Why So Serious?

I’ve been so serious for several years now. Life sometimes has a way of shaping us into people who live life through the lens of sadness or cynicism…or focused on just getting things done. I used to be fun…silly even. I used to driver seat chair dance to music while driving. I used to be playful in my public surroundings. I used to not worry that others might perceive me as goofy. I used to laugh easily.

Sheep on Swing

This sheep gif caught my funny bone. I don’t want to anthropomorphize the sheep, but I can’t help but do it, that sheep reminds me of what I used to be…playful. The sheep epitomizes the free spirit buried deep within. It also calls to mind how the church can be. The herd standing around, not quite sure what to make of the swinging member of their clan...it’s the picture of how the larger church responds to the wacky Christian who seems to not know that the church is supposed to be somber and serious.

But is that what we are designed to be as a faith community?

“Our mouths were filled with laughter, 

our tongues with songs of joy. 

Then it was said among the nations, 

   “The LORD has done great things for them.” 

The LORD has done great things for us, 

   and we are filled with joy.” (Psalms 126:2-3)

The world is such a messy and many times sad and disappointing place to reside. This very fact is why the church needs to be able to be a place of refuge…a place for play and laughter. Sure, there are times when the faith community must be somber and serious, but let us not forget in this Easter season that this time is set aside for us to remember that God laughed at sin and death and said “you have no more sting”.

I will begin to laugh more…play more…not just personally but as a leader in the church. I believe that laughter/play builds community and connects people in a way that brings God given joy. AND I believe people ultimately enjoy being with people who like being people together.

When my family went to Miami in February, we came across swings in a mall in the design district. My mom and I climbed into swings. It brought me a sense of peace and joy “playing” with my mom in that moment. I’m not advocating for putting swings in the sanctuary…I’m just encouraging us all to climb into our metaphorical swing and bring laughter, joy, and peace to church.

Priorities...

I had a revelation in February during a retreat for pastors on resiliency—I really don’t take good care of myself. I have let the concerns/work of the church guide how I spend my time and energy. On one hand, it’s good for me to not be a lazy pastor. It’s important to keep the energy moving for the people of God. The problem is that I allowed that to be my excuse for not taking care of my spiritual, emotional and physical well being. Since the retreat, I have begun to go to the gym three times a week, I’m actually taking my day off more regularly, doing one fun activity a week, and I’m trying to eat better. All these decisions I make are founded on the importance of prioritizing the ministry and my self-care. As I practice honoring the priorities, I find myself spending more time praying and enjoying my relationship with God.

giphy.gif

I like this GIF because it highlights the importance of motivation for self-care…albeit in a humorous fashion. There are some who think that self-care is all about the self…taking time to pamper oneself. I think self-care is more about soul-care…taking time to make one’s soul a priority, for the work of the kingdom is hard work. If we aren’t careful we can burn ourselves out. Ministries, families, children, work and school can take their toll and if we aren’t paying attention, our relationship with God can be found on the bottom of the list.

Moses was working himself to the bone, attempting to handle the ministry to the Israelites. His son-in-law cautioned him, “You will only wear yourself out. The work is too heavy…you cannot handle it alone.” (Exodus 18:18). Moses was challenged to delegate the ministry…to share the load. Moses received a lesson in self-care. We don’t have to do it all by ourselves. It’s okay to take time to soul-care and invite others to participate in bearing the load.

Last week, I was attending another conference and I was reminded of another important aspect of my ministry—to model for the community whatever it is that I am called to teach/lead. I haven’t modeled well the spiritual practice of self-care to the community these past two years. And I don’t model well if I don’t share with you my struggles and the ways I’m trying to work on my deepening relationship with God. So today I hope I have offered you a challenge that you can join me in: Make self-care (soul-care) a priority!

The Economy of the Gospel

I really struggled with coming up with the starting point for this blog. But then it finally came to me, I needed to find a gimmick. So after racking my brain for a good gimmick, I landed on the idea of using GIFS...

I have been thinking a lot about baptism lately. And this GIF made me laugh out loud. I think it's a great image for how we really respond to baptism when we learn what we must do to be a person of faith. We like the idea of jumping in with both feet, but when we find what's really in the water we hightail it out of there.

I think the topic of baptism has been so much on my mind because of what is happening in our society, in our culture, and pervades in our personal lives. Today the hot topic is immigration and especially what's happening on our borders with the separation of children from their parents. There are so many people weighing in on social media and the rhetoric is overwhelming to me. It's hard for people of faith to live into their baptismal promises when faced with choosing what is more important, such as being an American or one's political party. It's hard to sift through when there are so many voices vying for attention. But I believe, that as people of faith reflect back to their baptismal vows and what it means to really embrace the economy of the gospel, it becomes clear how we ought to respond.

But the economy of the gospel is scary because it means putting aside this world’s understanding of security, the importance of getting ahead, and redefining what really is important. The economy of the gospel would say that human beings have value no matter where they come from, what they look like, how much money they have, or what they may have done in their past. Jesus Christ calls us to put aside our own comfort and to trust in the rule of God's kingdom which is mysterious and hard to enumerate or see.

On the other hand, the economy of politics and being an American speak to our more fearful selves; the part of ourselves that tend to want to self-protect and hoard just in case there might not be enough for everyone involved. I get it! My fear can easily be tapped when I think about how difficult it is to find the financial resources to do things even here in the church. And I understand the insecurity of being around others who have a different culture than I am accustomed to. Ultimately, God's word challenges me to move beyond myself and to recognize the vulnerability that comes from leaving behind one's land and family. Recognizing someone’s vulnerability ought to stir up a sense of personal humility, not ego or selfishness. Honoring the humanity of all people requires mercy and compassion.

A scripture to edify…Exodus 23:1-9 from The Message:

1-3 Don’t pass on malicious gossip. Don’t link up with a wicked person and give corrupt testimony. Don’t go along with the crowd in doing evil and don’t fudge your testimony in a case just to please the crowd. And just because someone is poor, don’t show favoritism in a dispute.

4-5 If you find your enemy’s ox or donkey loose, take it back to him. If you see the donkey of someone who hates you lying helpless under its load, don’t walk off and leave it. Help it up.

6 When there is a dispute concerning your poor, don’t tamper with the justice due them.

7 Stay clear of false accusations. Don’t contribute to the death of innocent and good people. I don’t let the wicked off the hook.

8 Don’t take bribes. Bribes blind perfectly good eyes and twist the speech of good people.

9 Don’t take advantage of a stranger. You know what it’s like to be a stranger; you were strangers in Egypt.