Archive for May, 2011

May 23, 2011

The Product that Nobody Wants

It’s no surprise to those of you who know me or follow my blog regularly that my life is fueled by relationships. I love having meaningful conversation, the opportunity for long-lasting friendships and who got into the ministry with a dream of helping healthy spiritual communities grow.

But,  in an area like the DC metro region, it seems that while such is a meaningful goal, it often doesn’t go as planned, especially in the church realm of things.

I was having a conversation last week with our pastoral intern, John and he told me with some frustration on his face, “Sometimes I feel like I’m trying to push a product that no one wants.” (He was referring to the Church).

In his six months with us, he’s gotten a taste of how time-consuming, life-changing and exhausting the work of community making is when you are “in charge.” He’s learning that often as much people say that they want something, they don’t have the time and energy to actually follow through unless personal priorities are there already. He’s learning that as much as people tell you, “Pastor, I’m going to be there on Sunday” often times other things get in the way. He’s learning most of all, that in the end, spiritual community is no longer something that people seek out of obligation (DC is not the South).

No, regular engagement with a church only comes from a desire within– God drawing the person into the church and a readiness in the individual to respond to this calling. It’s not something even the best of pastors can make happen. It’s God’s story every local church is writing after all.

I understand John’s frustrations because I came to Washington Plaza with a dream, a really big dream, about what the God could do in this place for the good of the neighborhood, for the good friendships built-in diversity, and with the instruction of sound theological teaching. Yet, no matter how big your dreams are, there are days, weeks, even months, when the hard work of building community must go on even when the results aren’t what you’d hoped them to be.

Sometimes community doesn’t seem to work. The cause seems lost and even some pastors wonder if they are better off pastoring 100% outside of the walls of the church instead of inside. Sometimes even your most faithful and committed members need a break that involves “a church by the bedside.” And, you feel discouraged.

But, still I believe deep down somewhere and I’m encouraging John to keep believing too.

I believe because the church seems to be the only way I know to live out the Christian path I’ve found my life on.

I believe because often when I need it the most a card, an email or a guest shows up on Sunday, with eagerness to be invested in the ministry that God has given us in Reston to carry out together.

I believe because no matter how much I fight it sometimes, I need a faith community and you need one too.

There are countless sparks I see all the time within this local church of people caring for each other in meaningful ways, seniors and young adults feeling emotionally and spiritually nourished because of opportunities to be together, and resurrection being practiced in simple and profound acts weekly.

Just as I was about to post this blog, my phone rang. A woman on the other end had a lot of theological questions for me and was skeptical that a welcoming church like ours was real. “A welcoming an affirming Baptist church in Reston?? A community of people who would want to get to know me??” I shared some good time with her and she promises to visit soon.

So though John and I and countless other colleagues continue to offer (I like this word better than sell) a product (a.k.a Christ centered community) that many might not want (or right now at least), I hold out hope daily that the church might be one day understood by more as what people truly need but didn’t even know that they were looking for. Washington Plaza, for one, will be waiting with open doors.

May 18, 2011

A Pastor and a Writer?

There’s a truth about myself that I’m coming to believe little by little each day. I am a writer.  I think like a writer. And even though I need to permanently hire an editor (anyone want the job?), there are rhythms about my life which always go back to my need to write.

Recently while on vacation, I began to make a list of the things that would bring me most joy, that were essential to my being every day. (A practice I highly recommend). One of the non negotiables on the list was writing. I must write in some form or another every day.  There’s no getting around this. It is who I am.

Though of course, I haven’t actually followed through with the “everyday” pace quite yet, it is something that I am working towards with great hopes for what this kind of discipline will mean in my life.

One of the greatest inspirational statements about writing came when I recently read Stanley Haurwas’ theological memoir, Hannah’s Child. As Haurwas continued to write and wondered about what purpose it served, he said writing was a way to make friends they he didn’t know he had. And such has and I hope will continue to be the case for me.

The thing is for me and writing is that I think about it all the time. I go to bed with ideas of blogs or articles to start. I wake up with ideas. I think of ideas when I’m in my car. I feel clogged up if I haven’t written in a long time. It is just something I must do.

Last fall, I was one of the presenters at the DC Baptist Convention’s annual meeting. The topic was social networking and the church. Since I was the only panelist with a blog, I was charged with explaining about its usefulness in pastoral ministry. It was funny to explain the meaning of a blog to folks mostly in their 60s and 70s, many of whom had a fear of the Internet altogether. Yet, for those who got why a blog could be useful– knowing that it gives an instant connection between the pastor and the congregation– were still puzzled why I did such a thing.

“How do you have the time to keep up such a practice? Doesn’t that take up too much time?” This I was asked over and over again. Yet, my response was simple, “It’s something that I love and would do anyway.”

If your “thing” isn’t writing, it is something else  . . . something that drives your creativity, something that makes you happy when you do it, something that you really want to get better at so that your craft can be shared with a larger audience.

I believe we all function in as the best people God has made us to be when we live into those talents that stir in us great joy. I claim for today that writing is one of such things for me. What about you? Start a list. Who knows where it might lead you too?

May 17, 2011

A Disruption from Greed

 Resurrection: A Disruption from Greed, Acts 2:42-47

 Preached, Sunday, May 15, 2011

Around Thanksgiving over ten years ago, popular radio commentator, Paul Harvey who was known for his popular broadcast, “The Rest of the Story” told the following tale about a woman seeking to make Thanksgiving dinner for her family.

She had a few questions about how to cook her turkey, as many of us first cookers often do, and so she dialed up the hotline set up by the packager of her turkey, Butterball. The Butterball Turkey Company had set up a telephone hotline to answer consumer questions about preparing holiday turkey. When the operator asked the woman what her question was, she said, she found a turkey that had been in the bottom of her freezer for 23 years.  She wanted to know if it was safe to eat? The Butterball representative told her the turkey would probably be safe to eat if the freezer had been kept below zero for the entire 23 years.

But the Butterball representative warned her that even if the turkey was safe to eat, the flavor would probably have deteriorated to such a degree that she would not recommend eating it. The caller replied, “That’s what I thought. We’ll give the turkey to our Church.”

Though this story is funny, I dare say the truth it points out is not far from our reality, even if we aren’t discussing our Thanksgiving turkeys. Often times, church is the place in our lives where we are willing to give of ourselves and our resources to others, but only if we have pre-determined that our time, money or talents will not be better spent somewhere else.

When we look around at the state of communities of faith in our world, we often become disheartened and wonder where all the vitality has gone but then why should we be surprised? Church is the place we known to give our 23-year-old turkeys. . . .

And to this reality we are given our lectionary reading for this morning taken from Acts 2. It’s the popular passage which has fixated the hearts and minds of countless Christ seekers for centuries because everything seems to be going so well at this point of the early church story. Everyone seemed to be giving their best and was very happy about it. They were devoting themselves to teaching and fellowship and the breaking of bread together and prayers. No words are spoken about church fights, disagreements or annoyances between parties about what kind of teaching they heard, what kind of potlucks they had, what type of bread they had for communion or who was called on to say the prayers—it was all good (just as our music director, Ken would say).

Yet, what do you do with such a passage? Where does it lead you if seek to be faithful to it?

Consider this: there is the imitation model, reading Acts 2 as the ideal that we are to live up to. Saying, that only the “true” churches are those who do just as it reads, literally.

Try googling this passage and what you will find is that 67 million hits for “Acts 2 Church” —that’s over a million entries for every verse. There are Baptist, United Methodist, Lutheran, Pentecostal, Pietiest, Mennonite and no end of independent and evangelical congregations that go by the name Acts 2 Church. There are the “Acts 2 Network,” “How to Be an Acts 2 Church,” “Building an Acts 2 Church,” the “Acts 2 Process”—plus, like a million other attempts at incarnating, reviving or re-establishing the original.[i]

Yet, often what happens in this utopia experiments is that something evidentially goes wrong. A pastoral rock star makes a mistake, a fight breaks out about what color carpet to place in the sanctuary, or it is learned that the treasurer uses mission account for his own good and goes on a permanent vacation to the Bahamas. Sounds crazy, but you know as well as I do it is true!

But, if you don’t like this, there is the ignoring model. It says what happened in Acts 2 was just some prose written by author Luke when he was on his “idealistic” high that we really don’t need to pay attention to.

We throw out its value altogether calling it a “call to communism.”

What? I have to give up all my possessions? What? I have to share? What? I have to eat regularly with people who might love Jesus but I don’t like? What? Now that is just too much for my American loving democracy ears to take!

I know that this can be the reaction of the church first hand because of one of the earliest experiences I had my previous post as an associate pastor.

Soon before my first Sunday to preach, I was sat down and told the story of the last time a woman had entered the pulpit there. When this woman got up to preach, using our passage for this morning, she used the opportunity to go off on the congregation. I guess it was the case of a lot of spiritual passion with no one to proclaim to, but from what I heard, she came down hard saying they were not faithful Christians if they didn’t share everything in common with one another.  

She asked everyone at the end of the sermon to go home and consider what it might mean to live in poverty and not be so individualistic about their goods.  Since the senior pastor had not heard me preach before, I got that look like, “Please don’t preach like that or I won’t be sharing my pulpit with you much in the future because you and I won’t have jobs anymore!”

And, if we are in the company of those who want to call Acts 2 socialism, there are countless Biblical scholars who might agree with us.

One such scholar, Rita Halteman Finger has written extensively on the passage saying that Acts 2 is “simply unworkable in the modern context.”[ii]

Yet, do these two scenarios have to be THE STORY? The story that either we seek to achieve the impossible OR we throw the baby out with the bath water, as the old saying goes?

This morning, I propose that there might be an altogether alternative way of narrating and living into this text. Because the truth is that if we read this passage in context of the rest of the Acts story, we know that what is proposed is not communism, nor is it utopia.

For, as Paul goes on to establish church communities in other parts of the world, we never see him breaking out this passage as a formula for what the group ought to look like. Nor, do we find such idealism achieved without a few major errors along the way. It wasn’t as if everything was always rosey in early church land.

There were those who cheated the community what they should have shared—remember Ananias and Sapphira. 

There were those who grumbled because they didn’t get their “fair representation”— remember the dispute between the Greeks and the Jewish Christians about who was getting the proper amount of food. 

There were consequences to the boldness of the teaching in the lives of the disciples— remember Peter and John being detained early on for their public proclamation.  No, nothing was perfect.

But, what Acts 2 provides us is the intentionally of the design of communities of folks seeking Christ together.  Why? Because the Spirit knew that our natural human tendency was to be in relationships with others NOT based on some purpose greater than ourselves or thinking of others before ourselves. Rather, usually, we take our cues from the fear of not having enough which is called greed.  

Yet, the resurrection disrupted everything. Greed could no longer be accepted. Sharing would have to reign as the intention over all.

If we take a close look at the Greek words used in this passage we begin to see it clearer.  Look with me at verse 42: “And they were committing themselves (Greek: proskartereo) to the teaching of the apostles and to the fellowship (koinonia)”

Koinonia is a word that many of you might have heard before—the new fellowship group at Washington Plaza was debating even the idea of this word being the name of their gatherings—it means fellowship but probably in a deeper context than we as good church folks identify with the typical potluck suppers. Rather, koinonia, consists of being community based on both our reality in the present and our hopes for the future. 

And, this notion is further understood when it is paired with the other Greek verb, proskartereo which speaks of the “mutual devotion” in which the disciples sought to gather both in the temple and in their homes. Thus, they were not just getting together because it was the right thing to do, or what was expected of them, or what someone had asked them to do. Rather, they gathered because of their affection for one another and desire to share in life’s joys and sorrows together.

Because you see, the daily gatherings they had with one another would just turn into mere activities occurring side by side in the same place and not koinonia IF mutual devotion to one another was not in place. Without the mutual devotion, there would be no koinonia instead just some get together to pass the time.

The disruption from greed became the loving bonds of true community—where they knew those in whom they were worshipping alongside were in for both for the good and the bad. They were broken, they were real, they could say when they had a need and there would be those in loving, supportive people who could walk alongside them.

All of this in itself is good. Very good, but I tell you there is more!

For, the purpose of all of this was never meant for the koinonia to stay within those who were already experiencing it. For as we read verse 46 and 47 we learn that the community stayed together in glad and generous hearts, the Spirit drew into the community more and more who wanted to participate in their good work.

Because you see the greater plan at work comes to light in another one of the Greek verbs in this passage, homothumadon which means “one accord” or is translated in our passage as having “glad and generous hearts.”  Hear this: the work of the gospel that happened in the community was not just for itself. The gospel message showing up in tangible practices and actions was for the larger good of the world.[iii]

Sure, the early believers could create for themselves a nice little Jesus club and make restrictions about who they could invite to their gatherings and not based on what they hoped the community would look like. Sure, they could bring food every Sunday and only eat it themselves. Sure, they could contribute to mission funds only so that their members could be taken care of. But, if they did, they’d be missing altogether the intention of the church and they would be greedy.

There was a reason, a very important reason, after all, for all of the community building, study and fellowship that just didn’t end in a warm fuzzy feeling everyone saying to one another: “Aren’t we such a good church?” The greater purpose came in seeking after the ways of God’s good intentions for this world together.  The togetherness really did matter. It really did matter a lot. The intention of the Christian life exists for sharing, but sharing not just from individual to individual, but from community to community.

I heard the story this week from one of my colleagues’ churches in Charlotte, NC about content of their Easter service a few weeks ago. Instead of being content with the usual fanfare of the day, with a great individualistic centered focus found in many congregations, this year, the Park Road Baptist Church decided to do something differently. Hearing about the sad situation of young girls living in tent cities in Haiti, unable to go back to their homes post the earthquake, they came up with a congregational wide project.

The information they received from a NGO on the ground was that teenaged girls were often raped or brutally beaten if they were wearing clothes that weren’t dresses. Dresses often served as a protective shield to potential predators, signifying to those who would seek to do the girl harm that they were being cared for and watched after by someone who loved them.

One woman in Charlotte with a sewing machine led the church to action. Going into her linen closet and pulling out old pillow cases unused in years, she utilized a simple pattern and began making the pillowcases into dresses, adding some material for the strap and some decorative extra material at the bottom for the hem.

By Easter, under the leadership of this grandmother, the congregation had over 150 dresses to send to Haiti, and prayed over and blessed them during the Easter worship service.  They hung them all over the choir loft for the entire length of the service. And it was an intentional decision: for the message to the congregation gathered was that resurrection was not an action that happened over 2000 years ago and has nothing to say to us now. Rather, resurrection became for this congregation a disruption to their normal patterns of relating both to their local and global communities. Greed of keeping all their time, all their possessions, all their talents for themselves or their families just couldn’t  be if they were going to continue to make the resurrection message come alive.

And the same intention is same for us, oh people of Northern VA.  What is our calling today? How are we going to share with each other so to continue to make koinonia beyond a permanent fixture of our gatherings? How are we going to share with our brothers and sisters around our community and across the oceans to do our part to eliminate hunger, homelessness, child abuse, discrimination and inequality? Yes, it’s overwhelming to think about such big things. Yes, it seems easier to stand still in our tracts and do nothing. Yes, there aren’t a lot of messages in our cultural society telling us that greed is really that bad for us.

But, if we want to be people of the resurrection, we have to commit anew each week to hold on tight to our community, love each other well and not let us love of God that we experience with one another every Sunday, stay right in this room. Resurrection must be a disruption for all—a disruption from greed to life evermore. 

This is the gospel of Christ.






[ii] Taken from Matt Skinner’s commentary on Fourth Sunday of Easter, April 13, 2008

[iii] Thanks to Mitiz J. Smith for help with the Greek here,

May 12, 2011

Collective Wisdom

Though Proverbs speaks of “grey hairs as a crown of splendor; attained by a righteous life” I don’t buy as much. I was freaking out a couple of weeks ago when I found a chunk of grey hairs– not just one, but several at the top of my scalp. Though I exclaimed loudly in the bathroom: “I am too young for such!” the presence of grey hair remained the same. I realized that this moment was the first of many signs to come, I’m sure, reminding me of my mortality.

Thoughts like this stir up in me a desire to “hurry up and do something” or think about the big questions of life such as, “Am I making the best use of my resources? Am I doing all I can?” And, even questions of “When will I have gotten where I’m suppose to get (whatever this means)?”

Yet, when I sat with a group of strong, authentic and passionate fellow female pastors this week at Sabbath House near Ashville, NC, I realized how easy it can be to become fixated on the wrong questions both in ministry and life.

Sure, we all want to know that we are doing what we should, what we can, and on our best days are making the best use of our best selves, but is this something that we can actually accomplish or conquer?

From my older colleagues by 10 or so years, I heard much about the mistakes of their 30s: too much trying to be in charge, too much worrying about those who appear to be powerful, and not enough living. With as much authority they could muster up, they said to my friends and I in our 30s: “What are you in a hurry so much about for?” “Meaning will come” and “Rest.”

It was the collective wisdom of those of this pastoral journey that is and already has gone ahead of me and that which will come behind me. It’s a spring of wisdom that I’m committed to gathering around on future retreats.  

And, grey hairs I’m learning is just a part of the process. Lessons are learned. Faith is challenged. Doubts arise, but we keep on going. God seems to find a way to pour grace on it all.

But, in the meantime, I’ve quickly found the color bottle. I’m happy to report no more grey: it was the strong collective opinion of the crew that dusty blonde is really a better color for this head of mine . . . for now.

May 4, 2011

A Mother’s Day Disruption

Sunday: it’s the day that is popularly known in churches as the second highest attended day right after Easter. Though not a liturgical holiday, it might as well be one.

Love and appreciation of mother runs deep in our culture, so much so that we are often willing to attend church with our mother even if we don’t normally find ourselves in worship. It’s a day of joy for many; to have their mother or child worshipping beside them at church. It’s a day that countless churches hand out flowers and recognize all the mother’s in the congregation. It’s a day that the preacher of the day is encouraged to speed on through the sermon so that folks can get to the restaurants before all the others . . .

But, should we really be taking all of our cues as a gathered people from our culture?

Like most pastors I know, I see the struggle with Mother’s Day as much as I see the joy (hey, I love it when folks come to church no matter the reason!).

At Washington Plaza, it’s a Sunday that we often place tissues in the pews for tears flow deeply from the cheeks of folks who have recently lost their mother to death, to those who can not be with their mother because long distances separate them or those who are seeking to have children but have not been blessed yet.

So, what a good day for a disruption . . . . a disruption from all that our culture teaches us this Sunday SHOULD be about and reclaiming it for the growth of our communities.

I know no better text than what the gospel lesson from the lectionary offers us this week.

Luke 24:13-44

13Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” 25Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. 28As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”

It’s one of my favorite scriptures of all times– one that I have found illumination from at countless points of my journey.

It’s a text that speaks of Jesus meeting two of his followers in friendship. Walking with them, talking with them, and through conversation illuminating that indeed he was the risen Lord. It’s a text that reminds us that church that Jesus was hoping his followers would create would be about friendships that always transcend human biological relations. And, that in our being together as a community of faith, our normal patterns of relating to one another are interrupted. That in breaking bread together and devoting ourselves to the practice of intentional listening, blessings overflow from our risen Lord.

And, no, the love we all crave doesn’t always come from the usual sources. Sometimes Christ longs to give us deep abiding community from those we least expect.

So, on Sunday, Washington Plaza will acknowledge Mother’s Day, knowing that it is very close to the hearts of some, but we will also hope to stir the imagination of many to reconsider the disruption found in this text. Family is always more than who birth us, who has our last name, or who we naturally have ties to: in the ways of Christ, family is always about a broader welcome of all. For, in Christ’s body, we can all be mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters to one another, and this is indeed something good to celebrate!

May 2, 2011

Resurrection: a Disruption of Order

What would you think if you walked into church on Sunday morning and found that the bulletin was completely blank?

Would you think the office administrator had forgotten something important? Would you think that the pastor was losing her mind? Would you show concern to the music director for the lack of a plan?

In the case of Washington Plaza yesterday, a disruption of order is exactly what we experienced. The bulletin was printed as normal with a thematic picture on the front cover and the announcements on the back cover. Yet, when you opened it up, there was nothing inside.  Two blank pages and worship to unfold as it would . . .  and, no, the staff did not forget to do their jobs. It was an intentionally designed service for our Easter series this year. We would practice the disruption of resurrection together in worship.

The great mystery of the resurrection is that nothing could ever be the same afterwards. Resurrection is strange. Life coming from death? (What??)  There’s nothing logical emerging from it. There is no blueprint. There’s no “ten steps ahead of you” plan given to us by God. Resurrection is the hope of clinging to what has to be lived through, not predicted ahead of time. Such are the ways of the Spirit of God, even as uncomfortable as they might make us feel. 

Yet, does how we structure our lives together as communities of faith in the modern era reflect this?

I’m a planner type– I love plans and find them very helpful in leading a church– don’t get me wrong. But, might our desire for plans in worship, plans stemming from traditions, and plans from what we’ve always done  rob us of what resurrection actually is?

Resurrection as an adventure of not knowing what is next . . . .

Resurrection as a journey of ongoing discovery . . .

Resurrection as following a Teacher whom we trust will lead us in all things . . .

Resurrection as a surrender of our control . . .

I once worked with a pastor who was famous known for barely editing the bulletin Sunday to Sunday. Our services looked almost the same thing every week minus the change of hymns and sermon title. When I got the courage to question him about this once, he replied, “The world is a crazy place, you know. When people come to church, they like things stable. They like to know that some things are always the same.”

As much as this statement goes against church growth strategies and the opinions of my former supervisor, I believe that church is not the place for stability if we are practitioners of the resurrection.

And, while I agree that the heart of the gospel remains the same– no matter the time, no matter the season of the year– I have to think that our worship become boring and stale if it looks exactly the same every Sunday and if we always believe we know what is coming next. If we are glued to our bulletins always type of people, then, we as church leaders are giving permission to our congregants to sleep walk through faith. We easily become those who not are really listening: only standing up and sitting down at the appropriate moments. 

When people come to Washington Plaza, I hope that they experience the gospel presented to them in fresh ways each Sunday. I hope that they take away the idea, no matter what the service theme is about, that the gospel encourages each of us to act. For the resurrection story that we are seeking to enact is ALIVE after all, isn’t it?

And, for those of you who missed it and are wondering, we did just fine with the blank bulletins. In fact, the freedom of the experiment reminded us that resurrection has and always will be a verb.

May 1, 2011

What If?

What if I was using my best God-given gifts, then what would my life look like? Would anything change? What would I do more of and what would I do less?

I’ve been asking myself lots of questions like this lately mostly because I’ve had more time than usual to think. After an exhausting Holy Week, much like every other pastor, I decided to do something crazy this year: take the whole week after Easter off. And, I just didn’t take the week off to sit at home or catch up on around town errands, but I traveled to a beautiful place, somewhere very different from anything that is normal about my life in DC, namely Sedona, Arizona. 

Set in the Red Rock Canyons of the desert southwest, Sedona situates itself not only as a warm community for flocks of northern retirees, but as a spiritual center of mediation, healing and illumination for those in search. You can have your aura read, you can go on a hike in search of a vortex, and can find counselors everywhere.

With all things spiritual being my vocation, you know, of course I was excited about spending some more time in this place where things of the divine are not far from the intentions of many. And, I wasn’t disappointed. Beautiful churches of every sort filled the streets (and from the looks of the outdoor signs it appeared that people actually attended them!).  And, you couldn’t drive ten feet without seeing some sign about a healing center or where to buy healing crystals. The town is a religious lovers’ dream on all fronts!

Even though the whole new age scene is not something I completely understand or regularly pay attention to, it did strike my fancy to be in a lovely place of God’s magnificent creation surrounded by people who are seriously searching for meaning beyond this world just as I am.

Spiriutal seekers seem to be more content than most of it, it seems. I have to say, I did not meet one unhappy person in Sedona. Not one! Everyone from the staff at the hotel, the shop owners and even the guy working the drive-through line at Burger King were among the most cheerful folks I’ve been around in a long time.

And for this reason among many others, there’s something truly centering about being a part of this town, even if your stay is short. You can’t help but begin to see life from the perspective of what is most important, what is real and what brings you joy.

Thus, my countless “what if?” questions emerged. It surprised me to have such confidence to begin to ask them. I knew that if I was invested in answering, the hooks on which I hang the pillars of my daily activities might have to change. Priorities might shift. Relationships might begin again. Life-giving experiences might come from new sources.

What I found, though (again, a surprise) is that in simply asking the: “What if ____?” questions, joy was already waiting for me there. There was delight in having the time and the freedom to imagine my life not from the perspective of obligation, prior commitments, or what might be expected of me, rather, what is most real.  

What if I had the courage to live out of my most authentic gifts? What if I had the freedom to be fully the woman I was made to be? What if nothing held me back?

Such questions are among those I’m continuing to ponder and keep close even as I’ve re-entered the world of all things church. So, I’m thankful, yes, deeply thankful that the gospel word today came to us as “My peace I give to you” for when you begin to stir up all of the “what ifs?” about your future, an extra dose of peace is needed to see the process through.

I hope that even if you don’t make it to Sedona anytime soon (though I highly recommend it), you’ll have enough quiet time to begin to ask some “What if?” questions of your life as well. After all, just as one person in Sedona said to me this week, “Life is too short not to keep it real.”

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