Archive for ‘discernment’

November 7, 2013

Getting Married to God

On Monday, November 4th, I celebrated the 7th anniversary of my ordination.

Seven years ago this week, I stood at the front of a church– Calvary Baptist Church in Washington DC and said to the congregation gathered of family, friends and congregation members that I would serve God in my vocational pursuits. I said I would set aside personal interests for the sake of the community of Christ. I said I would seek to embody, teach and share the gospel with my life. I said I would do all of this for as long as I lived.

After the service, we gathered in the church social hall and ate sausage balls and cheese dip among my other favorite snacks made by my future mother-in-law. There was a cake with a picture of me preaching with a huge, “Congratulations, Pastor Evans!” on it.

A big day all around.

The night before the service, I sat upright the in bed lounging with my closest girlfriends who came into town for the celebration (Baptist ordained pastors as well) trying not to be so anxious.

Over a bag of chips on top of the brand new white comforter I finally had the money to buy in my first post-seminary job, I recounted to them my deepest fear about the hours to come.

It wasn’t about the music going awry.

It wasn’t about the having to kneel for so long at the front of the church without my legs falling asleep as people prayed prayers of blessing over me.

It wasn’t whether or not I’d be able to pray the benediction as I’d planned to say without being too emotional.

No, it was a cry of: “I don’t want my life to be over.”

I was having pre-ordination jitters; the kind where I really knew that this moment in my life was a really big deal.

And even as my pastoral support girlfriend team sought to calm me down saying that my life wasn’t really over. They said things like, “You’ll still have fun. . . We’ll make sure of that. Being ordained doesn’t make you any less human.” There was part of me that felt the weight of the shift.

It was like I was getting married to God. I had one last night of freedom.

I ate more chips.

And though I had done everything I could to finally make it to this day– the improbable feet as a Baptist woman in ministry getting a Reverend in front of her name– when I stood in front of the altar on November 4, 2006, the relationship of God and I being in an more intense partnership was never exactly what I envisioned it to be.

This would be no easy marriage.

Though I’d grown up with a pastor for a father and knew all the social expectations that came with the title, to be the Rev myself was entirely new. Because all of the sudden the expectations didn’t just come with my family name but it was what I’d chosen.

I’d chosen to be the one who would be asked to publicly pray more than the norm.

I’d chosen to be the one who would be asked to stand the gravesides of the grieving, the bedsides of the sick and on the doorsteps of the bewildered seekers.

I’d chosen to be “on call” 24-7 when pastoral emergencies arose in a congregation.

I’d chosen that when the day came that I was legally married to a man that he’d be the kind of man that also supported the marriage I’d been pursuing long before we’d ever met.

But as is with most marriages, as it was with my ordination, it was not a one-sided deal.

God long before had chosen me.

Not that I was more special or “called” than others with different kinds of work, but that this was my path to walk with God.

And in many ways my “fear” was indeed right on– my life as it was before 11/4/06 was over.

In this new relationship that God and I would share together, greater discipline and sensitivity to the Spirit would be required.

No longer could I ever assume that my faith was for my own edification alone, but was for the blessing of my community.

No longer could I act as though I didn’t need community, for as much as they needed me, I needed them.

No long could I live in such a way that forgot the day that God and I got married– for if their ever came a time when I felt like a new vocational path was given to me– I’d need to release this marriage in a public way just as it was given to me.

Being married is a long-term commitment.

Seven years ago it all began. Together God and I are still on this journey.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this series coming soon . . . Seven years later.

November 5, 2013

When Calling Takes You Outside the Church PART THREE

(If you missed Part 1 or Part 2, read here to come up to speed).

Calling outside of the church takes a different kind of spiritual discipline to keep up than calling within the church.

It’s a discipline they don’t teach you in seminary: being both pastor and lay person in the church at the same time as deeply growing spiritual being. Or is that even possible?

When I was the pastor, my job description included preaching every Sunday (except the four Sunday got off a year). I had to come up with 2,400+ words to say about God, faith and our life by Sunday morning. No exceptions. It was a built in discipline to think critically and theologically about scripture and community life.

At first, this task both delighted and overwhelmed me. My seasoned colleagues said, “It will get easier. Don’t you worry.” And it did. Once I got in the rhythm it was harder to take a week off. Not only could I come up with a sermon every week, but it became the place where I worked out my own spiritual musings. My own theological and Biblical wrestlings came forth from within my sermons (even if my congregation didn’t know it).

Now, as my calling has taken me outside of the church, I no longer do this. I preach once a month to every six weeks supply preaching for pastor friends out-of-town or filling in on an interim basis in smaller congregations without a pastor.

So where is my theological struggle worked out today?

If I want to keep learning, if I want to keep growing, then I have to keep my mind engaged. With our travel schedule, I’ve had to find my spiritual life outside just attending just ONE church.

And it takes discipline.

It takes discipline like initiating reading a book on spiritual practice with a friend and discussing it together though no one tells you to do so.

It takes discipline like engaging your preaching friend’s sermon prep process, even if you will not be asked to speak on the passage.

It takes discipline like seeking out people of faith that challenge you– even if you have to make a journey several states over to visit them.

It is so much harder to do outside the church (when one community isn’t at your disposal), but it doesn’t mean it is impossible. And it doesn’t mean that rich spirituality has to be found in a box checked, “Hi, my name is Elizabeth and I am a member of this small group at this church.” It can be found as opportunities present themselves to embody church in daily life.

I’ve been reading Addie Zimerman’s new book, When We Were on Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Faith, Tangled Love and Starting Over (it’s an amazing must read for any of you who grew up in evangelical land as I did).

One of the phrases that has stuck with me so far from this book is something that Addie’s husband, Andrew says about church.

The two of them were “shopping” for a new church as a young married couple and kept hitting walls of frustration with the traditional church model which to them felt over packaged, inauthentic and all about awkward conversations around coffee pots in the corners of Sunday School rooms.

Addie keeps trying to find the perfect church while Andrew wasn’t so wrapped up in the structure kept telling Addie his motto: “But we are The Church.” Or in other words, church is not something we go to but something we experience every time 2 or 3 are gathered in Christ’s name. (The two eventually joined a house church).

It takes discipline to remember that church is not noun but a verb. And that as we set out on this path to follow Jesus, there is not just one way to live out our faith.

We might spent our whole lives figuring it out and then realizing we were wrong and figuring it out again.

We might do it within the membership roles of a congregation. Or we might not. Jesus still loves us the same.

October 29, 2013

When Calling Takes You Outside the Church PART TWO

In continuation of the conversation about what happens to your own sense of doctrine when calling takes you outside the church?

(The first part of this series can be read by clicking here if you missed it).

What happens when you don’t have a denomination or a presbytery or bishop or association telling you to stay within these lines of thought and worship practice (at least publicly that is)?

What happens when you don’t have to worry about losing your job if you cross the line just a little to far in your writing or speaking?

What happens to your own sense of faith then? What happens to your own church attendance record?

Such are questions I feel like I’ve been living into this year with this new sense of calling on my life.

I no longer attend church on Sundays because I have to. I attend because I want to.

I no longer do service activities because it is something that my church asks me to do, I do things because it is just who I am.

I no longer tow the “this is what my denomination believes” card. In the spiritual community I have around me, we wrestle together.

Not that I’ve ever really been the kind of person who was shut down by those who want to silence my questionings, but to be in a place where my income (i.e. ability to pay the mortgage) is not dependent on what a particular church or a denominational group of churches thinks about what I believe can only be summed up in one word: freedom.

So dang freeing.

Most days now feel like living into the exhortation from Galatians: “It is for freedom that Christ has set you free.”

It’s been a season of life for me to once and for all put aside the voices in my head from my evangelical upbringing that say things like:

“Christianity is about going to church every Sunday” or “Christianity can’t be found outside the church.”

And in the midst of this freedom, I’m having lots of new questions about the role of the church in faith. Questions like: “Is spiritual, Jesus-centric community only found in a group of people who get together in a church building on Sunday morning or other times of the week?”

I realize by saying this aloud, I’m on the edge of the heretic zone for some of you.

You’ll be getting out the Bible and start quoting passages from Corinthians to me about the foundational principles of church as shared with us by Paul.

“You’re a pastor? You can’t say these things!”

Ok, I hear you already.

But this is my point: as my own sense of calling has taken me out of the church, I’ve often found the “church” in what seems nothing like what I’ve ever known before. And I don’t need the church to say I’m right or wrong here. It just is.

Church comes to me in conversations over lemonade or Diet Coke when people of completely different spiritual backgrounds somehow land on common ground.

Church comes to me over Skype conversations with my friend in Africa who reminds me that no matter what, I’m loved unconditionally.

Church comes to me when my best friend in Tennessee talks to me about how she’s teaching her 2 year old to pray prayers of thanksgiving.

Church comes to me when I’m standing with Kevin at a Feed The Children food drop giving can goods and life essential products to neighbors in need.

What about you? Where do you find church? Where are you struggling with issues of doctrine and spirituality that somehow get tangled in the word we’ve labeled “church”?

October 22, 2013

When Calling Takes You Outside the Church PART ONE

I was taught in seminary that the most virtuous thing you can do for your whole life is to serve the church with an undivided heart. “The church needs you!” my classmates and I were told over and over again.

Sometimes our instructions included more details like this: “Take care of the church like nothing else matters. Live in the community where you serve, join every local board you can, and know your neighbors. Those who give their whole life to the church will not be disappointed.”

And I tried. I really tried to become the best local church pastor I could be. I attended neighborhood meetings. I sat at the bed of the sick. I climbed into the pulpit week after week. And for a while it was my calling.

I wanted to fit into the one-size fits all church box forever. I wanted to come back to my 30-year Duke Divinity School reunion and tell stories about the pastoral life just like I’d heard out of my beloved professor, Dr. William Quick.

But after six years in full-time church ministry I found that I could not– even as much as my heart really wanted to. My time was up.

Walking away from what I once felt was my dream job (as a solo pastor in the Baptist tradition) last Christmas became one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make.

I heard recently that when newcomers ask the church I formerly pastored why I left they say that “She become a writer.” While I’m flattered with being identified as a writer (and I love writing), this is not quite it.

Furthermore, the change had nothing to do with the lack of joy in little congregation as they were great people. Nor was it all about my husband’s job in another state. Or even about the grant I received from the Louisville Institute to write a book, though these reasons seemed like legitimate ones on the surface.

No, I left local church ministry last year because I was finally ready to say yes to a calling. I was ready to be a nobody (if that is what folks thought of me) in order to be the somebody that I really am.

Right now, I am following that calling (though the “what do you do?” questions at parties now are harder to answer).

In the world from which I came both as a child of a pastor and also of a local church pastor making seminary– to leave the church for something else felt to me like treason.

But in the past several years, I come to believe that being a whole person is much more important than a respectable career even if you have to feel like an outcast upon leaving. I took some cues from Barbara Brown Taylor here.

And for me to be a whole person, this is what I know:

I am not made for a job or type of job that lasts me my entire career.

I am not made to immerse myself into a particular local church community for a long time.

I am not made to just do one thing all the time or even just one thing at once.

I am not made for denominational life or ministry that values institution building over freedom of the Spirit.

Yet, with all of this said, I am made however for bolts of energy into new projects that need a leader.

I am made for community building with the global church.

I am made to multi-task my way through a variety of vocational pursuits that often on the surface seem like they have nothing to do with each other, but actually do!

I am made to speak the truth about systems that are broken.

And in all of this, I still feel ordained. I’ve not stopped being Rev. Hagan. I still feel like I’m in ministry.

I’m a writer sometimes.

I find myself in pastoral care conversation sometimes.

I’m a preacher sometimes.

I’m a strategist for creating community both in person and online sometimes.

I’m an administrator sometimes.

I do the laundry all the time. And I make dinner most of the time.

I’m thankful for the chance to do all of this “outside the church” but never too far from its larger mission.

And it fits. It really fits. The restless whispers of my heart have stopped yelling at me. I’m finally at home.

I feel settled even as pace of our current travels and activities make my family’s head spin when I inform them what I’m up to.

In this non-traditional life, I am happy. Truly I am.

I love supporting the communications department of Feed The Children. I love writing in a variety of different venues. I love having quality time for friends. I love traveling alongside my husband. I love preaching in settings (like next week in Hawaii!) that a local church schedule would normally not allow. I love that I have the freedom to find God both in and outside the church walls on Sunday morning– depending on the week.

Lesson learned: when the whispers come, listen. I’m so glad I did. I hope I have the courage listen sooner next time. It’s ok to be different. Actually it is really wonderful even if some of my friends in the church don’t understand.

September 26, 2013


The book of Ecclesiastes opens in this way:

The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem:

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”
says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
Everything is meaningless.”

The word meaningless seems to go against everything we’ve heard about spiritual formation, doesn’t it?

In classes, sermons and lectures, we read passages of sacred texts and we are asked to make meaning of them.

I can’t remember a Sunday School class I’ve attended when there was not a “life application” section of the discussion.

I can’t remember a workshop I’ve attended where I wasn’t asked to report at the end “what I learned today.”

I can’t remember a time when I haven’t been that person who doesn’t try to make sense out of everything that happens to me.

Furthermore, how can everything be meaningless? Is this really in the Bible? We might wonder . . .

Well, the past several weeks I’ve stuck close to meaninglessness even though it seems to go against every meaning-making fiber in my teacher, preacher and writer self.

Because sometimes life just doesn’t make sense. Sometimes our “everything happens for a reason” mantras lead us to a God that seems cruel and incompatible with everything else we know about the Divine. Sometimes meaning doesn’t come. And we need to keep living life anyway.

When I was in the ER for the first time during my whole surgery ordeal, I started thinking that I should remember all the details of being wheeled down a long hallway for a CT scan.

I told myself I should notice what color the walls were, what the air smelled like, how the lighting fell on my bed and so on– all the details that my writing brain could use to help make meaning of the situation later. Isn’t this what my best writing teachers had prepared me to do in this very moment?

But then I stopped myself. I simply couldn’t think like that. I couldn’t make meaning.

Will there come a day when I want to make meaning of this situation and other puzzling situations in my life? Maybe.

But my point is that I’ve learned that we don’t always have to.

Ecclesiastes is a wisdom book after all.

It’s a book written by a person who I can imagine saw with his own eyes some of the worst of life’s troubles. It’s a book written by a person who I can imagine looked life’s horrors in the face and desperately wanted to find purpose. And, as much as he wanted to throw a “everything happens for a reason” band-aid on life, he couldn’t. He couldn’t because he needed to tell the truth.

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”
says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
Everything is meaningless.”

It frustrates me that we in the church and the larger spiritual community cling to linear thinking to the decree that we’re kept from the deeper waters of faith. The deeper waters called the unknown.

We say, “Oh it was so sad that X happened . . . but look what blessing came afterwards!” (As if to assign meaning to devastating and senseless tragedies)

Sure, life has its ebbs and flows. Most human lives have both good and bad on their plates at some point along in the journey. But who are we to say that we always know that X happened so that Y could occur?

Some situations of life can be meaningless.

Meaninglessness is not a reason to plunge into despair, however. Meaninglessness, I am learning is a gift for contentment.

When we come to realize that not every experience in life has to be seen as a puzzle piece that leads to enlightenment right away, then peace of what is can find us.

We call a spade a spade: meaningless. And, then we move on.

After all, didn’t the Ecclesiastes writer go on to say this:

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens

Meaninglessness is not the whole story.

July 19, 2013

Creating What Doesn’t Exist

People ask me all the time what I miss about church life? Do I miss preaching all the time? Do I miss the committee meetings? Do I miss the hospital visits? Do I miss the cranky people calling me after church on Sunday afternoon?

I’m not really sure how to answer these questions.

Because yes, I do miss church life.

I miss putting on a robe on Sunday morning with the wind of courage behind me, filled with something to say to eager listeners.

I miss people calling me to say “I just needed to talk to my pastor.”

I miss the privilege of walking an adult through a baptismal process and seeing the light come to their eyes just before the water touches them.

I miss Sunday potlucks– you know the meal that is best served at a church where you really never know what exactly you are eating . . .

(But, no I don’t miss anything with the description “cranky” in it. And no, I most certainly don’t miss long committee meetings).

However, all this to say, as much as I miss these things, I know I’m in the right place. I know this season of life as a non-traditional work-er, minister type in the world is where I am to learn.

Sometimes, in life, I believe, we are asked to give up what is most comfortable, what we most know, or even what makes the most sense to us and our educated friends around us. We are asked by God to seek out the new.

I was having a conversation with a colleague a couple of weeks ago. It was a colleague I’d worked with in denominational life connected to my most recent pastorate, a colleague I hadn’t seen in six months. It was fun to see her happy face again.

Yet, personally, it was a sad day for me when we ran into each other. A day when I was thinking a lot about what I had lost and how much I missed about my former life. But this colleague surprised me with the first words coming out of her mouth were, “Girl, you are looking so good!”

How could she say that I wondered? I had just been crying in fact.

She went on to explain was that my posture seemed more relaxed, more at ease, that their was light in my eyes she hadn’t seen in me when I was going about the business of keeping a particular church in good order. I thought, well, now that’s interesting . . .

This colleague then asked me more about my future plans and what came out of my mouth was, “I feel called to create something that is yet to exist.”

Well, then. That was news to even my own ears. Called to create something that doesn’t exist . . .

Upon further reflection of this moment, I realized maybe this was why she said I was looking well. As much as I do miss the familiar or even the simple joy of putting on a robe and saying, “Thanks be to God” every Sunday– there’s something about this season of re-evaluating, of re-grouping, of renaming that suits my soul quite well.

I am more myself. I am more at ease. There’s light pointing me in new directions I might have been scared to death of years ago, but now I’m here. There’s no turning back now.

It doesn’t mean the path to get to this unknown place is easy though. It might suit my soul. But, my body doesn’t like it very much at all.

My days are often filled with self-doubt, loneliness and lots of prayers of “Why can’t I be like everyone else?”

I want to work normal hours. I want my work to be respected and acknowledged– even paid for from time to time. I want to not feel so alone as I usually do between the hours of 8-6 pm every day.

But in the meantime, I try to see the progress I’m making along this path of what I know not of, and what does not exist yet.

I eagerly look forward to any opportunities to connect with other like-minded thinkers and doers– even if I have to travel to another state to find them.

I eagerly look forward to moments when my ministerial identity gets to be expressed in an life-giving and affirming way (such is hard to come by in Oklahoma, but that’s another story for another day).

I eagerly look forward to the day– whenever that may be– when my eyes get to see the dreams come to pass that my heart has had a long-standing commitment to.

And on that day, I’m sure I’ll probably say that the journey, no matter how long or hard it has been was worth it.

But until then, all I can say is this kind of creative work is harder than I could have ever imagined.

July 11, 2013

Friendship with God

I grew up in the type of Christian community that would frequently say things like:

“Work on your relationship with God above all else.”

And, “If you let anything come between your relationship with Jesus, then your faith is off track.”

For while the intention of such teaching was probably was something like, “Make your faith life as a priority” (which is probably something that would come out of my mouth, even today) what I heard in my head as child was, “You can’t have friends who you’d count closer to you than God.”

As if friendship was some sort of divine vs. human competition . . .

It was as if God could not be present to us in my friends. . . .

But as much as I grew to love the divine presence in my life as teenager and college student– sometimes Jesus’ presence (in a spiritual sense) wasn’t enough for me.

I needed friends. I didn’t think Jesus made me to be so lonely.

I’ll say it again: I needed friends. Having Jesus in my life didn’t take this from me as hard as I tried to believe it would.

But, the church seemed to keep saying “Pursuing close friends would make Jesus jealous.”

When I was in seminary and the relational bolts within me began to shift, I had a spiritual director who provided a light bulb moment. She kept noticing how uncomfortable I became when friends got too close to me. And she was right, I didn’t like the vulnerability that it required. I was scared in fact. I thought, was I somehow cheating on Jesus if I really loved my friends? Would people really like me if they actually knew me?

But then this was the sticking point that she offered: “You can only be as close to God as you allow yourself to be to other people.”

Of course this is not an “always true” statement (for there are countless faithful folks called to the ministry of monastic life or even hermit life for the reasons of prayer and un-interrupted communion with God), but I think there’s great wisdom in it.

We can only be as close to God as we allow ourselves to be with other people.

There’s power in community isn’t there? In deep and abiding community with others the real stuff of our life comes out.

And by this I don’t mean community with friends you have dinner with causally once a month or friends from the bleachers at your kids’ soccer games– I mean authentic friendship: those who know what makes you afraid, those who have seen you cry uncontrollably and vice versa, and those who can look in your eyes and know you’re stewing about something even without you having to utter a word.

With people like this, there’s no hiding. There’s no major missing puzzle pieces as to what makes you tick held from the other. There’s no shying away from the most unlikable parts of our personalities. It’s really honest living for sure.

And when we get this honest– I believe, our God who is the author of all truth shows up!

Roberta Bondi in her book, To Pray and To Love writes this: “The fulfillment of our deepest purposes and profound longs for God can never be separated from our love of God’s own images among whom we live.”

We learn about God, she is says, as we abide in relationship with those closest to us. In fact, we are MISSING out on parts of the personality of God when we don’t get close to others.

Bondi even goes as far to write that the lack of intimacy many of us have in prayer occurs because we’ve never really learned how to talk openly and honestly to others. If we can’t talk honestly with another human being, how could we talk honestly with God?

Bottom line is this: one of the most spiritual acts you and I could pursue right now and in the weeks to come is deepening our friendships. It might be the single greatest thing we could do to learn how to be closer to God.

It has taken me many years to shake off the baggage of my childhood in this regard. But I’m so glad I’m in the process of re-wiring all of this within me.

In friendship we both get to learn about and practice what it means to abide in God’s love. So anybody got a friend they need to call today? Or meet for lunch soon? I know I do.

July 10, 2013

Why Still Preacher on the Plaza?

One question I’ve gotten recently is “Why haven’t you changed the name of your blog?”

The official title of my blog is Preacher on the Plaza. I started this blog back in January 2009 (back when not everyone and their brother had a blog) when I became the pastor of Washington Plaza Baptist (WPBC) in Reston, VA. This church sat as the centerpiece of a commercial/ residential district of Lake Anne with our next door neighbors being a coffee shop, a real estate branch office and a Thai restaurant. (What fun, right?) Hence the name– Preacher on the Plaza— I was the only “preacher” on Lake Anne Plaza.

On my last Sunday at WPBC, I was given a couple of gifts. One of them was a binder full of my blogs printed out (remember the 2012 election joke about binders?). It was a funny yet appropriate gift. The congregation knew me well. They knew how much I loved writing and sharing the story of our little church with the larger community. They knew the blogs I’d written during my tenure with them meant something.

Though blogs are not meant to become doctrinal statements or even be the kind of thoughts shared that you’ll always go back to years later– I kind of like having these binders in my closet as a way to remember WPBC and their thoughtfulness.

So, when January 2013 rolled around, I thought about changing the name of this site. A chapter in the life had ended, you know. I was no longer “the preacher on Lake Anne Plaza.” One day, there would be another pastor to care for this group of people I loved so much. Maybe he or she would want to be “the preacher on the plaza?”

But somehow I just couldn’t change the name. The title had become a part of what I was and who I was in the process of becoming.
I decided to remain “Preacher on the Plaza” for two reasons:

1. In this current phase of life, God seemed to be calling me to be a pastor who was “on the plazas” of life (as I always seem to be somewhere that wasn’t where I was the week before). I would not pastor a traditional church, but I would be out among the people where I found myself seeking opportunities to engage others in the deeper stories of life. The plazas of this world would be my new ministry. And I would need to write about them.

2. The church that made me their “Preacher on the Plaza” gave me my voice. One of the greatest gift my tenure at WPBC gave me was confidence in the leader/ teacher/ preacher I was made to be. I tell the truth when I say NEVER did WPBC ask me to be any less than who I was– a rarity among churches these days. I actually think they would have been ill at me as a congregation if I’d backed down to be any less than I was. In keeping the name “Preacher on the Plaza” for my blog, it’s my way of paying tribute to this wonderful congregation that empowered me in my becoming and having a piece of them always with me.

So, thanks for reading, oh faithful blog readers. Thanks for being on this journey with me– this journey that I often have no idea where it is going from day-to-day.

I look forward to possibly visiting a plaza near you sometime soon!

June 28, 2013

What Does It Mean to Wait?

Today I’m still thinking a lot about what it means to wait . . .

My friend Sarah and I were catching up the other day on the phone. We’d hadn’t talked to each other in months so we quickly got down to the essence of what is going on in the ups and downs of our lives (I love these kinds of chats). In catching up I realized that we’re both waiting in different seasons of life for what is not yet and what we don’t know. While it was nice to make this connection that we’re in a similar place, it’s really not a fun state to be in at all.

For all of us who are waiting for something, we know how this feels.

The frustration of waiting can easily turn to anger, despair and life crippling anxiety.

When we wait, we can feel stuck.

When we wait, we can easily feel forgotten.

When we wait, we can feel like God is not close, but very far away.

A long term season of waiting can often turn us inward to the point that we think we’re the only person on the planet that has every waited for x.

But, we aren’t. We know this of course, but accepting it in our hearts is altogether different matter.

Yet, ultimately, waiting and hoping and not knowing in our waiting is a part of what it means to be human.

Nothing ever happens instantaneously. Often nothing good in our life comes without pain. Suffering through waiting finds us all.

We are not ever as alone as we feel.

Waiting in fact, can be a spiritual discipline that has the power to re-focus us on life-giving practices that sustain.

Waiting can turn our spirits toward other wait-ers—those who we might not otherwise encounter so deeply.

Waiting can humble the hardest places in us, even the place we didn’t think were hard at all.

Of course, this doesn’t change the fact that waiting is hard, hard work. It takes faith—faith like none other to sustain your spirit in a time like this. It takes sticking with yourself, even on the days when you think you can’t make it one more day. It takes trust: that the bigger picture is indeed worth the ride.

To my fellow wait-ers out there—whatever it is you are waiting for—know that you have a friend in me. This is the best gift I can give today.

I’m waiting with you, as I know through your reading of this post, you are waiting with me.

I hear your pain. Your struggle. Your longings. Your cries.

I know that sometimes there’s no other way to put it than to say that waiting sucks.

But, in community may we keep the faith. May we not loose heart. May we hold each other accountable to keep on waiting as the Hebrews writer spoke of faith: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

June 10, 2013

Facing Your Fears

When people say my name, the word “adventurous” is rarely the first association.

I’m the girl who doesn’t like to ride roller coasters or bungee jump off of platforms or even play paintball. I’m a great purse holder and picture taker. We all have to know our strengths right?

For all of these reasons and more I was never going to be a long-term youth minister (but that’s another story).

Yet I’m also the person who doesn’t like to be left out– as much as something makes fear rise up in my belly, I’ll try it.

I’ve ridden some of the world’s longest and fastest coasters (all the while my prayer life simultaneously grew).

I’ve stood on some of the world’s tallest heights (ok, maybe one day I’ll jump).

I’ve gone paint balling with merciless group of teens (coming home with the bruises to prove it).

And so, when Kevin and I spent a couple of days in Costa Rica for a mini-vacation/ attending a friend’s wedding this weekend, I knew there was one thing I needed to do before I left the jungle: zip lining. Especially after a couple with us for the wedding went the day before. AND, they couldn’t stop taking about how much fun they had.

I was sold. “Kevin,” I said, “we must sign up for tomorrow!” Though I’m sure Kevin would have enjoyed one more morning sleeping in and didn’t even have proper tennis shoes (luckily found a friend with the same shoe size to borrow from), we set out the next day for our 8:30 am tour. All was well and exciting as met our jungle guides and put our safety gear on. All was well and exciting as we made our trek up the mountain in a cart pulled by a tracker. But when I saw the first zip line with nothing but jungle and more jungle below my feet, all was no longer well or exciting.

Soon my speech became a smattering of words like, “I don’t know what I thinking, Kevin. Oh my goodness. Can you believe this height? What was thinking? Why did I sign us up for this?? Why didn’t you stop me? You should’ve stopped me!”

Kevin, with his white safety helmet sliding down his face began to reassure me with stories of the one time he zip lined before in West Virginia, “Oh it will be ok. You’ll soon love this! I did.”

But, I wasn’t convinced. I knew there was a world of difference between West Virginia and the middle of the Costa Rica rainforest. I saw no safety nets. I saw no end to this course down the mountain.

Seeing the fear in my eyes the guide reminded us all: “There’s no way getting down this mountain now than by going down on these lines.” (The tracker was long gone, sigh!). And, I knew I was stuck, for better or for worse. I knew I had one thing and one thing only to do next: face my fear.

One of my favorite Eleanor Roosevelt quotes came to mind, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” And simultaneously thought– I hope this fulfills my quota for days!

photo-1There would be no turning back. And with a push, down the line I went. And went. And though Kevin later summed up the activity by saying on twitter that “the monkeys in the rainforest might need therapy after all my yelling,” I did it and even have this picture to prove it.

Fear is just like this– in the end it is just fear. It’s just an emotion that screams CAUTION so loudly in us that we never take the leaps in life that we’re met to take. A good dose of fear is healthy, of course. There are leaps in this life reserved for the trained professionals. But, facing our fears can in turn be one of the most spiritual things we do in our days.

For when we face the things that scare us, we leap figuratively (and sometimes literally) into the hands of a God who says no matter what, I will never leave you alone. In fact, as we leap, we might just find ourselves soaring with joy we’d of never known– just as I did by the 12th (and final) zip line on Saturday morning. Mission accomplished. I was thrilled.

%d bloggers like this: