Space for God: A Thought and a Request

Out of brokenness comes life.

Out of heartache come new possibilities.

Sometimes it happens quickly. Most of the time, it’s a journey.

This summer, I’ve been going through my sermons, my teaching plans, and devotions I’ve written in preparation for several retreats I’m leading this fall and spring. Even though I’ve written or spoken on a diverse group of topics and scriptures, there seem to be several consistent themes:

  • The extravagant love of God
  • Hope in the midst of loss
  • God always meeting our needs
  • The abundance of God (thus the name of this blog – “Something More”)
  • The need to make space for God

The last theme, space for God, shows up time and time again. I’ve taught classes at church, spoken to ministry workers at professional conferences, led weekend retreats, led day retreats, written devotions and sermons and the list goes on. It’s not that I’m an expert on the subject. Far from it. As a matter of fact, I didn’t really know anything about the subject the first time I sent a proposal to a national conference. I sent it out of my own desire to create some space for God in the midst of the brokenness of my life.

The theme began to show up in my work around 2005, just a few years after one of the hardest battles of my life – depression. It’s a long story that I probably will tell one day in more detail. For now, just know that I was broken – some days hopeless, some days anxious, and most days trying to smile on the outside but crying on the inside. I doubted my own faith: “Maybe I wasn’t spiritual enough. Maybe my faith wasn’t strong enough. Shouldn’t I be able to pray this away? Didn’t I believe that God could heal me?” Healing did not happen instantly. It took prayer, time, therapy, medicine and support from my husband and friends.

Yet, God did what God does – redemption. From this painful time, new possibilities came forth. From my own brokenness, came new life. And God continues to redeem my brokenness.

I’m still learning about what it means to create space for God. I learn from you, from my experiences, from my failures and from my wonderings.

So there’s the thought: from my own brokenness, God gave me experiences to share with others. He continues to redeem my brokenness for new possibilities.

Now my request: I’ve learned from years of preparation that I have better understanding of creating space for God when I listen to the stories of the people around me – those I know and those I don’t know. There are similarities in stories as well as new expressions and examples of meeting God. Would you be willing to share your experience and thought by completing a short survey? You can find it at the link:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SpaceforGod-anonymous

It is completely anonymous (no names or identifying info – unless you write it). Someone asked me yesterday what I was doing with the research. Good question. I’m looking for themes, new possibilities and clearer understanding of God’s movement in the lives of those around me.

Maybe by completing the survey, you might hear God speak to you of His movement in your life. Maybe your experience of Christ is a story that needs to be told so that it might touch someone else’s life. Maybe today is the day to share it.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me.

Step into the Water

It’s been almost a year since I left my local church appointment and moved into my extension ministry appointment. So much has changed and yet, so much has stayed the same.

On most workdays, I get up, shower, dress and yes, put on makeup.   I have coffee, a breakfast bar and then I’m in my “office” (the room beside the kitchen). I spend time in Bible study, prayer, journal writing, and preparing for the day. Around 9:00, sometimes a little earlier, sometimes a little later, my “work” begins. Phone calls, video calls (one of the reasons that I don’t stay in my pajamas all day as thought by some folks), emails, writing, reading and “pondering” fills my day. Before I know it, the day has flown by and it’s time to figure out the dinner menu (the Archer’s home menu or the restaurant’s).

This ministry work is different from serving the local church and yet, it’s the same.   It’s a little more 9-5. I sit at my desk a little longer each day. My schedule is a little more predictable.   The other staff person in my office is Hank – who just lays on the couch beside me most of the day and announces the UPS person, the exterminators, the yard crew, really anyone that walks on the street in front of the house. By now, every person on the other end of the phone or video screen knows my receptionist.

It’s also the same: email, phone calls, unexpected calls, paperwork, budgets, billing, reading, preparation, writing, and most of all, people. People seeking to answer God’s call, people burdened by family concerns, people trying to make ends meet, people celebrating joys in their congregations, people angered or confused by the Church and people empowered by the Church. These people just happen to be clergy.

When I began my work as a ministry coach, I thought I would be working with folks in the ordination process (and I do have a few folks). Programs changed and now most of the folks with whom I work are clergy (and a few laity) who have been serving the local church 5-25 years. They are people with fruitful ministry who desire to follow God’s call towards more fruitful ministry. They seek to be resilient and adaptable in this changing world. They seek to honor Christ in all that they do.

My call? My job? – walk alongside them, encourage, pray for, listen, ask questions, help them open up the possibilities, invite them to see where God is moving in their lives, ask them what they want more of in their lives and in their ministry and pray some more.

A pastor told me recently: “Trish, you have a way of mudding the water, stepping into it with me and helping me clear it before you step out.” Yep! That’s what I do.   I think that’s an affirmation – maybe sometimes not.

As I think about it, isn’t that what we as the Body of Christ are called to do for one another? Help clear the water. Walk alongside folks, encourage, pray, listen.

Some days I feel like someone felt a little less alone in ministry, someone was a little more encouraged after the call, someone saw a possibility that God was waiting to show him or her . . . some days not so much.

No matter who we are or what we do, everyone needs someone to step into the water with him or her. No matter who we are or what we do, all of us are called to step into the water.

 

“Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.”             – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Changing the Filter

 

 

“Resentment is drinking poison and waiting for the other person to get sick.”

I don’t know who said this originally.  I just know it’s true.  Resentment eats you up on the inside.  It damages relationships.  It puts a filter over everything that you see.  It’s like the filters that you put on your pictures: mono, vivid, silver-tone, dramatic cool or noir.

A bad filter can make a picture worse.

A good filter can take a so-so picture and turn it into something far better than the original.  Take the picture from yesterday’s post.  Add a little “noir” filter with a little more brightness and voilà!  a better picture!

My problem?   I don’t always know how to change the filter.  Sometimes it’s rather easy. Forgive and move on.  Sometimes you can’t do it so fast.  It eats at you and starts to wear you down.  It can make us see every fault, every fallacy, and every action as a deliberate attempt to hurt us.  Resentment can ruin us.

Henri Nouwen wrote in his book on spiritual formation:   “When you cling to your complaints, your heart is full of resentment, and there is no room for God to enter and set you free.  Resentment curtails the movements of the Spirit and diminishes the kingdom within. It replaces faith, hope and charity with fear, doubt, and rivalry.” *

Maybe we change our filter by seeing with the eyes of Jesus.  Maybe it’s every time that I think of _____________ (fill in person, situation, action), I also see the face of Jesus.  Maybe our filter needs to be Jesus beside, behind, in front of ________________.

Maybe everything we see needs to be in the filter of “grace and forgiveness of God”.

It might be hard to change the filter all at once – forever.  Maybe it’s every day to change the filter just a little more in the light of the grace of God.

I may not be able to change _______________ (fill in the blank) but I can ask God to change me.

Change my filter, O God. Help me see with Your eyes of grace and forgiveness. Amen.

 _______________________

* Nouwen, Henri. Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit. Harper One, Henri Nouwen Legacy Trust with Michael J. Christensen and Rebecca J. Laird, 2010, p. 59.

The Day After

It’s the day after.

The day after the tags have been taken off the new clothes or the old spring clothes pulled from the back of the closet to be worn on Easter morning

The day after the baskets have been picked through and the egg hunts completed

The day after the hallelujahs have been sung

The day after the responsive greeting has been exchanged in worship:    “Christ the Lord is risen!  He is risen indeed!”

It’s the day after Easter.

Has anything changed? Has anything changed in the way we live?  The way we speak to one another?  The way we look at the world and the people around us?

Has the new life – resurrection life – of Easter touched us in a way that we are changed?

Has anything changed? YES – Everything!

We now live in the light of the Resurrection – on the other side of the empty tomb. We don’t take trips to the Holy Land to view the sealed tomb of our Savior. We walk into an empty tomb. No old bones to revere. No words craved on a tombstone. Only an empty chamber.

As the hymn declares, “every day to us is Easter with its resurrection song” *.   We now live as Easter people.

Frederick Buechner said it well: “Resurrection means that the worst thing is never the last thing.”

It’s the day after . . . and everything has changed.

Christ the Lord is risen! He is risen indeed!

__________________________

* “Easter People, Raise Your Voices” – Hymn #304, United Methodist Hymnal, Words by William M. James, 1979. Music by Henry T. Smart, 1867.

The Great ‘I Told You So’!

No one likes to hear “I told you so . . .”

Whether it’s the “suggested” route to some address that is either correct or incorrect or the outcome of the Super Bowl – no one likes to hear “I told you so!”

Unless . . . you’re talking about the Resurrection. Today is the day that we hear loud and clear from the empty tomb the proclamation of Christ: “I told you so!”

Good Friday is the day that the ‘sun refused to shine’, the day that the One to ‘save all history’ was killed, the day that the world as the disciples knew it fell apart.

Holy Saturday is the in-between day. It’s the day that the disciples wondered “what do we do now?”

and Resurrection Sunday is the day that sorrow is turned into joy, mourning is turned into dance. It’s a new day!

and I’m so thankful that I hear the words “I told you so!”

Christ the Lord is risen. He is risen indeed!

The In-Between Day

It’s the in-between day. The day between death and resurrection.

The disciples don’t know it’s the in-between day. They just think “it’s over – the One that we thought would save us is crucified.”

The disciples have placed Jesus, their Savior, in a tomb. Now they’ve gone home with heads hung low, tears in their eyes, shoulders drooped, leaning on others for support.

The women have seen the tomb – where Jesus was laid.  Friday has been the Day of Preparation so they have gone home to prepare – for the Sabbath and for a return visit to the tomb on the first day of the week. When the women return, they will anoint the dead body of Jesus.

Hope . . . gone.

The very people who condemned Jesus to death have a faint memory of the promise made by the “imposter”: ‘After three days I will rise again.’

“Secure the tomb, Pilate. The disciples might steal the dead body and say he’s resurrected. Then the last deception would be worse than the first.”

Soldiers seal the grave and stand guard.

The Sabbath comes. The disciples rest, believing that the world as they’ve known it for the past 3 years is over.

On this side of the resurrection, we know that Holy Saturday is the in-between day – the day between death and new life. We know it’s NOT over.

We live so many of our days as in-between days. We believe in the resurrection. We know that Jesus is alive but it just feels like the in-between goes on forever.   The unexpected has happened, devastating our world. The diagnosis comes out of nowhere, the job is gone, security is rocked . . . everything changes. Sometimes it’s the big stone that seals the tomb of our pain and loss. Sometimes it’s just the little rocks of disappointment and heartache that cover our path.

We just need to hold on. It’s an in-between day. The rock will be rolled away. There is the faint whisper of the promise made by our Savior . . . “I will rise again . . .”

Hope is not gone.