Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Church is a verb

Dear God,
This is Kelley.

Janknegt's Road to Emmaus
Many people have negative images for the word "church." From what I have heard, these images come to some people's minds:  taker rather than giver; an obligation; a place for petty people to rule; an exploiter of the naive; control-freak; rule-giver.

I've seen church look like this. My own church can look like this sometimes, and my own actions and omissions lend themselves to one or more of these images. The knowledge that I'm part of the problem keeps me coming back. Well, that knowledge and my experience of the church as positive:  transformer; gate of tremendous grace; doorway to You; scrubber of human beings; place to ponder, think, analyze, question.

I hear what You say in Ephesians about the church:  "At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ's body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence." (1:22-23; The Message translation)

This is both truth and our prescription. We are both the recipients of this truth and the participants in bringing this about. In other words, Lord, we have to stick around in church, making it all these things, yes? And in doing so, we receive all these things. Yes, this I know to be true.

So, are the negative images of church accurate? Not really -- those images are painted by us, by our failings, our sins, our ignorance. What is church is the verb part -- the transformation that happens, the change, the forgiveness, the insight, the wisdom that dawns, the open mind, heart, and hand, the aha moments when You are glimpsed. That's church! And we need to be about making sure we are there to experience that!

Monday, June 29, 2015

May he see You, Lord

Dear God,
This is Kelley.

You mean very little to him. He does not acknowledge You. He does not think You are important, relevant, participatory in our lives. You are an historical figure without any real connection; and the perceived connection has been so clouded by duplicitous, controlling, abusive people, he cannot and will not put forth the effort to see if there's anything of substance beneath the heaps of garbage he's been subjected to from "religion" over the years.

And so I stand here alone with You. Does he think me silly? stupid? Or, worse yet, does he think me still hoping, with eyes shut tight, so terribly naive, still clinging to an image of You as a loving person, unwilling because of my great need to see that You just aren't really there? In his mind, have I "identified" with my captor, fallen in love with an abuser? Have I created this exchange of hearts between You and me? In his mind, have I?

And if he would concede that You are here for me, what does that mean for him? Could You stand for me but not for him? Does he not want to see that You are all that he would think You should be?

The truth I see in him, Lord -- it is profound; it is the "high truth," the truth in its purest form. He has managed to distill from it all the hangers-on our world, through fear and pride, has tried like mad to attach to it. But he has also distilled from it its personhood ... You. This truth he takes refuge in ... is You.

May he see You, Lord. May he want You. And may I never do anything that would keep him from seeing You.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

What does that even mean?

Dear God,
This is Kelley.

"Put on the mind of Christ" is one of my favorite Bible verses. And because it is, I often use it. So, it was shocking to me yesterday when I used it with my 24-year-old daughter and she responded with frustration, "Yea, but what does that even mean?" I stopped dead in my tracks, figuratively speaking.

Emmaus, Janet Brooks Gerloff
How often do we well-meaning adults, Lord, use language that goes right by those we want so badly to share our experience of You with? How often do our words get dismissed because we're just not understood? How many of these verses do we figure they will "get" as easily as we do?

So, I ask myself, when did I come to understand Paul's urgent message to "put on the mind of Christ?" Did it move me, leap off the page to me when I was 11 or 12? No. Did it make a profound impact at 16? No. Early 20's? Can't say that it did. So, why I ask myself now, am I using it without explanation as I serve our young people in the parish?

Thank You, Lord, for my daughter's words. These profound and sometimes life-altering verses cannot be so if we do not take the time to "open" them to others, just as You did on the way to Emmaus. Yes, we can rely on Your Spirit to teach but You often do so through us!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Something happens when we look

Dear God,
This is Kelley.

I used to do this every day, Lord, come here to this page to meet You. Then, somehow, I let it in that it didn't matter -- that what I had to say here didn't make any difference, not in my life nor in the lives of any other. But what I forgot was the exchange. Doing this each morning, putting myself at Your feet, listening, looking, watching, waiting, something happens in me in that time. You come down to act in those moments. Something happens in a human being when he or she stops to look for You.

"Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage," (Psalm 27:14).

"I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits," (Psalm 130:5).

I can crumble in a moment. My demons can come and swallow me. I can focus on one negative event from my past and let that prove all is lost. I can feel the shadow from my past begin to overcome me, with all its anger and despairing messages. I can. Or, I can turn toward You and recognize what was just as true during those dark hours -- You were there. And I might even posit Your presence there was even more true, for look with Whom I am speaking right now. I may not be whole, but I am strong when I stand with You.

We cannot do without that exchange, not any of us. Even those who call You by some other name; they, too, are better for lifting their spirits up, giving over, being with this Force that is higher, greater, even brooding over us. You.

Forgive me, Lord, for not coming every day. I know I need You every day. I just forgot about the importance of what You do within me when I come and stay with you a while.