Who’s Calling Now?

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If God gives you something you can do, why in God’s name wouldn’t you do it?

 
-Stephen King

I tend to throw around the word call a fair amount. There were times I believed I was called to a relationship or to eating more vegetables or to slowing down my social media intake. I have experience the call to hike or spend some time gaining perspective or to deny my adult self and play trucks or dolls on the floor. I can say I’ve heard a call to reign in my spending and be more intentional with how I occupy my time. I have also believed I was called to stay home with my kids. I consider these calls each wonderful opportunities to better myself, to regain perspective focusing on the important things.

However, these little “c” calls of mine, while beneficial and welcome and often harmless, cannot hold a candle to the Big “C” Calls. The Big “C” Calls will take your life and flip it upside down and question all the stuff you thought you knew. These Calls will take your comfort and send it flying. They will take your location and make you reexamine your neighborhood and your community and town and state. They will make you reconsider your personal relationships and entitlements and privilege and make you see things that you don’t wanna see.

A Call such as this could take hours of meditation and writing and prayer and hiking and swimming and conversations and tears to tease the whole thing out. This Call will carry implications requiring you to do no less than pick up your mat and walk, in search of your next clue. And sometimes the next clue is a fork in the road, demanding another bout of prayer and discernment and vulnerability to determine the best course. These Calls don’t let up, they pester and poke and prod at ungodly, inconvenient hours. They will not be ignored until something is done to scratch the itch, to appease the urging and relentless voice. Until we find the one next thing, and then the next and the next, like a trail of breadcrumbs on the forest floor, the Call will call and call and call.

Two years ago, I uttered the words aloud, I need to start a church. Two years ago, I uttered the words aloud, I need to start a blog. Two years ago, I uttered the words aloud, I can’t do this anymore, I cannot keep attending churches that don’t get it, that don’t love, that don’t talk about the pressing issues of injustice.

At the time, I’ll be honest, I had no idea what this meant. I just knew something had to change. I just knew I could not keep going to church every Sunday, sucking up my frustration and heartbreak for the souls who could not be safe. I knew I had to leave. I was called. Seemed a bit odd and treacherous, considering how I was raised with church attendance as a non-negotiable. Only fevers, barfing and chicken pox were satisfactory reasons, otherwise, we were present participants.

I am part of planting a church. Tomorrow I get on a plane to Indianapolis, attending the OPEN conference. Tomorrow I’ll take the next step, picking up and examining the next breadcrumb. I am closer to discovering the beauty of the bigger picture, the completed product. I consider this Call one of my greatest desires and finest opportunities for terror and risk and divine partnership, inviting me to trust and suspend assumptions. This Call will not let me go. This Call needs me, I need it.

Answering a Call is not for the weary. This Call thing messes with us, questioning all of our worthiness and talent and commitment and comfort. It pecks away at the assumptions we make, at the comfort we claim, the expectations we hold. This Call thing demands change. It demands we take inventory of our existence, of the carefully crafted lives we love, the ones that have humming refrigerators and multiple televisions and fast internet and feather pillows and warm water. This Call says: Will you trust me? Do you know that I love you? Are you aware of my generosity and abundance? I will provide. 

The Call offers a choice.

Do I trust enough in the soul’s quickening to release control of my present circumstances?

Do I trust God to provide, to nurture?

Do I trust the work Eric and I have done in our marriage, in our parenting, to embark on this journey, knowing my absence and distraction will not harm, but will offer new life and opportunity for the whole family?

Do I trust myself, believing my perceived lack is a benefit, an avenue for learning and for greater trust and surrender?

I am thrilled to have this opportunity, considering this Call to plant a Just and Generous church one of my life’s greatest joys. I want to be at the forefront of bringing relief to the world’s weary travelers, to offer life and hope and communion to all. I’m grateful the Call did not quiet and shrink away, for in this work I get to discover the beauty and glory of a life lived seeking, questioning, hoping, waiting, realizing.

How about you? Where are you feeling called or Called? Please know you’re in good company.

How Stinky Was Jesus?

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We have sheep, two ewes and two lambs. I confess once held romantic notions of lying in green pastures, sheep beside me, lambs sharing my lap, celebrating their gentle grace and beauty. Spiritual connotations abounded, my heart filled to brimming with the fantasy of their nuzzling noses, goodness rubbing off in some cosmic exchange of pastoral wonder.

My daughter, Claire, is our resident shepherd. She, her brothers and my husband have been rafting the Grand Canyon for two weeks, leaving me with the animal duties. Our Colorado spring weather has been unpredictable and uncooperative for those of us longing for blue skies and sunny days. Sloppy and slushy, the backyard is a muddy poop puddle.

Five minutes in the barn to feed and water animals, my clothes and hair reek, damp straw owning the stench. My Psalm 23 fantasy has bit by bit eroded into a nose-pinching, eye-watering affair. After accomplishing the necessary deeds to keep the creatures alive, clothes are deposited on the mudroom floor, alongside muck boots.

Two years ago, Claire’s first lamb, Rosie, had a medical condition that did not bode well for her long-term health. Well bred and fed, she was a formidable creature, topping the scales at 140 pounds. We knew she needed to be put down and the butcher had a brief opening one day in summer, during county fair season. It was up to Eric and I, being the good parents that we are, to salvage what we could of Rosie. The trip was long and arduous. Eric drove while I occupied the middle seat of the SUV, anchoring the lamb with a single tether. Baa-ing for her life, pooping profuse in the cupholders (to be discovered later by an unsuspecting child), her fearful eruptive bleats contributed to the erosion of my aging eardrums.

Upon arrival we led Jesus…er, I mean…Rosie to slaughter, bearing the burden of our daughter’s grief, into the rear door of the nondescript cinderblock building. Her unwitting offering as seventy pounds of white paper-wrapped blocks of frozen, grass-fed, Rosie.

Regardless of whether Jesus was the sheep or the shepherd, he must have smelled something awful. That barn, the scene of his birth was no doubt downright raunchy. The stink of the animals, the soggy straw, the shepherds. Yuck.

I doubt this image of Jesus is misguided. It is not possible he escaped his own birth, life and death without repelling people. In fact, we know he repelled people – the righteous people, the Law-abiding people, the educated and careful people. Jesus did not linger long with the perfect or presentable. He was one with the poor, the sinner, the outcast, the average. In other words, our homeless, our diseased, our oppressed and marginalized.

This Jesus is with me at my worst, when my actions, judgments and beliefs, my jealousy and self-righteousness have spoiled me to the point of stink, ruin, ridicule and foul. This Jesus, born with sheep and other barnyard creature, did not hesitate to enter the pain and suffering of the world. He dwelled among the offensive outcasts of society. He brushed against the bleeding women, the demon possessed men, the three-days-dead. He lived among and healed, offering mercy to our fetid shame, greed, lust and pride, our humanity.

He chose us, to dwell with us, to understand us, while we we are still in our mess, while we still choose our mess.

And He loves us.

I’m not interested in a sanitized Jesus.

I’m not interested in a Jesus that doesn’t know what it means to bleed or be hungry.

I’m not interested in a Jesus that doesn’t know racial prejudice and exclusion.

I’m not interested in a Jesus who doesn’t understand and love women in our reflection of the Imago Dei (Image of God).

I’m not interested in a Jesus that does not mourn and weep with us.

This Jesus is mine. This Jesus brings hope and offers us good reason to follow, not only because he identifies with our suffering, but  because he dwells with us. Our pain will not be erased or wasted. The plight of refugee, abused, gay, transgender, black, Native American is seen and known – all are redeemed, all are rejoiced over and honored and loved.

This stinky Jesus, is the one I worship. Not the white-washed, blue-eyed model Jesus with the hipster beard and rock-star hair.

My Jesus carried all of this with a cross draped across his broken body.

My Jesus bears the pain, the stench and the redemption of my neighbor, and of me.