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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

On Flights and Fear

I’m completely preoccupied with time, these days.  Last week I wrote a piece about the passage of time and how… maybe… it doesn’t heal all things, but today I am at odds with myself over this.  It’s probably because I’m booking flights.

I used to be terrified of flying.  I flew a couple of times as a kid (my mom was visibly terrified on the flights, so that probably didn’t help).  I flew to Florida with one of my kids, once, because she had an event there and friends gave us free tickets.  In the first 35 years of my life, I flew a total of 14 times.  Then my life changed, and in addition to new responsibilities; saving travel time became a priority. 

Two years ago, I boarded a flight to Portland, OR and had a mini-panic attack as I took my seat.  I then proceeded to fly 18 times (many of them alone) over the next 18 months.  Maybe this is specifically on my mind because one of the flights I booked, today, is to Portland again.  Maybe it’s because I am actually waiting a couple of days to book another flight, because I want my rewards points to clear, so I can fly free!  It is so weird that this is exciting.  I’m not certain whether it was time or experience or something different altogether that changed my perspective, but the truth is I now love flying.  I did not see that coming.

I have been thinking (and talking) a lot about the “big fish in a little pond” concept, lately, and I came across this quote the other day that resonated incredibly deeply:

“We can't be afraid of change. You may feel very secure in the pond that you are in, but if you never venture out of it, you will never know that there is such a thing as an ocean, a sea. Holding onto something that is good for you now, may be the very reason why you don't have something better.” - C. JoyBell C.

I’m going to have the opportunity to essentially fly coast to coast, this fall, taking in both the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean in less than a week’s time.  As a side note; since water also used to be one of my greatest fears, I think I may have lived into my mantra for last year, #LessFearIn2016, quite well, because I’m incredibly excited about a sea to sea soul care and vision casting trip, bookended by theological “business” and people I really like!  I sometimes stop to shake my head, asking the question, “Whose life is this?” 

Ironically, it’s mine… 

And so, it’s late August.  Per normal, I am not where I thought I’d be, but I’m so glad I’m here…


Thursday, August 17, 2017

God Who Tastes

There’s a reason I saved this one for last.  I have never, ever heard anyone preach, teach, or even speak about the God who tastes.  In some way, I think it’s too difficult around which to wrap our minds.  We can wax metaphorical about sight, sound, and touch.  Admittedly, smell was a little more difficult.  But taste is so completely human.  It’s hard to create a sense of spirituality around something so common…

Interestingly, though, if we’re going to embrace the trinity, where Jesus is certainly one of the three; we might have more evidence of a tasting God than any other sense.  How often do we find Jesus around the table?  A lot…

Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners (see Mark 2).

Jesus presumably eats with his good friends: Martha, Mary, and Lazarus (see Luke 10) and a random guy he finds in a tree (see Luke 19).

Jesus feeds hoards of people with almost nothing… twice… (see Matthew 14 and 15).

The last thing Jesus does with his twelve disciples is to share the first Eucharistic meal (see Matthew 26), and then he becomes the Eucharistic meal… which is fascinating, since he also teaches that we are something of a food additive… salt of the earth (see Matthew 5).

Peter writes that we can actually taste the goodness of the Lord (see I Peter 2).

Jeremiah suggests that we can eat God’s words (see Jeremiah 15), and the author of Hebrews backs it up (see Hebrews 6).  Ezekiel takes it literally (see Ezekiel 3).

Why don’t we ever speak plainly about the God who tastes and… related… the God we can eat?  I’m not sure.  Maybe it’s because we’re afraid of the same repercussions that Jesus faced in John 6 or that the Catholic Church faced in light of a misunderstanding regarding cannibalism!  Seriously… I have no idea!

But clearly, in this search for holistic spirituality that encompasses physical sense as well as mind and spirit, taste is not to be excluded.

Gathering to eat together is one of the most vulnerable, intimate things we can do.  This past week, I learned that there has been a recent study regarding the impact that eating the same foods, with others, has on our relationship and interactions.  One observation from this study was, “Food is about bringing something into the body. And to eat the same food suggests that we are both willing to bring the same thing into our bodies. People just feel closer to people who are eating the same food as they do. And then trust, cooperation, these are just consequences of feeling close to someone” (read the whole article, here).  It’s incredible!  I wonder how we might cooperate more quickly, efficiently, and effectively if we were all eating Jesus!


Monday, August 14, 2017

The Passage of Time

Five years ago, I wrote a short bio for my first graduate class at NNU.  I have no idea how it actually read, but this is what it should have said, “I’m a cynical, jaded, homeschooling mom of five… a pastor’s wife… and I have no idea what I’m doing.”

I am relatively sure I signed my name as “L.” for the first time ever, and thus began a long, unbelievable, sometimes harrowing journey on which I am glad I embarked at least 51% of the time… a journey that shaped and formed my identity more than I imagined it would.

Does time heal all wounds?  I would say no—definitively, no.  But it changes us. I’m not sure I would even be thinking about this if it wasn’t for “Facebook Memories,” which tells me something about the way we process past events in an era where we don’t actually have to remember them on our own in order for them to come back to haunt us.  This one surfaced in the form of a picture of my children a couple of days just before my NNU adventure began.  They were so little.  I like the phrase, “time marches on,” but if I’m real; I think it’s more of a sprint.

Today, I wrote a short bio for my first newsletter at my new local church, where I am the director of family ministries.  If you had asked me, five years ago, where I would be now; this is not what I would have guessed.  I have come to realize that we can only hope that the scales are tipped just enough, every day, that we fall asleep glad for the experience.    

Also, my kids are huge now… some of them closing in on “full grown human being” status.  In another five years, I expect I will be shuffling three off to college (a freshman and two seniors) as I continue to live through teenage parenthood and quickly approach an era where that is all I know (Miah was a “late add,” so I will technically still have a pre-teen for a few more months at that point).

James 4:13-15 is hitting me hard, today:

“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that’” (NIV).   

I like today’s bio better than the one from 2012.  I hope the 2022 bio is fabulous.  I know I have a tendency to blaze ahead so passionately that I can miss the moment, though, so I hope to slow down just a little bit, even though time, itself, cannot seem to be swayed.


P.S. Confession: I'm still not sure I know what I'm doing...

Thursday, August 10, 2017

God Who Touches

I’m getting a lot of mileage out of Genesis 32:24-32 this week:

“So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for it is daybreak.’

But Jacob replied, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’

The man asked him, ‘What is your name?’

‘Jacob,’ he answered.

Then the man said, ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.’

 Jacob said, ‘Please tell me your name.”’

But he replied, ‘Why do you ask my name?’ Then he blessed him there.

So Jacob called the place Peniel (which means face of God) saying, ‘It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.’

The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip” (NIV).

Jacob wrestles with God—Undoubtedly, one of the weirdest passages of Scripture… ever…  And yet it is packed with all kinds of important discussion material: Calling, Blessing, Free Agency, Naming, Struggle, Injury, and Scars.

There may not be a better passage that deals with identity, and that’s saying something, because so much of Scripture is about living into who we are as the people of God.  If you know anything at all about Jacob’s story, you also know that he had a hard time with this from the very moment he was born, clinging to his twin brother’s foot! 

For his entire life, Jacob has wanted to be someone he is not, and I think it’s interesting that God connects this struggle to a new identity.  We’ll get to that, but let’s also think for a moment about how very physical this struggle is.  It’s tempting to ‘over spiritualize’ in such a way that we compartmentalize and fail to interact with God holistically.  That’s part of why I’ve taken so much time to work through this series on God and our senses.  It would be so much easier to back God into a corner where nothing ‘real’ ever happens… where we only have to think good spiritual thoughts a couple of times per week in order to be disciples… where God stays in God’s place, and that certainly isn’t in our actual space. 

But we have a God who touches…

In Jacob’s narrative, it’s not so gently, either!  Sure, in the end Jacob wins.  God doesn’t force us to do anything (see: free will), and Jacob seems to have chosen this wrestling match, even refusing to let go!  Yet he doesn’t walk away unscathed.  In fact, he walks away limping.  There is pain involved.   

I recently got into something of a debate (although that wasn’t my intent) about whether or not our feelings matter.  I would say yes.  I would say our feelings are often an extension of our experience, and it is difficult to argue that something is untrue if there is a firsthand account.  I wasn’t trying to imply that feelings are more important than facts, but I was trying to make it clear that truth can be found in both and that feelings hold more weight than data, like it or not.  I am not a fan of the phrase, “perception is reality,” because perception can certainly be skewed, and I guess I have had enough encounters with people who spin lies to be wary of allowing just any perceived story to stand, but there is no doubt that perception is influential and that misperception must be gently and lovingly corrected in order to avoid disaster. 

To claim that our feelings (physical, emotional, mental, social) have no place in relationship to theology and spirituality is to deny our humanity.  If humanity wasn’t on God’s radar, I’m not sure why Jesus was fully human. 

In this passage about Jacob, God touches him.  God wrenches him.  God breaks him.  It hurts!  That seems awful.

There’s a part of me that wants to say, “Well, at least God let him win,” but there’s another part of me that finds it astounding that, after this battle that lasts all night long, God asks Jacob to let go; and when he doesn’t, God calls Jacob an overcomer and blesses him with a new name that he might actually be able to live into. 

Hebrew parents were serious about naming their kids.  Jacob literally means, “he grasps the heel,” and that’s a Hebrew idiom for, “he deceives.”  This is exactly who Jacob has been for his entire life up to this point, but God renames Jacob after this very long and exhausting night that leaves him broken and limping (and I have to imagine feeling physically and emotionally spent).  God renames him Israel, which means, “He struggles with God,” and then God chooses Israel to be God’s very own people.

How crazy is that?

Well, maybe not that crazy.  Don’t we tend to be closest to the people who touch us deeply?  Another phrase for which I have no affinity is, “We hurt the ones we love the most” (double meaning… can’t even figure out how to make a comma help it read one way or the other), but I can’t say there isn’t some truth to it.  Significant relationships can cause pain, even accidentally, because we are always touching.

God has used struggling people from the beginning.  Don’t let go.  Be blessed.