Do the hard thing

Running doesn’t come easy for me. I don’t have fast twitch or apparently slow twitch muscles. An every day run feels just as hard as the first run I took almost 6 years ago. No matter what, I go out day after day and do the hard thing.

I do it because I feel good after.

I do it because it releases the crazy from my head.

I do it because it’s good for my heart.

I do it because I love the moment I stop and feel the accomplishment

I do it because it is hard.

Today was no different than any other run. I’ve been sick and I went out not expecting much more than pounding my feet on the pavement. My 10:44 pace at mile one dropped to 10:09 at Mile 2. At mile 3 I was at a 9:57. And when I stopped, with chest heaving and legs burning I was at a 9:34. Not bad for low expectations.

I do the hard thing because that’s what I do. There is one area in my life that I struggle to live that way.

At church.

I’m struggling. I don’t agree with the state of the church. It is a point where my generational beliefs are clashing with denominational doctrine. Church is stuck somewhere in the 1950’s while the rest of the world adapts and changes with expanding consciousness.

It’s hard to live in this space. Unlike my run today, I don’t feel a rush of endorphins after I’ve been there on a Sunday morning, I just feel more conflicted. Because no one will talk about what we need to talk about.

The hard stuff. The stuff that has no immediate answers. The stuff we don’t always agree on.

We don’t go out and restore the community. Fight for social justice. Fling our doors open wide. We don’t wrestle with why there is such a disparity between the church and the way we feel.

Instead we show up on a Sunday and wonder where all the passion is.

I want to wrestle with the hard questions. It’s what Jesus did. He always questioned someone’s firm belief. A belief held by the synagogue and people since as long as they could remember. So long, sometimes they forgot why they think it.

You may know this story. Jesus was invited to eat with a Pharisee and he came. A woman heard where he was and she bought perfume. She mixed tears with the perfume and cleaned Jesus’ feet. The Pharisee was mad, because if Jesus was who he said he was, he would know not to consort with the woman.

Jesus answered of course in a parable and turned the tables on Simon, the Pharisee. And said. You, who have little to be forgiven for, haven’t honored me once since I came as your guest. Yet this woman sought me out and cleansed me in her remorse. She loves much and is forgiven much. Her life doesn’t separate her from me, it brings her closer.

Don’t you feel like the church sometimes is a gatekeeper for God when we should be the welcoming committee? We should lead as many people to his feet as possible. Not to fix them or change them, but to allow them a space of healing. Change. Reconciliation. Rebirth.

Beauty from ashes.

This is the church I want. I want a church that reads the Bible as the living, breathing, growing book it is. Jesus answered the hard questions of HIS day; who isn’t a part of the tribe and how can we bring them in. If you look back through the old testament, you’ll see the story hasn’t changed much, only the politics of who is in and who is out.

I will continue to show up to church. It’s a hard thing. The hardest thing. I look to people like Shane Claiborne or Pope Francis who don’t want to draw circles around who’s in and who’s out, but spread the circle so wide no one is excluded.

Spread-your-circle-of

I’m not sure what will happen to churches if we continue to be the Pharisees and we keep arguing about who God considers part of his tribe.

We know his answer.

We all are. So why don’t we act like it?

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Expect Light

Friends, this Christmas season is hard. A year ago my grandfather passed away just after midnight the day after Christmas. A fitting exit for a pastor of 50 years.

This, on the longest night of the year, these losses become stumbling blocks for us mere humans. The skies are gray. The sun barely comes up before it makes its descent back below the horizon. Heaviness keeps our feet firmly on the ground and distracts us from looking upward.

It is dark. But the dark doesn’t have to consume us.

This year. This advent I have chosen to embrace joy. Not only embrace it, but actively look for it every day. No matter what I face. My heart heavy or light. It has gotten me through a lot of dark days.

I choose joy.

Today I saw all my favorite people in the world come together to raise 1 million dollars for a worldwide refugee crisis. In four hours they raised 200,000 through a max of 25 dollar donations per person.

These are people who choose joy in the face of darkness.

But joy doesn’t have to be big to be felt. It can be as simple as spending time in silence. A sip of good coffee before the melee of family togetherness, a deep breath before the onslaught of 2 weeks of Christmas vacation. There is always space for joy. Darkness can’t crowd it out.

This has been a hard year. It’s been a year full of loss. For me. For our community. For our world. No matter what, I believe that restoration and reconciliation are nearby waiting for us to whisper them onstage.

Joy combats the darkness. Joy combats anger. Joy combats hurt. Joy combats everything. When we choose to look for it in the mundane hardness of everyday life our world changes.

Our hearts change.

The earth changes.

Today, on this longest of nights don’t expect more darkness.

Expect the light.

lightjohnEmbrace joy. Invite light into your corner of the world and change it.

 

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God Does

elizabethThe Lord has done this for me.

I’ve been thinking a lot about these words after giving a message on Elizabeth at church. Any time I open up the bible to a story I think I know well, I am struck by how little I really know.

This is where my husband usually quotes Game of Thrones

You know nothing Jon Snow.

Elizabeth didn’t receive visions from God that we know of. Time and time again her passages show us she reacts to the Spirit within her. When she greets Mary for the first time as expectant mothers, it is described as the Holy Spirit fills her. When she names John she knows the name he is to be given even though her husband has been made mute because of his disbelief.

The Lord has done for me.

What joy Elizabeth must have lived with. No matter the circumstances, no matter how bleak the outcome seemed she was filled with the certainty that God does.

What is God doing for you this advent season?

 

 

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Inexplicable Joy

You’ve seen it, right? Someone who has joy when the world says he shouldn’t. Someone who shares the joy in her heart when all you want to do is make her life better.

Joy is inexplicable. It collides with our hearts and explodes in our minds at the least likely moments. I love the taste when I am going about the mundane activities of life and joy taps me on the shoulder

and reminds me it is always there. Even when I can’t see it.

Joy is inexplicable and glorious, and it invites you in today.

InexplicableJoy

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Invite Joy In

The first sip of coffee from a freshly brewed pot

The stillness of the morning when I am the only one awake

Walking through a just cleaned house

A shower after a sweaty run

A mug of tea, a good book and a hot bath

The first bite of a maple creamstick

The kids’ deep belly laughs

A kid on my lap with a book

Watching the kids concentrate on an activity they love

Understanding a concept for the first time

I could go on.

Why don’t we recognize joy in the everyday? Why don’t we look for it wherever we are? Why is it elusive?

Why do we think it can be bought?

How can my joy collide with someone else’s?

When I think about joy colliding I think of the story of Mary and Elizabeth in Luke. The preparer and the prepared, in one space smothered in joy. It was invited in and both women embraced it, owned it and spread it. Their hearts were already marked for joy.

Advent is a season of joy that gets lost in manufactured complacency. I want to be attacked with joy this season. I want it to tumble out of me and stumble into the people I meet. Joy doesn’t just happen though.

InviteJoy

Can you see joy every day? Will you share it?

 

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Let’s Go!

Where are you heading this advent season?

I love the story of the shepherds in the Christmas story. Here are normal everyday people going about the mundane details of their lives when all of a sudden they are hit with a message they can’t ignore.

God is here.

God is with us.

Go and see him.

They don’t debate. They don’t make arrangements to take care of the sheep in their absence. Or run home to tell their families what happened. Their response is simple

BethlehemadventThey went. They didn’t look for the best time or argue they had too many responsibilities. They were told God is here

and they went to see him.

They knew exactly where he was and how they would find him.

All they had to do was believe.

If you were told God was here, would you go?

We wait for an invitation that has already arrived. We wait for directions and others to join us. But your call from God has come, so why haven’t you gone?

This advent season prepare your heart to go. Ask for a faith that allows you to drop the cloak of disbelief.

God is with us.

Will you go?

 

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Friday Encouragement

The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,for the earth will be filled with the knowledge o

Advent is about hope. It is hope in the waiting. Hope in the joy that is to come. Hope in the peace our earth and bodies cry for.

We are a hopeful people.

Even in tragedy. Even in grief. Even in mourning. Even in the drudgery of the day to day.

We hope. We hope because we know the Lord’s love comes and covers the earth like water.

Today live in hope. In the midst of trials and waiting remember our hope comes with expectation. The certainty it is already done.

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