but not around, up but not down. The story of Jesus’ birth is nostalgic when understood only as an event in history but it is radical, as it should be, if we realize that we are to give birth to his Spirit here and now. It could be said that divinity is the “D” in our DNA. What we call God and imagine residing in the heavens is the life-force that is born, and breathes in each of us. The celebration of Jesus’ birth is meant to remind us of the dignity/divinity of humanity and of our call to bring light to the darkness that surrounds us, and peace to the people with whom we interact.

It is a fact of life that for many, this season of joy is anything but. Experiences of illness, loss, economic hardship, family dysfunction, and other harsh realities can blur the blessedness of Christmas. As we celebrate this sacred season may we be especially sensitive to those whose bodies, hearts, and souls are broken. For it is in the lost, least, last, and littlest that we come face-to-face with the divine. When we care for and about those for whom there is no room in the inn of our warm homes or at the table of our full feasts, we encounter and give glory to God in the lowest.

Through God’s Eyes

glasshalfemptyhalffullAre you a glass half-full or a glass half-empty kind of person? I like to believe I’m a glass half-full person, but at this time of year, I think I become far more of half-empty type the closer it gets to Christmas. There are so many things I think I’m needing and missing that at other times of the year don’t even cross my mind. I blame this on the sappy-sweet storylines of all the Christmas movies. Now don’t get me wrong. As you know, I love Hallmark movies – the sentimentality, the warm-heartedness, and the campiness of these movies. But as you are probably aware, the movies produced by this excellent organization will also acknowledge that there is a problem with these charming tales.

In the world of Hallmark, this time of year has an amazing magic which makes even the most unattainable hopes and wishes come true. Everyone gets exactly what they wish for every single Christmas despite the cost or sacrifice that needed to be made to have this happen, all relationships are not only repaired, but bettered, all money issues solved, and all loneliness eliminated because “that’s what this time of year is all about”.  And yes, there’s also the absolutely perfect dusting of snow that must be present regardless of where the movie takes place because what is Christmas without the perfect snowfall?

perfect-christmasLike it or not, all of us have likely fallen victim to this Hallmark fantasy to some degree or another. We put up the decorations, buy the ugly Christmas sweaters, spend hours shopping for just the right present and feel certain that when we have done all of this just right, we will have bought the right to get all of our hearts desires fulfilled but, as I’m sure you’ve discovered, we do not live in the Hallmark world.

All of the decorations, presents, ugly sweaters and Christmas cheer will not magically make our lives fit into our favorite holiday movie. God doesn’t suddenly become Santa making sure to give all of the “good boys and girls” the gifts they long for and hard as it may be to accept, just because the holiday season appears on the calendar, all of our burdens are not magically lifted from us – not even temporarily. As a matter of fact, the struggles we feel during the ordinary days of the year are often magnified during the holidays.

Maybe this happens because we buy into the images others project about how perfect their holidays are and we assume that we have somehow failed at the whole holiday celebration thing – or maybe even life itself. Or maybe we feel in some way that we are being punished for choices we have made in the past or that we are somehow not worthy to have the same joyful experiences others to do. Maybe we used to have those perfect holidays but the person or people who made it special have died or have been otherwise separated from us and we are left feeling isolated, broken and alone.

sad-holidaysTo be honest, I have struggled with feelings like this through the years. My home was rarely a place of safety let alone joy and since my birthday also falls during this Christmas season, my “special day” was often lumped together with other celebrations or forgotten all together because of the overall stress and busyness of the season. I have longed to find the “perfect person” to spend holidays with and have sought ways to celebrate the holiday that would make me feel the way I think others must be feel because it’s what I’ve seen in all the Hallmark movies but that “perfect holiday feeling” remains elusive – and there’s a good reason for that.

The reality is that the images floating around in my head – and maybe yours, too – about how Christmas and my birthday should be are probably just figments of my imagination – no more real than the snow falling in Tampa at the end of a Christmas movie.

Much as I wish things could be different, life is not nor will it ever be a Hallmark movie. There are no perfect endings or nice, tidy ribbons to tie up loose ends. To make matters worse, none of us know what the future will bring any more than we can go back and change the things of the past. All we can do is choose how to move forward. So what does that mean for Christmas this year and in the years to come?

For me, it means that I have chosen to put away the cynicism that has grown in my heart over the years due to years of unmet, unrealistic expectations about special events and celebrations- and I’m starting with Christmas. To make this happen, I am choosing to try to see Christmas through God’s eyes instead of my own.

What does Christmas look like to God? As I see it, it’s not about the lights or ceremony. It’s about a loving Father watching His only Son being born – rejoicing in birth while simultaneously grieving the path His only Son must take in order to fulfill His perfect plan.

I imagine Jesus at once a newborn taking in the sights and sounds of the cold, star-filled sky while also understanding His purpose for this journey and experiencing fear and sorrow.

I imagine Mary, Joseph, and all those who came to see this miracle in a manger looking on with awe and wonder knowing they had been chosen to be a part of something so much bigger than they and knowing this moment and all to come were completely out of their hands.

10277-christian-christmas-quotesLooking at Christmas through God’s eyes I am reminded that every single one of us was placed here on this planet at a specific time for a specific purpose and that even in the times of heartbreak and loss, we are perfect in our imperfection; loved more fully than we can ever imagine even when we feel the most unlovable and none of this love has to do with how we decorated our homes, what festive clothing we wore, or what presents we purchased for others.

My prayer for each of you during this Christmas season is that you will find a new sense of awe and wonder about Christmas and feel anew the amazing love that God has for each and every one of you which led to His bringing His son here to save us.

The In-Between Time

I at-work-cookie-monsteram in one of those “in-between” times…between jobs, between relationships, between big events, waiting the next new chapter of my life to begin. Waiting can be a challenging thing. As I’ve stated before, it makes me question my decisions and my abilities and I have to admit that recently I have wondered whether I’ve completely missed the opportunity that the Lord has provided me my being too “me”…

…and then a sermon was preached at my home church which made me feel very much at peace with where I am.

The lesson was on the passage Luke 17:11-19 which tells the story of Jesus healing the 10 lepers. I don’t know about you but I’m sure that I’ve heard this story told in many different ways through the years but the bottom line for the story typically is a reminder of being grateful for your blessings; remembering to say thank you for the gifts you are given. That’s certainly a viable message, but the speaker I recently heard took the lesson so much further I felt I needed to share my thoughts about it with you.

As you may remember, this passage opens with telling the reader where Jesus is. It’s a big_thumblittle piece of information that I have glossed over dozens of times, but that little piece of information is actually quite important. At this time Jesus is on the road between Samaria and Galilee – literally between a group of people that were considered by the Jewish people to be “the bad guys” – the Samarians – and the people considered to be “the good guys” – the Galileans. The lepers were there because they could not live in their home cities due to their illness. It must have been very distressing. Not only were they each afflicted with this horrible disease, but from the perspective of the men from Galilee, they were forced to live with someone they considered to be their enemy – the man from Samaria. Since there were nine Galileans, I can’t help but wonder how long it took for the “good guys” to allow the one Samaritan to be near them; how long the sole Samaritan had to live in isolation before he was accepted by the others. Regardless, there in that “in-between” place, the outcasts became unified to some degree and they created their own community which no longer cast the Samaritan as an enemy, but only as a person similarly afflicted.

When we are in times of “in-between” we often have the same thing occur. People that we dc06ffcce360f8076ab4757eab5e08f9may not have associated with before or not understood now become more a part of our circle if they, too, are in-between. When one sits in an unemployment office or goes to meet with state agencies for assistance, the differences between us melt away. We are all in the same desert waiting for the same drop of water to quench our need.

In this passage of scripture, that drop of water came from Jesus who healed all ten men with a single sentence. Like us,the solution for all of them didn’t recognize differences. Regardless of their status, station or affiliation, the solution was the same and yet their responses varied significantly.

The Galileans, seeing that they had been healed, now had the opportunity to return to the society they had been shut out of. They could return to their church and in so doing, be welcomed back into their community, their homes, their livelihoods. All could go back to the way it was – including no longer having a Samaritan as a member of their community. Things could go back to “normal”.

The Samaritan could easily have returned to his home like the others did; returned to whatever life he had before he became afflicted with leprosy, gone back to “normal”as well, but he chose not to. Why? Because being in the “in-between” changed him.

He was no longer the same man who entered that portion of desert and lived that i-am-what-i-choose-to-becomeexistence “in-between”. He was changed and, more importantly, he wanted to remain changed.

Looking at my life now, I realize this is the same opportunity I have and we all have when we are in times of being “in-between”.

Times like these allow us a chance to re-examine our own beliefs and thoughts and decide if they are ideals we wish to hold fast to or change. If we see that there are changes we need to make or wish to make to our lives, this in-between time allows us to make those changes and choose a new direction; to choose a path that is more in line with where we see the Lord is calling us to go just as the Samaritan man did.

Here’s the thing.

Whether we realize it or not, times of being “in-between” change us just like both the Galileans and the Samaritans were changed. They had to learn to live near one another, to accept the destruction of their bodies, to find ways to survive in a place far from their homes and families and though our in-between looks quite difference, we also have to change. We have to learn to live with the new reality of our lives for however long that new reality exists – a new reality that may include people we previously wouldn’t have associated with or jobs we wouldn’t have considered satisfactory.

60c413fef21aeca2b0a68be83af5df2dBut we also have the opportunity to learn to experience new blessings and mercies we would not have had in our life before the “in-between”. We have the opportunity to find the “there” there – to find joy, peace and the gifts that God provides us each and every day in places we previously didn’t know existed let alone ever thought we would find ourselves.

Don’t get me wrong. Being “in-between”is challenging. I makes us see things we don’t want to see in ourselves and perhaps in others and also makes us change in ways we may not want to change.

We have to remember that God waits with us there just as He walked that road between Samaria and Galilee. He provides the same blessings to all who come near. One of the most significant blessings He provides is the wisdom of those who have been there and gotten to the other side. Our job is not only seeing the blessing of the in-between times and their resolutions, but also being grateful for the presence of these times in our lives and learning from those who are willing to share their journeys with us.

If you’re “in-between”, as I am, be blessed by its presence. If you have learned new things about yourself or your calling during such times, I would love to hear about it. If you have survived the “in-between” and wish to share your experiences, please do!

Enough

iamenough-brenc3a9-brown-largeThe Olympics have recently finished and I have finally gotten back to feeling a little less like the worst athlete on the planet. I mean, seriously. Where do these amazing people come from? I couldn’t qualify for an Olympic event unless the sport was Olympic power napping or procrastination. I tell ya, if those were events, I would ROCK!

It’s funny, isn’t it? Even with elite athletes like those amazing men and women there are those who returned home feeling as though their accomplishments were “not enough”.  While I can’t imagine how painful it would be to qualify for an international event of such esteem and then not bring home a medal, the mere fact that one qualified should feel like a success, right?

But it doesn’t. Living in a world where nearly everything is competitive, it seems that we have to always be striving to be more than what we are; that we must be challenging ourselves to be “enough” and sadly, our faith doesn’t relieve any of that pressure.

As Christians, we are told from the time we are babies that we are sinners and therefore “not enough” by ourselves; we are unworthy to be loved by the God who created us. The mere act of being born has made us unworthy and there is nothing we personally can do individually to fix this. We must rely on a Savior, Jesus Christ, to cover up our sinful nature; remove our sins from God’s sight so He will willingly admit us to His kingdom.

Now I know I am supposed to feel amazed and in awe of the fact that God’s only Son chose to die a horrible death so that my relationship with His Father can be healed and maybe it’s just me, but this doesn’t make me feel all warm and fuzzy. Maybe that’s because I bring a lot of baggage with me to this whole being “enough” issue.

As a survivor of abuse, I often felt that being me was so “not enough” that I was really unworthy of better treatment from others. I was so convinced of this that I frequently put myself in situations that were abusive because I felt that was all I deserved. I had thought that attending church would make this better because church is where you find God and God is Good and God is Love.

But, at least for me, this was not the case. While the church didn’t tell me I deserved to be abused, it did say – and does still say – that I am not enough all by myself to be welcomed into God’s kingdom. I have to be more; different; changed. Now, while I understand the purpose of the message is to get people to turn away from doing things that are harmful to themselves and to the community, for a person like me, this just solidifies the internal belief that I and people like me are not enough. We never have been and we never will be.

And then it struck me.635936613667970449-1699337088_music-good-enough

This morning as I was walking and praying, I was reminded of some wisdom that I both read recently and has been shared with me in other ways in the recent past.

I am good enough just as I am because I am as God made me. Period. Am I perfect? Nope, never will be but then that’s not the point of my existence here. God placed me here to learn and grow in my likeness of Him, but because I am created by Him – in His image – I am good just as the rest of this earth and the beings on it are good.

Now before you get upset that and rant about how I sin and therefore make myself less worthy, let me stop you. I fully accept that I fail on a daily basis and am absolutely responsible for my own actions. God does not protect me from the consequences of my poor decisions but rather provides me with the ability to learn from these actions and make better decisions in the future. Additionally, God already knew that I would make these poor choices at the time I was sent down to this lovely planet. As I have said before, I do not believe that there is anything I have done – or you have done – that God didn’t foresee. The Bible says in Genesis 1 that God created the world and all that is in it and it was good. Period. Not it was good until; not it was good, but…nope. God created the world and all that was in it and it was GOOD.

Now, since I believe that God is good and because of His goodness He literally cannot create anything that is bad, that means that you, me, all of us are good just by being who we are. We may make bad decisions, we may do stupid things, but we are all good and therefore we are enough.

So where did this idea come from that we had to be saved?

Man.

Well, ok, Satan started it, Adam jumped on board, and we’ve been in this never-ending pointing of fingers since. The point is that God didn’t need to send Jesus to die for my sins because when I was created, I was already forgiven. God already knew what my life was going to be, how I was going to live it, and what impact it would have on others. The same is true of each and every one of us.

I truly believe that God sent Jesus not because we aren’t “enough” as we are, but for two entirely different reasons.

One, Jesus came so that each of us can forgive ourselves and continue forward on the path that we were created to be on rather than spend time feeling guilty for bad decisions. Second, Jesus came to remind each of us that we all fail in order to curb the need to point out everyone else’s failures as being bigger or worse than our own in order to make ourselves feel more worthy.

We as human beings strive to feel better by making others around us feel worse and God knew this would be a failure of our independent nature and therefore sent Jesus – and the numerous prophets prior to Him – to remind us that none of us are superior to one another.

enoughHere is the bottom line.

We all have the same pluses and minuses on our scorecard but in the end, we were all created by a kind, loving God who’s mercy, love and grace are always enough and created us to be enough just as we are.

We need Jesus because we to remember this life isn’t about us.

We need Jesus because we need to remember that being enough doesn’t mean we don’t need to learn and grow.

We need Jesus because our time on this earth is not about becoming “good enough” but about being a piece of God here on this planet at this time for His purpose.

 

Chasing A Mirage

b207783bd5de238eab1919afb1e12321Have you ever felt like the road you were on suddenly fell off the map? Like Google Maps suddenly updated and now the route you thought was going to lead you where you needed and wanted to go no longer exists?

I have to admit I have felt that way a lot over the last several years.

At nearly 50, I have often struggled to find my place – my place in the workplace, my place in my personal life, my place with my gifts and talents.

Don’t get me wrong – I have had some very exciting and fulfilling times in my life, but at the moment I feel a little like I’m wandering in the desert.

I don’t know about you, but I just thought  at some point it would get easier. After all, I have already made it through a significant number of challenges.

Putting aside my childhood and the struggles there, I have been through 2 divorces, the suicide of a stepson, years of being sick and having surgery after surgery, and loss – or perhaps a complete lack – of financial stability.

About 4 years ago, I had finally landed a decent paying job that allowed me to use my creativity and skills, had found some success in local theater groups, and felt ready to return home to Colorado to spend quality time with family and reestablish my community there.

god-laughs-at-your-plansI’m pretty sure I have heard God laughing at my plan many, many times over the last few years.

First, the job I moved with fell apart…as have 2 successive positions….

…and several of the family members i had  moved back to reconnect with – 0r, in some cases, begin a relationship with –  moved out-of-state…

…and some promising acting work disappeared like ashes in the wind.

Now, here I am almost 50 years old with not a lot to hold up to the world around me to say this is what I have accomplished with my life – isn’t it great?

Don’t get me wrong. I know that it isn’t the amount of stuff one has, the size of the bank account or the plaques on the wall that determine a successful life. I have had many successes thus far. I have traveled, acted, sung, and met some amazing people who have made an indelible mark on my life. I have had good jobs, grown in my faith, and become a more secure individual…

..and yet, here I sit, feeling as though I am standing in the middle of a desert chasing mirages of what my life is supposed to be only to find I am chasing after shifting sands, never to reach the destination I thought was in front of me.

What makes this even more challenging is that as a Christian, both the Christian and non-Christian communities often look at my life and others like it and express thoughts that I am not “doing” Christianity right. If I were a more faithful Christian woman, would I not have a good man beside  me? Would I not feel more settled and satisfied? Would I not be harvesting the “fruit” of my well-lived Christian life?

To those people, I have to kindly say absolutely not.0_0_0_0_322_654_csupload_57205222

The Bible is filled with passages about the struggles we as humans will face. There is not any “ifs” about it. Life will be hard regardless of your faith.

Ok – well what about those passages that tell me I should be rejoicing in my struggles? That I should be perfectly content in its imperfection. Aren’t we as Christians called to trust in the Lord always and not be anxious about anything?

Yes. We are. But the truth of the matter is that I – like all of you – am human and while these are great goals to reach for, they are not always attainable on a consistent basis.

I, for one, am anxious!

I am anxious about where my next paycheck is going to come from, whether or not I will have the money I need to make rent, and what the next few months of my life are going to look like. I am anxious about the thought of living the rest of my life alone and knowing that the struggle is likely only going to continue or get worse, not better. And I am anxious about the thought that maybe I missed a turn I was supposed to take; a route that was marked for me that I missed or was too fearful or arrogant to take and now it is lost to me.

And I do not count all of this joy. While there are joyful aspects of where my life is now, I am tired of the struggle.

I ache to be using the gifts and talents I have to be making my way through this life; getting paid to do what I love and have a talent for rather than having to make do with a “day job” and not truly live.

I yearn to be writing for a living, able to use my words to tell stories people long to read and receive intellectual and emotional nourishment from and receiving some monetary accommodation for this.

I long to be able to act and sing and not actually have to sacrifice acting and singing opportunities because the 9 to 5 grind that I endure in order to pay the bills and make ends meet makes it nearly impossible to allow these things to be a part of life.

I crave a connection to another human being that is not superficial but rather emotionally, spiritually and physically fulfilling; to have another person in my life that can walk with me in the ebbs and flows of life and come out the other side still willing to walk some more.

But here’s the thing.

Even with all the feelings of sadness and the chasm of uncertainty I currently feel, I know that I am blessed.

god-is-ad-times-square-church

I am blessed because I know that my God is big enough to hear my pain and to help me carry it. He is not angry with me because I am not cheerful about my struggles nor is he going to smite me because I fail to uphold this image of what a “true Christian” is.

Life is hard. There are struggles – some big and some small – that we all must face during our time here on this earth. I know that the struggles I am having today are not nearly as challenging as some you may be facing. They are certainly not the hardest struggles I’ve had in my life, but they are significant enough for me to want it to end – like, now would be great.

Much as I wish God would shoot me a text telling me what it is I am supposed to be doing with my life at this stage of the game, that isn’t going to happen. I, like all of you, have to wait. I have to continue to work at finding a new job so I know I can pay my rent and wait for a time when those horrendous “thanks, but no thanks” emails are replaced by a “we want YOU” email.

cc78da55504da0d9a7026fe699f13b7eI have to wait to hear the answers to my prayers that are spoken with my heart and my mouth on a daily (or hourly) basis and  I have to remember to keep my spirit ready for the answers God sends because they are not often the answers I hope they would be.

And I have to keep chasing that dream that is in front of me which may or may not end up being a mirage because to stop following it is to give up – and I refuse to give up.

After all, God doesn’t give up on me. What right do I have to give up on myself?

So here I am, chasing mirages. If you are here in the desert with me, send up a white flag
and maybe we can walk a little bit of this together.

 

 

 

 

 

The Heartbeat of a City

tmp_1335_7-10-2013_114834_There is a heartbeat of any place where people congregate. It’s an internal rhythm that can not only be felt, but can be see in the movement of its cars and people; slower in rural areas, faster and more energetic in cities. I know this isn’t a new concept but I was reminded of it as I sat in an office on the 16th street mall in Denver looking down on those ant-like skitterings of humans and vehicles making their way through their busy – or not so busy – day.

The never-ending buzz of activity I could see from above took me back to my younger years when I worked downtown and experiences this energy for the first time but the energy had changed. Back then, the city had a freshness; a newness that reminded me that I was starting my life fresh. All of the hopes and dreams in my mind were yet to be either realized or shattered and I felt that in the mirrored-finish of the skyscrapers that surrounded me as well as the brand new pedestrian mall that ran through the center of the city.

The beat of Denver is different now than it was then. The state-of-the-art shopping complex was once the center of that pedestrian mall now houses offices (like the one I was sitting in ), a university and pizza joint. What was once a vibrant working and shopping community has more reminders of  the homelessness that is so pervasive in our country and the dichotomy of rich and poor seems less stark as the oil and gas industry has recently taken a hit and other successful businesses in town are working harder and leaner to get to the same place they were back then.

In a way it saddens me. I love my city and I love the memories of those “hay days” from the 80’s, but Denver, like many cities, has gone through some pretty significant growing pains as it has tried to overcome  its “cow-town”reputation. While the sidewalks don’t roll up at 10pm on week-nights anymore, Denver hasn’t quite found its way to becoming the great metropolitan center of the Southwest.

Don’t get me wrong. Denver, has a great deal to offer! But Denver, at least for me, will always have a sense of naivety that is more commonly found in smaller areas. I love that despite the growing pains it has suffered, Denver is working hard to overcome its past and present burdens and struggles.  It is works to keep the sense of history that exists here while building something new that will be great now and in the future.

Funny. That’s just what we are doing as Christians and members of other faith communities, isn’t it?

Each of us has growing pains as we move into our faith. We all start out fresh and “shiny”, thinking we have it all figured out and are ready to take on the world with our big dreams and bigger imaginations but in the blink of an eye, the ground shifts beneath us and those dreams crack or maybe even break. We falter, our identity as Christians and as individuals and we are left standing there like empty storefronts on a forgotten city block – holding the space that was once our glory but now is just a shell, a reminder of our failure. We begin to wonder who we really are if we aren’t the person we imagined ourselves to be in our “glory days”.

1932-storefront_3231The joy of being both human and a member of a faith community is just like the excitement of being in the middle of a city that is being revitalized. Like that city, we have the ability to recreate ourselves; to take what was once there and recreate it into something not just newer, but better. Who we were before only adds dimension to who will choose to be tomorrow. But just like those who are looking at the shattered windows and graffitied walls of the city, we have to make a choice to change and accept that the choice will take work.

The choice to change is a scary one. It takes risk, it takes strength, and it takes faith. I know this now more than I did before as I recently walked away from a job that was causing me physical and emotional distress. I had to choose to believe I was worth the risk, to believe that I had the strength to stand up and take the leap, and to have the faith that God will provide a way through.

Believe me, I didn’t take this step lightly or easily. I literally spent days sitting at my computer and crying, trying to figure out what I needed to do and being overwhelmed by the risks that were ahead.

In the end, though, I came to one very clear realization. I was, for lack of a better phrase, being called to step out in faith. To take a new journey of revitalization.

I could have declined, chosen the easier path of staying put, but for this, this was not an option. Not only would the stress kill me, but I would become a human representation of one of the ghost towns that litter that mountains of Colorado. I would become an empty shell of who I was created to be.

Instead I have chosen to do the hard work – to gut much of the structure of my current life and re-imagine what my life could be.

I have to admit that I am terrified.

What if I fail? What if I run our of money before my next job arrives? What if I completely misunderstood what God was telling me because it was what I wanted to hear?

Believe me, these thoughts plague my mind more frequently than I care to admit, but I am choosing to take a “city planner” view of my situation.

Like Denver, my life still has pretty good bones, as it were. I have good skills, a strong faith, and a good group of people around me that are helping me to look to the future rather than worry about the moment.construction denver

As I sat in the office in the 16th street office, I see myself in the cranes and construction sites around the city. I am like my beloved city. I will come out of this stronger, newer, and more in tune with who I am supposed to be rather than who someone else said I should be so many years ago.

What about you? Are you being revitalized like I am or have you already been through this process and can see the other side? Or maybe you chose to stay put and see that staying there has revitalized you in other ways. Whatever your story, I would love to hear it.

In the meantime, I’d better get back to building.