Archive for April, 2010
I write almost everyday. Usually it’s nothing eloquent or profound; actually more often than not it’s nothing more than muddled words and loosely strung together thoughts and prayers. But I still write it down.
I started writing in a journal when I was in the 6th grade. It was my mom’s suggestion (and probably desperation) to help her high-strung-stressed-out-daughter who couldn’t really express what she was feeling. I filled pages and pages of journals.* The pages were safe to express my growing worry and insecurity. And those pages also kindly held my hopes and dreams without passing judgment or disbelief. Writing allowed me room to be me without having to filter through my own or others expectations of who I should be.
I know that a lot of what I write is not new. Someone else has probably already said it better and/or sooner, but I am learning that writing is not about impressing people or being the first to discover some great thought. Writing is about creating space to tell a story. To tell my story. Writing gives room for ideas and feelings to take meaning and shape, when they might have otherwise sayed buried somewhere deep within.
Henri Nouwen said, “We have to trust that our stories deserve to be told. We may discover that the better we tell our stories the better we will want to live them.”
This makes me want to write and live a better story. What about you? Do you like to write? What story to tell yourself?
(*yes, somewhere in some over-sized box at my parents house I still have these journals. And yes, I know one day I’ll have to throw them away)
I have been curled up in a coffee shop for most of the morning. I have a list of things to do: thank you letters to write, papers to grade and emails to respond to. Each task warrants my attention, but the truth is I am distracted. My heart and mind feel mixed up and overwhelmed, like a dryer that keeps spinning around the same wet mess of clothes all jumbled up and intertwined. I have all of these ideas cycling through my head, but I can’t make sense of them yet.
Conferences have a way of doing this to me. They suck you in with thousands of great ideas and inspirational thoughts and then spit you out to sort through them all. blah.
So now I am doing the sorting through, processing and thinking about. I spent two full days last week at Catalyst, a conference geared for church leaders, pastors and directors of non-profits— none of which entirely define me, but all which deeply affect me.
Perhaps the best part of the conference was that these people- these pastors, authors, media analysts, creative visionaries, artists and non-profit directors believe that there is hope for this next generation. They believe that the church has to change. And that excites me.
Hope for Change
I have been in the church for most of my life, but I have probably struggled more in the past year to fit in at a church. I sometimes wonder where is there room for a left-leaning, creative, passionate follower of Christ who wants to engage in dialogue not doctrine, and whole-heartily believes that we should spend more time loving people for who they are than lecturing them about right from wrong.
I confess: I know that I am young and I have a lot to learn, but I am seeking to understand and live like this man named Jesus. I am trying to make sense of this radical, subversive man who honored and acknowledged women in a culture where they lived as second-class citizens, who sough out and actually chose to spend time with the tax collectors, the sick and the marginalized. Jesus’ harshest judgments and warnings were for us; for me, the Pharisees, the church goers. What does that mean for me? For you? For the church?
Called to Love
I believe somewhere we have inadvertently taken authority to be the judge of people and society. I can’t remember where I read or heard this (so forgive me for not giving credit where credit is due) but it went something like this: God’s job is to judge, the Holy Spirit convicts and we are called to love. That’s it.
Andy Stanley, one of the speakers at the conference, challenged a room full of 3,000 leaders of this next generation, What if we lived this out? What if we embraced and preached and acted upon Jesus’ command to “Love one another.” In John 13 he says, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples.” I have heard this passage numerous times, but I have never let it resonate and ring so clearly. Imagine if people knew Christians because of our love? I mean really imagine it–Imagine what our world would be like if people thought…hmm, I want to be a part of that church because they are so loving. Or imagine if people thought…wow, that person doesn’t agree with me, but they really love and care about me. This is radical. And it was radical back then in Jesus’ day and it still is 2,000 years later.
Reggie Joiner, the founder and CEO is of reThink Group, a organization that helps churches connect with this next generation, reminded us that the church is called to be like the father in the prodigal son story. Our job is welcome people, embrace them and shower them with love and forgiveness. This is where people meet Christ and this is how people change. People don’t change by shame and guilt, they change through relationships and love. He left us with this question: Where will people go when they have wandered away from the church? He added, “It’s not if, but when. Because the truth is we all know people who will or already have wandered away from church. It’s part of this generation’s process. But he challenged us “You want to be sure that they can wander back to your church to be welcomed and embraced.”
Just like the father in Luke 15 who when he saw his son far off he was “filled with compassion [so] he ran to him [and] threw his arms around him.
the story says that the Father threw his son a party. Yep, a party.
My hope is that church can throw a lot more parties in the years to come.
Last week I spent 5 days with my sister in Boston. Bundled up in coats and scarves we wandered through the rain around the streets of Cambridge. When we were younger our relationship centered around doing gymnastic routines in the front yard, playing 20 questions at night in our bunk beds and arguing over who took whose schruchie. I kid you not. I was the bossy, commanding, older sister and she was the sweet, easy going, middle child. And even though we sometimes still fall into those constraining birth order roles, I think we have come a long way in learning to be both friends and sisters.
We spent a lot of time just talking; curled up on the couch, sitting over a cup of coffee, or sharing appetizers at dinner. We managed to fit in some dancing one night and shopping the next morning- both equally enjoyable especially when there is this wonderful thing called the free “coat check.” I had never experienced that before. And did you know there is no sales tax on clothes in Boston? yesssss. We spent a good number of miles walking which is a great in a city that caters to pedestrians. Imagine 4-way stops where floods of people cross every which way and the cars just wait. ha. We managed to take every form of public transportation possible- yes, we hopped on and off the T, waited for the bus, and hailed a taxi. Steph took me to one of her favorite cafes, Flour and I wandered around little bookstores with stacks of books and cute greeting cards.
I was so impressed by my sister, Stephanie. She has a meaningful job working with people from all different cultural and religious backgrounds. She creatively started and now organizes yearly events like Soccer Nights for the entire city of Cambridge (check it out here). She has incredible friends who love her and an adorable apartment on the 5th floor of a charming building right by Harvard Square. Not only did I get to enjoy Boston, but also I got to see part of Steph’s life. There is something about being present with someone that brings together what cell phone conversations and text messages cannot. Now if only I could have brought the sunshine with me.