This year has been one for the history books, obviously. It has demanded much from us, taken much from us, and kicked us while we’re down. If I take a step back from it, I can see how it offered some invitations as well.
Mostly the past year has offered an invitation, a forceful one, to slow down. Life came to a screeching halt almost exactly a year ago; our social calendars were wiped clean and even our careers changed drastically. The busyness we had grown accustomed to was suddenly impossible to maintain and we had to come face to face with the reasons we fill our schedules. Anyone else? Anyone else learning that they don’t actually
like having all their evenings and weekends filled with plans? That having less social commitments is not only ok, but sort of enjoyable? Just me?
Don’t get me wrong, I will welcome back concerts and events and parties and weddings with the most open arms. But I am recognizing this invitation to really eliminate excess and focus on the essentials has been really, really good for me. In normal life, I am always exercising my “no” muscle and now I just don’t even have to as much.
For our winter training with our student leaders, I did a workshop on self-care and boundaries. I started with a theological basis for these practices, as some Christians seem to think that the holiest way of living is to ignore your own needs until you are so unhealthy you can’t ignore them any longer. I actually think Jesus modeled a sustainable way of living that involved both self-care and boundaries, and as we are called to embrace His way, we should be considering these practices for ourselves as well.
Essentially the theology behind it is this: keeping the Sabbath, or setting aside time for rest and communing with the Lord, is one of the Ten Commandments. You know, on the list with “do not murder” and “do not steal,” He also told us to set aside a day of the week to rest. But we think of “keeping the Sabbath” as a suggestion rather than a commandment. We do not take it seriously. Second is that all too familiar Christian catchphrase, “your body is a temple.” What I told my students and what I will tell you is that this is much more than “don’t have sex or get tattoos” like our youth pastors may have told us (I don’t think Jesus would tell us either of those things, when done in the right context). 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 says, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.” This involves much more than avoiding cigarettes, it shows us that God holistically cares about us, not just our hearts or minds but our health and our bodies as well.
I don’t know about you, but I have realized in this season my need for joy. It actually feels like desperation. It has been so easy to be stressed, worried, frustrated, anxious, you name it. Discouragement has been constantly within reach, considering the state of the world and how divided our nation has been. On […]
This summer as I connected with my team, I was anticipating so many feelings and potential frustrations at what this school year might look like. My sweet Assistant Resident Director is a senior this year, and before I spoke with her on the phone I told my husband, “I just wouldn’t even be surprised if she wants to quit and not come to school this year.” Not because we are doing anything more extreme than any other college, but just because in every way and every area of life, things are just not what they should be. We can all agree that a student’s experience this year is vastly different than what it has been and what we would all like it to be.
But then she surprised me by giving this simple response: “I’m just really curious what this year will look like!”
Immediately I was convicted, having expected disappointment and frustration — and being met with hope and expectation instead.
And just that simply, she offered a vision and a posture that I am trying to embody and to pass along to others for life right now. It inspired the question: What would it look like to practice curiosity this year?
At my best, I am thrilled about this option. At my worst, it feels like too much work.
Curiosity is the much more hopeful, eager cousin of doubt. Curiosity is humble, hopeful, and a much healthier avenue for hard conversations.
After a particularly hard week this summer, I received a package in the mail from Amazon. Usually I know what we’ve ordered from Amazon, and we weren’t expecting anything. I opened it to find a pack of face masks (not the kind we are used to wearing now, think spa face masks) that my Mom had sent me.
I texted her and told her they had arrived and she said, “I want you to close your eyes and reflect on God’s goodness and faithfulness in the midst of suffering… and soak in His love.”
Leave it to my Mother to turn using a face mask into a beautiful spiritual discipline.
She said it made her think of 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 that says, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
Our faces should reflect the glory of God. Spending time with Him leads to us looking more like Him. We all know that we start to look and act like the people we spend the most time with, it is just as true with God.
So I began a new spiritual practice I like to call “soaking.” I put on my face mask, I set a timer on my phone for 15-20 minutes and then put my phone far enough away from me that I cannot be distracted by it. I lay down and spend that whole time soaking in God’s goodness.
It’s my birthday. Here are my thoughts.
I’ve maybe never been more thankful for life. This year has been a doozy, for all of us. We’ve all been drudging through a pandemic and we all have our “and also’s.” It isn’t even a comparison game, “well my life is harder than yours!” It just feels plain hard across the board. I could list so many challenging things that people close to me have faced. So many circumstances that have pushed us all to the ends of ourselves. And we live in a world that is so divided, our only interaction is on social media where we don’t have conversations we just yell at each other and share our apparently always-right opinions.
Listen, I’m too tired to be a jerk. We are too overwhelmed to be mean to each other. There just isn’t room for it. We have done such a good job at politicizing things that never should have been divisive, alienating groups that should have been each other’s allies, inflicting pain over and over and over again when what we need is to be healing each other.
Like many of you, I’m sure, I have been wrestling through what to do in the face of tragic situations that have happened recently. I’m answering in the only way I know how, through prayer. No matter our backgrounds or beliefs, I hope these words ring true for us all.
Forgive us, Lord, for creating a world where atrocities like the ones we have seen can happen.
Teach us to see people through Your eyes, and treat people with Your kindness.
May we not be overwhelmed or paralyzed by our grief and sadness, but instead motivated to action, seeking change and reconciliation.
Keep us from moving backwards, guide us forward towards progress.
Help us recognize our own biases and privileges, and have the humility to do something about them.
Forgive us for finding excuses, for explaining things away, for allowing all the tragedies that we have allowed.
May we not be motivated by personal gain or political party or any other self-benefitting cause.
May we not begin to hate others as a response to hate.
May we be motivated by love and holy justice.
Protect us from creating more “us versus them” mentalities.
Transform us and our worldviews.
Come, Lord Jesus.
Heal our world from our sinful ways of treating one another.
Keep us from hurtful generalizations and dangerous assumptions.
Teach us a better way.
What does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
We all know how real the struggle of comparison is in our society today. With our lives constantly on display on social media, it is hard not to measure how well we are doing or how successful we are in comparison to other people. During this time where we all are simplifying, I hope that we can spend some time releasing the urge to compare ourselves to everyone else. I hope this can be a start.
Forgive us, Lord, for the time we have wasted,
trying to prove whatever it is we are trying to prove to one another.
Help us in this time of simplicity,
of cancelled plans,
quiet evenings spent at home,
to let go of comparing ourselves to everyone around us.
Whatever it is we are hoping to gain — likes, follows, admiration, status,
show us what matters more.
I have needed to read this over myself multiple times this week. I found even in the midst of writing it how easily I run to anxiety instead of to the caring, safe hands of the Father. Praying for each of you that is experiencing any level of fear during this time, and I hope this provides a moment of peace for you.
Forgive us Lord, for being consumed by fear.
Forgive us for running toward panic as an attempt at control.
When circumstances are blatantly unknown,
when loved ones are in danger,
when hope seems so far away,
forgive us for choosing panic.
Help us choose to trust You confidently, rather than running to other things we think might give us peace: information, numbing, scrolling, hiding.
I’ve been thinking a lot about grief throughout this season. We are all slowly moving through the grieving process — a loss of what we once knew — moving from denial toward acceptance. Whether your grief is very specific today or a general grief of what life should be, I hope today’s liturgy is a helpful way to connect with Jesus.
You are a God who grieves with us.
You, our mighty God, Creator of all good things, You hold space for our sadness and longing.
You understand more than anyone that “this is not how it was meant to be,”
because you created it all.
You spoke the earth into existence, with the intent of peace, beauty, community, love, and health.
You grieve with us.