The Unstoppable Eucharist

Here’s the good news:  I’ve signed up for classes for next semester and my schedule will be slightly less ridiculous, which means I can settle into a regular posting schedule again.  The bad news is that I’ll continue to be spotty for this semester.  I’m sorry about that.

Halloween is Monday, which is crazy to me.  I have no idea how it’s Halloween already, and the weather here at the Wicket Gate hasn’t been at all cooperating in helping me believe that we’re this far into the fall.  Global warming is crap for polar bears like me.

Halloween is in the running for my least favorite holiday because I’m pretty much a coward and hate frightening things.  An entire holiday designed to scare you is just about the worst (also, waaaay too many spiders), but Halloween is also an interesting time of year for people of the Christian faith.  There’s definitely the segment of folks who can’t abide Halloween because of its supposed connections with Satan and his ilk (y’know, witches and all that).  But I read an article about how All Hallows’ Eve is actually pretty amazing for Christians considering it’s another way for us to celebrate Christ’s victory over death—and I like that spin.

So in that spirit, and in the recognition that I’ve had several God-moments around this particular sacrament lately, let me talk about the Eucharist, that memorial meal of the Resurrection itself.

At my div school, there’s a Eucharist service on Fridays that is a handful of students and the occasional professor gathering purely for communion.  There’s no sermon, no announcements, just some hymns, prayer, and the sacrament itself.  It’s become one of the most important points of my rhythm here, partly because I’ve always been deeply connected to this particular ritual but also because it is an outrageously human part of my week.

Here’s the thing:  because it is almost entirely students, there are so many things that go wrong.  We don’t have a sound system, but one week the person supposed to bring the bread and grape juice (hey, it’s run by Methodists) and so we legit used a bagel from Coffee Hour and some juice the presiding chaplain happened to have in her office.  Twice now I’ve been asked to step up and read the Scripture of the day because they didn’t have anyone and I was, well, there.  This past week no one had remembered to print off the bulletins that provide the liturgy, so part of it we read from the UMC hymnal and part of it we just listened to while the people leading said it all by themselves.

And here’s the thing—God still shows up.  This service is so important to me for a number of reasons, but one big one is that I’m in a program training people to be able to handle holy ritual and sacred relationship and we are still so incredibly not God.  Even when I graduate I still won’t be God (I think knowing that in my first semester will help tremendously in this degree) and I will screw things up a bunch when I work in a church.  But that doesn’t mean that Jesus won’t come to those services; thankfully, He doesn’t wait for our perfection to manifest Himself among his people.  Where two or more are gathered, right?  Right.

In the third and fourth centuries, there was a huge upheaval in the Christian community about the grace of the sacraments.  One of the things people were trying to hash out was the role of the priest; if the priest was a heretic or a traditore (since Christianity wasn’t legal until the mid-4th century, there were a handful of persecutions in which some priests decided martyrdom wasn’t their thing and so “handed over” Christian documents and renounced their faith; this is where we get the English term “traitor”), was their whole flock damned with them?  Or was God’s work God’s work no matter whose hands delivered it?

Thankfully, most people fell on the side of God’s grace being stronger than any individual priest’s faith/correctness, but there was much ink spent on the idea; if you listen to the way people talk about preachers and the relationship they have with their pastors and, through them, with God, I’d argue we’re still having that fight.  But this weekly Eucharist service is amazing to me because it’s super true; God’s grace is unstoppable.  This sacrament in which Christ is present and remembered can’t be shut out by our ineptitude or even by using a bagel.  And it never will be.  There is nothing I can do as a worship leader that will stop God from coming to God’s people, and that is the most incredibly heartening news.

And just as Jesus isn’t restrained by my saying the perfect words, He isn’t contained in that worship space.  Since there aren’t that many of us who attend, there’s always bread leftover.  In the UMC (and most Christian traditions that I know of) you can’t just throw out consecrated bread; it’s a respect thing.  Either you have to return it to nature (i.e. feed to squirrels or somesuch) or you have to eat it yourself.  I have class right after this service, so I often end up taking the leftover bread along with me and offering bits of Jesus to my classmates.  It’s a pretty amazing ritual in and of itself, that we divinity students take handfuls or just tiny pieces of the challah or the naan or the sourdough or whatever bread we had that week and munch contentedly on this tasty tasty Jesus, and it’s not at all sacrilegious.  Far from it—we are sharing in community, hashing out the history of the early Church even as we are filled with this element so laden with grace and hope and possibility even as it’s just really delicious bread.

And in that, too, is Eucharist.  In people gathering to discuss this Christ with Whom we disagree, Whom we keep learning we don’t really know, Who yet comes and shares this meal with us just as He shared with 5,000 and with 11, we are honoring the sacrament and remembering.

Until He comes again.

 

 

 Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  And one cried to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
The whole earth is full of His glory!”  (Isaiah 6:2-3, NKJV)

 

 

 

Greetings from the Wicket Gate

In case you’re wondering where that is, here’s a short explanation.  As Magister so rightly pointed out, everywhere I go is the Land of Pilgrims, but I’m definitely in a different geographical spot than I was a week ago.  And you still don’t need to know exactly where that is; as ever with this blog, I want what I’m doing to be more important than who I am or where I’m living.  I also want you, Reader, to be able to map your own pilgrimage onto parts of mine, not because we’re doing the same thing but because any similarities our paths have may help us understand each other and this God Who sees the whole of it that much better.

So I’m here, and I realize that the metaphorical name for it doesn’t quite fit; as with any borrowing of metaphors, it’s not perfect.  I’m at seminary (at long last, you might be saying) and to say that it is the only narrow way to the King’s Highway would be a terrible miscarriage of what seminary is and what the King is expecting of His people.  But for me, Reader, this is a start to the journey even as it’s a continuation of what I’ve been doing and what God has been doing through me.

For now, I wanted to check in and let you know I’d safely arrived; thank you for your prayers and hopes for me in the transition, as it was quite a whirlwind.  I’m now mostly unpacked (no one needs this many towels, where did they all come from?) and convinced that I’m never allowed to have a full-sized house since I accrue stuff at an alarming rate if I have space for it.

And if I don’t.

It’s funny how one of my primary desires is to find home here—and, equally, to accept that I won’t.  My heart was left behind in the Land of Pilgrims and I don’t see that changing any time soon; I lost it in church this morning as I drowned under the first wave of homesickness for my family, my congregation, my rhythms and rites.  Yet even in that moment of missing people and place so much it hurt to breathe, the service reminded me that God goes where I go—rather, I go where God goes because He was there way ahead of me, waiting.  Communion here still involves bread and grape juice and the challenge of community just as it has in so many churches not only in this country but in others.  Music here—some of it the same that we sang at camp, which I think was God being rather heavy-handed in underlining the continuity—still has so much variety and breadth and is still calling me to pay attention to God’s presence in this sacred space.  The Bible here is still God’s word, and Jesus goes by the same name here.  Yes, it’s a whole different world and my home church doesn’t have a jazz trumpet in the praise band, but God is God is God is God no matter where I am, geographically or spiritually.

What an incredible gift.

And in the midst of all this change, I’m still connected to that family, that home; technology, that hated love of mine, has ensured that Interpreter, Prudence, and several others have been at my very fingertips while I navigate orientation and moving in and unpacking and job interviews and all manner of things that are oh-so-daunting.  The relationships will change, for sure, and I can’t say that I’m thrilled about that, but change does not have to equal challenge.  In fact, having them come along for this adventure can make the relationships that much more multi-dimensional.

And you, Reader, come with me.  No matter where you are, we remain in this corner of the internet together—and I can’t tell you what a gift it is to know that you are still here exploring with me, cheering me on, sharing parts of yourself and accepting these offered parts of myself.  Thank you for being my travelling companion, Reader.

And hang on.  This gate is going to be pretty intense.

 

 

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad and easy to travel is the path that leads the way to destruction and eternal loss, and there are many who enter through it.”  (Matthew 7:13, AMP)

Lent, Week Four: When We Call

My apologies for the delay this week, faithful Reader.  I’ve had a very unexpectedly busy couple of days, filled with both my own stuff and that of other people.

In the absence of a truly prayerful heart this Lent, I’ve taken to spending time with the Psalms.  They’re often called “the prayer book of the Bible,” so I’ve been trying to borrow some of the expression they have since my tongue has been stilled these forty days.

I take one psalm and read it every day for one week, trying to get to as many translations as I can (or have energy to care enough to do) as well as poetic spin-offs and such.  I’m trying to read at least once every day to make it sink into my bones.  Rather arbitrarily, I’ve decided the psalms by starting with number five and going onto every multiple of five (I like multiples of five); this week is Psalm 20.

This week especially I’ve had great need of the prayer that God answer me in my day of trouble—I’m into some really stupid stuff and having a lot of difficulty maintaining my vows to God instead of doing whatever I feel like doing.  This psalm is spot on, then, except for the fact that it makes it my problem to start the conversation.

I am not a fan of this.  I am not a fan of asking for help from anybody ever, or of talking about what’s bothering me, or of saying I can’t handle this.  But this week I have had to talk to Interpreter, Mr. Great-Heart, Discretion, Magister, Reliever, and Mr. Worldly Wiseman to say, “I am not okay, I need a hand, please help me out.”  That’s a lot of people.  That’s a lot of talking.  That’s a lot of really taking a look at how I trust my friends and guides with my self.

And then I come home and read this psalm that says I have to go through all that again with God?  No thanks.

But that is the nature of prayer and of relationship—yes, God already knows all that I’m going to say and all that I need to deal with and all of how that’s wrecking my life.  But to engage the fact that this is a personal God is to have the conversation anyway; to ask such that God would have to answer, to send up the burnt offerings.

And then to pause.

Some of the translations take out that “selah” that comes in after verse three because we don’t actually know what it means.  It’s one of those words that pops up in the Hebrew Old Testament (almost exclusively in the psalms; the only other place it’s found, I think, is in Habakkuk, and really, how many folks read Habakkuk?  Not enough, that’s how many) that no one has ever really translated, but I like the ideas some scholars have to take it as something like a rest in a musical score (because these are musical, remember), which is great to me as a singer.  Sometimes you need to breathe, to pause and think on what just happened.  Let God savor your burnt offerings, the psalm says; pause.  Selah.

I like the CEB version of the next verse:  “Let God grant what is in your heart.”  Not only do I have to talk to God, I have to let Him answer.  I have to give Him the space to be in this conversation with me, to respond to me.  I have to respect that He is in this, too, and that’s kind of a big deal.  I have to respect God’s space?  In a relationship?  Between a human and a deity?  Just how free do I think God made me?

Totally free, if I believe what I say I believe.  Which means that, when I engage God in conversation (which is what prayer is), I have to be willing to let that be a conversation—I talk, He talks, we both listen.  And then I have to believe that His listening actually does something.

Verse six has the very powerful verb “know” regarding the psalmist’s understanding of God.  “Now I know that the LORD saves His anointed,” says the ESV.  Do I know that—or do I just believe it?  Or think it?  Or, in what is likely most accurate, hope it?  Do I hope that God will save me from the hole I’m bent on digging or do I know in the dark parts of my guts where I know that I’m not going to fall off the ground when I lift one of my feet because gravity will keep me anchored?  Do I have that kind of certainty when I talk to God?

Nope.

Do you, Reader?  What would it look like if we did?  What would our relationship with God be if we stopped hoping and started knowing what God does?  For me, it would radically change things.  My whole prayer life would be different, and I don’t mind admitting that to you because it is something I believe God is calling me to work on.  I do not trust God, not really, not enough to know.  And that is holding the whole of my possible ministry in check, because God can do a lot with a willing heart but can do so infinitely much more with one that trusts.

“Save, Lord,” says verse nine in the KJV.  I don’t know Hebrew, so I don’t know if it’s just the bare-assed imperative in the original language, and my Greek isn’t strong enough to sort out the differing numbers of the Septuagint.  It isn’t an imperative in the Latin Vulgate, but I love that translation that has no bones about it.  “Save.”  No direct object, no subject, just a flat-out cry for salvation.  “Hear us when we call.”

Give us the courage to call in the first place.

 

May He send thee help from the sanctuary, and strengthen thee out of Zion.  (Psalms 20:2, KJ21)

Lent, Week One: Talk to Me

Welcome to Lent, Reader.

I feel a little surprised by it this year; perhaps because I’ve been really preoccupied with other stuff, or perhaps because I feel like I’ve been wandering the wilderness for a while already (don’t worry, I won’t go totally emo on you), but I haven’t quite settled into the fact that we’ve switched out of Epiphany yet.

Lent Madness, however, has begun.  I’m rooting for Hildegard, or maybe Cuthbert.

Because I need some structure in life right now, I declare Lent to be a time for a series—specifically, a series on prayer.  It’s the bedrock of Christianity, in many ways.  We go there first when something happens:  “you’re in my prayers,” “I’ll pray for you,” “I ask for your prayers.”  I’ve been drenched in prayer through the healing process of my ear (which, by the by, is behind schedule but doing well according to the doctors.  I got some of my restrictions scaled back, which makes me happy).  We talk about “prayer warriors,” about “the power of prayer,” about its necessity and its foundational aspect in this relationship with a less-than-chatty God.  I’ve asked for your prayers more than once, I know.

But it takes us a minute—it takes me a minute, at least—to talk about what it is to have nothing to say, or to bring only anger to the conversation, or to recognize that being silent is not the same as listening.  Thankfully, these aren’t topics that are never discussed; publications like Relevant Magazine and Plough take a run at it, folks like Jan Richardson and Anne Lamott write about it.  We as a culture recognize the fight of this prayer thing, and talk about it.

Quietly.

Because we want it to work, you see.  We want to go to a God Who listens and pour out our shit and feel better afterward.  We want to beseech our Mother to tenderly hold friends in pain and sorrow and fix it.  We want to hear that there is a plan, a point, a purpose to us running around down here making mistakes over and over again.

We want relationship.  So we pray, and we hope, and we try to find silver linings in the rough patches when God seems to be elsewhere, when the friend dies despite a whole nunnery being on the prayer chain, when that job that seemed like such a great fit falls through and we are left at the beginning again.  We talk about sitting down to pray as though it’s hard now but it gets better, just keep working at it, like Pilates or Sudoku puzzles.

I make no secret, hardy Reader, that much of this blog is my giving myself space to figure out my own things and asking you to come along for the ride as accountability and reflection.  So I’m taking this Lent to preach at myself (a phrase that terrifies me considering the very real possibility of actually preaching at anyone some day) about prayer.  My prayer life is currently a bit of a mess because of some places I’m flat out not allowing God to dwell, and having gotten my forehead all ashed up this past Wednesday I am very aware that that shit won’t fly.  “Dust you are, and to dust you shall return,” Prudence said to me as he traced his blackened thumb in the cross.  “May God take the middle,” I surprised myself by responding.  And oh, how He would like to—if I would simply get out of the way and let Him.

“Talk to Me,” He says gently while I’m throwing yet another tantrum.  “Do not shut Me out.”

We’ll see.

 

Pray without ceasing.  (1 Thessalonians 5:17, JUB)

Lent, Week Two: Conversation

That first week I was like a Roald Dahl principal on the lookout for religious icons, phrases, and other clutter in my life as if they were contraband. Saying things like “Oh, my God” and “holy—” became as ill advised as cursing had once been. I even at one point attempted to introduce “god damn it” into my vocabulary, trying to break the phrase of any power over me and put it on the same level as “mother fucker” or “son of a bitch”—harmless and yet deliciously horrid. When it didn’t take, I told myself maybe it was just a bit too early. After all, I’d been taught not to say that my entire life, it was a hard habit to break. I’d gradually ease into it, like icy cold water. 

Any sort of prayer was also now obsolete. Why pray to Something that wasn’t there? I could talk to myself all I wanted without it doing any good, no reason to pretend Anyone else was listening.  Out the window went the half-hearted habit to at least thank God for living through the day as I fell asleep at night. It wasn’t a conversation or even a plea, it was a rote register to Whatever would pay attention, a notice that life was still imperfect and things still weren’t going well.

It was strange to find how many corners even the rote registers had crept into, though.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve talked to myself. Not, I’m fairly sure, because I’m insane, but rather because I’m better at solving problems when I can work them out through brainstorming out loud. It has a good portion of my family worried about my mental health, but there it is.  When I’m in trouble, such conversations naturally tended to turn into prayer, beseeching God to help me work something out.  It was a very lonely day indeed when I was talking and suddenly realized that I had to stop myself from addressing God. It was as if I’d hung up on my best friend.

I tried not to think too hard on the implications of being dismayed by that.

When I drove back to my mother’s house from college the first Saturday of Lent, I found myself throwing out a quick prayer for a safe drive.  What was I doing? If something happened to me, something happened to me. It would be my fault for not paying attention or the other guy’s fault for not knowing how to drive. There was nothing supernatural about that.

And tests? If I didn’t study for them, I didn’t do well. It was as simple as one and one being two; where on earth had I picked up this habit of praying for an A? Besides, wasn’t that kind of cheating, to invoke some all-powerful Being for a simple geology exam? It was time to stand on my own two feet—they were the only real things, the only things I could rely on, anyway.

I remember one instance, about two weeks into Lent, when I lost my college ID card. I was hunting around my room for it and automatically offered the beginnings of a prayer for God to help me find it. I had done this thousands of times before, and whether it was God or sheer luck, I usually found what I was looking for. (Usually.)  Here, though, I forcibly reminded myself of my eradication of God. How could I invoke Him as a supernatural lost & found if I was busy refusing to acknowledge His presence?

I mentioned at one point in a phone call with my mother that I was having trouble finding my card; she offered the suggestion that I pray to Saint Anthony, the patron saint of lost items.  She gave me a catchy little phrase to utter; “Tony Tony, come around/something’s lost and can’t be found”.  Try it, she urged me, it works—even my atheist sister got it to work.  After a week of hemhawing about whether or not to invoke the celestial dead in order to be able to eat, I gave in. Whether through my lack of faith or whatever, all I ever found was a lost highlighter.  Now I was left with an even bigger dilemma; I had broken my Lenten promise.  I knew all the penances for breaking a Lenten promise, the prayers, the Hail Marys, the Our Fathers, asking for forgiveness. But in this new Godless world, how on earth was I supposed to do penance? All of the normal routes would go as much against my practice as the original “sin” I had committed. It seemed ludicrous that I would care, but I was taking this seriously. How could one reprimand oneself for going back to God when the penalties were going back to God?

A few days after my attempt to contact St. Tony, I went to dinner with several of my (Christian) friends. Somehow or other, my newfound lack of religion came up. I hadn’t yet told them, so they were fairly confused; they’d taken my cultural Christianity as faith like theirs. My friend Seamus, though, took it in stride. He, I knew, I would have some of the most trouble with, as we had had long discussions about religion and God and such before (surprise surprise, he’s a pastor now).

“Are you going to chastise me now for being a heretic?” I asked him.

“Nope. I’ll just be here when you get around to asking questions.”

How irritating. “I already know all the answers, Seamus. I grew up in the church,remember?”

He wouldn’t bite. He just kept that smug look of wisdom on his face, as if he knew that at some point I would give in and come back to the fold. I hated him for it momentarily, because there was absolutely no malice or arrogance in it; it was rather a sort of love for the wandering and lost sheep I was to him.

My friend Charity was of no more help. Someone had just made a joke about all of us Christians sitting around and I protested, “But I’m not a Christian.”

“You don’t fool me,” Charity said over the rim of her Coke glass.

 

To be continued…

People of the Books: This Odd and Wondrous Calling by Lillian Daniel and Martin B. Copenhaver

Interpreter bought This Odd and Wondrous Calling at a conference about two years ago and showed it to me then, wanting to know if I wanted to borrow it.  I did, but I had too much else at the time—I was reading too much else at the time, which I often do when I stuff myself on the smorgasboard of books and genres in the world.  Wait, I said, wait; I can’t add anything else at the moment.

I forgot about it, because my memory is not the best about some things.  But he brought it with him to the hospital when I was in for my appendectomy this fall; he had not forgotten, even though his memory is not the best about some things.  I devoured it in less than a week, even on top of all the going-back-to-work-and-healing things that take time.  It’s an easy read in terms of writing style, although the dual author thing takes some getting used to; rather than trying to blend their voices, Daniel and Copenhaver alternate chapters. This creates a conversational style of trading anecdotes that is somewhat jarring but smoothes out some otherwise difficult topics—it doesn’t hurt that their backgrounds, sexes, and experiences are different, so the view you get of the profession is that much broader.  I’m so very glad I waited to read this, because I needed the extra year-and-some of experience in order to relate to these stories—but I’m also glad Interpreter remembered that this needed to make my reading list.

The thing that’s so great about this book is that it’s not a “how to be a better minister” or “why ministry is soul-depleting” or “everything in the ministry is roses” book.  It’s honest, which can be very, very hard to do in ministry.  And honesty, for these two (who are ministers, truly), means an affirmation of the highs and the lows of this incredibly complex calling.  There are some chapters about how amazing a moment of grace can be, but there are also chapters about the incredibly stupid moments of inanity that can happen—and there are nods to how often those two kinds of moments live right next to each other in a space of breaths.

The authors also address the life of ministers outside of church (and yes, just like teachers, they do have them).  Daniel and Copenhaver have a chapter each talking about their marriages and the impact of ministry, which is a brave thing because there are all kinds of studies that say ministry is a huge strain on marriage.  Copenhaver is married to a self-proclaimed pagan; I have no idea how I would handle that, because it would drive me nuts to have the person to whom I’m closest be so outside of what shapes my life and self.   In fact, I recently learned that a friend of mine (who has not yet been introduced to this…let’s call her Discretion, I think she’d get a kick out of that) that she is walking the “unequal yoke” road, so I told her about this book and admired that she could do that.  And Copenhaver addresses that and talks about the difficulties and the blessings, which definitely gave me food for thought. 

Alternatively, Daniel is married to a Christian and, being a girl, gets to talk about what it’s like to have a guy in the traditional “pastor’s wife” role.  Since my friend Talkative was married to a female preacher once and since I may be navigating those waters some day (eek), Daniel’s discussions of not only understanding 24/7 “professional faith” but also how to hold a marriage in a world of gender expectations were pretty interesting.  I have to admit I prefer Copenhaver’s writing style, but both have great stories to share.

The book is intimidating in terms of showing just a glimpse of the scope of ministry, but brilliant in neither putting ministry on an unattainable pedestal nor burying it in mud.  It’s funny and poignant, painful and accurate, beautiful, and imperfect.  I would suggest that anyone in ministry, considering ministry, connected to a minister or person considering ministry, or in contact with the ministerial life even tangentially read this.  Trust me.  It’s worth the time.

 

Rating:  5/5 stars  Five out of five stars

Tell Me Again about Getting a “Real” Job

Dear Reader,

On behalf of all graduate students everywhere, let me give you a piece of friendly advice.  When talking to someone who works/lives/weeps in academics, DO NOT tell them that things will be better/worse/harder/whatever when they get into the “real world.”  Also, DO NOT ask people who are about to graduate what they’ll be doing for a “real job.”

You, I hope, can see why this would be an irksome theme of conversation.  We in the academic community have spent X amount of years having our brains stretched like Saran Wrap across concepts that we may or may not have actually signed up for in the beginning of our pursuit, and we’ve been doing that on top of various ways of sustaining ourselves.  Our world is every bit as real as yours, and telling us that it’s not demeans the work we’re doing, the choices we’re making, and the ways that we enjoy spending our time.  We are, in point of fact, productive members of society, just as much as you are.

I’m three weeks from graduating.  Can you tell I’m getting frustrated with the job search and its attendant judgments?

I have two jobs currently, one of which is being a teacher, which is alternately the most awesome job and the most soul-draining job on the planet.  (Okay, maybe not most  soul-draining, but close.)  But I “only” teach one class, so there have been many among my friends and family who are keen on wondering what I’m going to do next to “earn my keep,” as it were.  Because teaching other people about the history and culture of the world in which they live is apparently earning no one anything.

And all of this doesn’t help my already quietly freaking out about what, indeed, I’m going to do next, because there’s this whole God Direction mess hanging over everything now, in that I’m trying not to just randomly do stuff because it seems like a good idea at the time.  So, right off schedule, a job stumbles into me.

Here’s the thing; you know by now, Reader, how enamored I am of things like plans, right?  I’ve certainly complained about it often enough, because we of the Western hemisphere are all about trajectories and purposes and, truthfully, Christianity doesn’t always help with its conversation about “paths” and “guidance” and deliberate service.  I think we do ourselves a disservice when we have this idea that God has a way laid out for us that we need to find and follow and stop getting distracted by that lovely woodpecker off to the left.

Because this job is everything that I didn’t think was “right,” really.  It would be for a longer period of time than I’d originally allotted, it’s not in a direct service/church track, it’s clerical (which is what I’ve been doing for a decade), and parts of it are way out of my training and experience.

And you know what?  It’s kind of perfect.  Blast it all—it’s with people with whom I work now and absolutely love, it would be fantastic experience to have down the line, and pretty much everyone has given me overwhelmingly good feedback on this possibility.  My current boss is bending over backwards to guide me into it, and that kind of confidence is both horrendously intimidating and an absolute gift.

The timing, it was recently pointed out to me, would also be a gift, though it doesn’t seem like it at all—it would keep me here, where I am learning and growing and painfully, painfully understanding, one small aha moment at a time.  The Journey Of Life Is Long And The Path Unknown (Ladakh)And somewhere in the universe I feel God smile that I should see that; that I should understand it’s not about What I Will Accomplish but Who I Am Becoming, that service to Him isn’t dependent on where I am or what I’m doing but how I’m doing it, which is something my friend Boss (whom I can’t believe I’ve not mentioned before) has been trying to tell me for years.

This is not to say that I’m abandoning the idea of ministry in whatever format, not least because I definitely don’t have  the job yet and am not at all sure I’ll get it.  But it is to say that, once again, God is effing with my plans in order to show me that it’s about His plans, and if I’m serious about following, I have to let Him lead.  Sometimes, that means being where you are, as Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove so very painfully and correctly put it.  Sometimes, you need to have roots to grow, and that’s incredibly painful and tough, and God smiles and reminds us that He never said it would be easy—He only promised we would not have to do it alone.  Perhaps this re-connects to Magister’s nod toward the leap of faith?

So don’t ask your friends who are graduating about their forays into the “real” world, as the one we’re in is excruciatingly real and filled with worries and choices and triumphs and joys.  Ask us, instead, if we need a hand with this transition in any way, if we’re okay about shifting our lives so hugely, if we’d like to go to a movie just to check out for a few hours.  We appreciate your care; we are, after all, real people too.

 

My plans aren’t your plans, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.  Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my plans than your plans.  Just as the rain and the snow come down from the sky and don’t return there without watering the earth, making it conceive and yield plants and providing seed to the sower and food to the eater,  so is my word that comes from my mouth; it does not return to me empty. Instead, it does what I want, and  accomplishes what I intend.  (Isaiah 55:8-11, CEB)