I’m Scared: A Final Earthly Goodbye to Rachel Held Evans

I’m Scared: A Final Earthly Goodbye to Rachel Held Evans

This weekend, along with others around the world, I watched the funeral of Rachel Held Evans and I have a confession to make. Her life’s witness scares me. Ever since her passing, which I heard about on my way to a church conference in Atlanta, I’ve been scared. I’ve been scared and I’ve cried a lot. You can read about my initial reaction here.

Moreover, I cried as much yesterday as I did when I initially heard the news.

How can this be? How can someone I never knew beyond her books and blogs have such an impact on me? Well, I know how, truthfully. She was vulnerable. She was open, and honest, and now I’m scared because it’s up to me to be that way in a world without her voice in it.

I’m scared of my questions.

I’m scared that someone might look to my words for comfort or guidance.

And, there is so much I can’t say for certain.

I don’t know about an afterlife. Not for sure. Not in an embodied sense anyway. – That scares me.

I don’t know about forgiveness no matter what I assure others. – Make no mistake, I believe it for you, wholeheartedly. – If there is a heaven, you’ll be there.

That’s what Love does. It brings the loving parts of ourselves, after everything else is stripped away, into itself. (1 Corinthians 13) I believe that. I just know my own brokenness as well.

Still, I guess that’s a start.

Sure, I know brokenness. I see it in my life every day, though, I’m in recovery. – At least I hope I am. I see it in the world every day too and I hope for the same recovery.

I believe that Love is bigger. That I do believe – I also know it’s participatory – That’s the scary part. Love asks me, and you, to work with it even with questions. – All of them.

That’s how you become the most like Love; participation with it.

I’m reminded here of Rachel Held Evans’ words in the beginning of her book, Searching for Sunday, where she was recalling her baptism.

(Full disclosure:I went to her book looking for what I thought to be a cooler quote, one more befitting a credentialed theologian like myself, but I think that would be “faking it” as she said on page 69 since this quote is much more suited to where I am in this moment. I encourage you if you have questions like me, read the whole book by the way. In fact, my post is late today because I found myself rereading her book again in its entirety.)

“I wondered if perhaps my Pentecostal classmates were right and I needed a second baptism of the Holy Spirit, or if I had not been solemn enough or prepared enough for the baptism to work.

I hadn’t yet learned that you tend to come out of the big moments—the wedding, the book deal, the trip, the death, the birth—as the exact same person who went in, and that perhaps the strangest surprise of life is it keeps on happening to the same ol’ you.”[i]

So, here I am. The same ol’ me complete with my fears, questions, and all the rest but knowing that not only does Love outlast all those things it also shapes me into its image as I go.

Even when I’m scared just as I am now.

Thank you, to Rachel Held Evans for providing comfort even in death. Thank you to each of you for reading me words and journeying with me. Wherever you find yourself this day, scared, questioning, doing fine, or somewhere in between, you are not alone.

Love is with you, and for what it’s worth, so am I as I can be.

Always remember too, in the realm of justice and Love,

Love Accepts You No Exceptions.

Peace Love and Acceptance

[i]Evans, Rachel Held. Searching for Sunday (p. 14). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

 

Is Your Love in Limited Supply?

Is Your Love in Limited Supply?

The following post is a reflection based on the lectionary readings from May 19, 2019 of John 13:31-35, Acts 11:1-18, and Revelation 21:1-6. (https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/texts.php?id=137#hebrew_reading)

Calm Love

It’s been a long week.

I had a great time and I learned a lot at a church conference in Atlanta. Then, on the way back, I visited family in Tennessee which was awesome (and a cool story about connection and restoration in its own right.)

I even wrote a blog post from the car about the tragic passing of blogger, speaker, and writer, Rachel Held Evans which had me marveling at the abilities of technology even as I mourned the loss of her voice while also thinking how it is more important than ever to speak up for justice and love when you lose leaders like her. (And, feeling some pressure as I try to find a platform for my own voice right now.)

So, maybe it’s really been a long few weeks.

Travel is not easy in this broken body for one thing. I came home and just crashed. But, it’s more than physical although it certainly is that.

I came home sore, tired, and drained; both physically and emotionally. And, I went to bed for like two days. I’m still not sure I’m fully recovered.

However, as I began to awaken from my travel stupor, I was overcome with great sadness. I began to hear again the ongoing stories of division in our world, of anger, injustice, and hate…

I don’t know, maybe I just blocked them out for a time. Maybe, I had just grown numb to them and, as I woke up, instead being refreshed they just hit me. – HARD.

Do you ever feel like that? Hit hard by the world around you? It can be you personally or collectively. It can come from yourself or others. Just the weight of it all. Like it’s all collapsing onto you?

What do you do? It’s overwhelming isn’t it? It seems like the best thing to do might be just to go back to sleep.

Except, you can’t sleep forever. Life carries on. You have work to do. Bills to pay. Maybe you’re at a life stage like mine where you have kids looking to you asking, “What do I do?”

My daughter, Hope, came to me just a few days ago and opened up about some of her questions and struggles. So, I listened. We talked. It was beautiful really to be able to relate on this level even as part of me wanted to say, “I just don’t know!”

That’s it, isn’t it? That’s the struggle. Wanting answers and not always having answers. Do you feel that?!

It doesn’t have to be just with kids either. I’m sure you have someone asking you questions no matter who you are even if it’s just yourself asking them. Because, these questions aren’t coming from just one of these directions. (Kids, others, or ourselves) they are coming from ALL of these directions.

We live in a time of division. We live in a time of injustice, and we live in a time of questions.

In fact, no matter what you believe or don’t believe, I bet we can agree that life comes with no shortage of questions.

Truthfully, though, we’ve always lived life amidst questions. That’s nothing new; not now or in Jesus’ time. I think the only variable is how much you feel these questions at any given moment.

Perhaps, not surprisingly then, we hear from Jesus about what matters most when confronted by these questions we all face right here in John 13.

This passage is part of a collection of passages known as Jesus’ Farewell Discourse. Jesus is preparing his disciples for life without his physical presence. More than offering comfort, though, Jesus is trying to focus them and us forward to live into our mission as his people.

 And, they need it just like we need it. Think for a moment about everything they’ve been through over the last several weeks… Palm Sunday, “Hosanna!” Savior! (Matthew 21:9)

We are going to claim our power over injustice! …And, then, they watch Jesus get killed…

“Well, somebody has to anoint the body” and, in typical male fashion, we read the women go. “Us guys, we’ll just stay safely locked up in this room.” … “Wait. What do you mean he’s not there?!” (John 20:1-2)

“Wait, Jesus is back! Savior, again!” (Thomas, “I don’t believe it…”) … then, “My Lord and my God!” …We really are saved! (John 20:25, 28)

Except, ultimately, Jesus leaves again which the disciples aren’t ready for.

(Though, remember, they are waiting for the Holy Spirit. We already have the Holy Spirit, wait not required.)

Still, whether it’s the original disciples back fishing in John 21 or later retreating into the upper room in the beginning of Acts 1 or it’s us today, Jesus has already offered these words from John 13 to remember in our questioning times.

Jesus says, “Listen, I’m gonna go…” (John 13:33) And, they say just like we sometimes do, “What do we do now?” …Because, that’s the point. What are we, followers of Jesus, going to do in our world of uncertainty?

But, Jesus’ answer is simple… Even if not always easy to live out – Love

When uncertainty comes – And, it will come – Love

When you don’t know what to do… Love

That’s what we see in Acts 11 today. Some disciples weren’t so sure what to do about the non-Jewish believers…So, of course, they were fighting about it because that’s our human brokenness. We’d rather fight to keep people out rather than let everyone in. That’s not Love.

They said to Peter, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” (Acts 11:13)

But, Peter had a vision …A word from God…which told him just as it tells us, “Don’t worry about what you think the rules are. Love meets you where you are, no matter who you are just as I did because I am Love. Go do the same.

Remember, the disciples didn’t come to Jesus and ask to follow him.

That’s how it was done in those days. You’d go follow a rabbi for a time until you’d generally be sent home. (or you’d go become a rabbi yourself.)

But, Jesus did something different. He went and told these people (who would have been already told by another rabbi they weren’t good enough) “Come follow me.” (Matthew 4:19)

He says the same thing to us. “Come follow me” because Love accepts you no exceptions”

That’s what Peter’s actions in Acts 11 demonstrate as well.

It’s also what so many people who profess Christian faith seem to get wrong so often today.

The Good News is you can begin again today even if you’ve always gotten it wrong. It’s never a bad time to Love.

When you have questions, when you doubt, when you’re scared and uncertain as you look around at a world filled with injustice, unfairness, hate… and everything else…or even if you, yourself, are just not sure what to do, Love.

Just as I have loved you, love one another. (John 13:34)

Because, in doing so, in being loving in a world so often characterized by not Love, people will know who you are and whose you are.  “Everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” They’ll know you belong to Love. (John 13:35)

And, you’ll change hearts.

 Ultimately, love will win too so have courage to keep going. That’s the true significance of the vision in Revelation no matter what some folks try and turn it into. (Rev. 21:2-6) It’s love over injustice.

My home will be among you. I’ll dwell with you and wipe the tears from your eyes. “Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more. The rest will be stripped away”

All things will be new. And, you can remember my words.

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will provide the water of life.

In the meantime, Jesus says, hold onto love even amidst the questions, the hurts, and everything else and others will know Love because of me.

We are unified by Love, whenever we Love, and in case you need to hear it again so you remember it in your most difficult times, Love Accepts You No Exceptions. – Love always expands its circle. Anything else, isn’t Love.

Love is NEVER in limited supply. So, speak out for Love. Embrace it. That’s true discipleship; 2,000 years ago or today. 

Imagine if we lived this way? You can live this way. It even multiplies as you do it, and another, and another… That’s the power of love!

That’s Jesus message. Love. Wherever you are or whatever you’re going through, remember Love. Live Love out. Again and again, one action at a time. One person at a time. Until Everyone is included. That’s True Love. Amen.

Wherever you are this day, I hope you’ll join me in reflection on these words of love as we share this part of our journey together and remember, wherever you find yourself, in the realm of justice and love,

“Love accepts you, no exceptions.”

Peace Love and Acceptance

Are You Afraid of Monsters?

Are You Afraid of Monsters?

“Bigfoot and Monsters”
I’ve searched for bigfoot and monsters
And stopped before I started
In order to protect myself
I’ve always been most guarded
This is no real way to live
Be free, my friend
Don’t hold but give
Away control most freely
Because life is wonder to create
To release, let go, empowering
So be quick to do it easy
Because as the years pass
The seasons change
Wisdom left your newfound gains
As bodies fade from glory
Just beyond our knowing room
Another field of flowers blooms
Love’s everlasting story

nature walking animal strong
Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

I’ve been thinking a lot about bigfoot and monsters especially since the passing of Rachel Held Evans about whom you can read some thoughts in my post, Love Remains: My Eulogy for Rachel Held Evans. We all have them, these bigfoots and monsters. Those things which keep us from living our fullest lives. Fears, insecurities and doubts, about ourselves and others, are in no short supply. This is particularly true when we are confronted with the finality of life but it can happen anytime.

However, the older I get, the more I realize life is not about trying to hold on and control. Frankly, we can’t control life anyway. Still, uncertainty is not really my biggest monster if I’m honest with myself.

The biggest monster I face is the one inside of me. True power is to release the control I don’t really have anyway, to let my monsters go, and to embrace the freedom God’s love offers me. Love makes me a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17) This is true for you too.

It’s both as simple as knowing I’m not God and as difficult as I want it to be.

There will always be worldly struggles, life and death, and I am called to speak out for love and justice as much I can. I do not have to add to my struggles, though, by fighting against myself.

So, let me ask you.

What are your bigfoots and monsters?

What’s one way you can let them go this week?

(One way you might do this is to repeat the words, “God is bigger than my monsters,” every time doubt creeps in.)

Beyond yourself personally, maybe consider, “If I encounter someone who is struggling this week, how can I remind them they are loved by God as well?”

In living this out, showing love for yourself and those around you, do you think your monsters might seem a little smaller?

Try it and let me know how it goes. I look forward to your comments.

Wherever you are this day, I hope you’ll join me in reflection as we share this part of our journey together and remember, in the realm of justice and love,

“Love accepts you, no exceptions.”Peace Love and Acceptance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love Remains: My Eulogy for Rachel Held Evans

Love Remains: My Eulogy for Rachel Held Evans

I just read news that Rachel Held Evans passed from this world. I am overcome with grief even as I write this.

There is a reason I’m so drawn to people still figuring it out. I’m one of them. Though I never had the opportunity to know her personally, Rachel Held Evans was one of these people too.

There’s something beautiful about sitting amidst the messiness of life. It can be painful and difficult, absolutely. Now, is one of those times. But, it can also be freeing. This was Racel Held Evans’ testimony. I hope it’s mine too.

Please know, if you have doubts, questions, pain, or brokenness, you are not alone. If you sit in sadness this day, I’m right there with you. I’m literally wiping tears from my eyes as I write this. Sobbing at times, my sorrow will not be unattended.

Yet, even as I face these struggling times, when all I want is to cry out with my voice quivering and quaking unable to adequately express the depth of my anguish, I have hope. Hope for something beyond this broken world which seems unyielding in this moment.

My hope is that love is bigger.

Don’t worry. I’ll still have questions. It’s natural to have questions in a world where such wonderful spirits are gone from among us all too quickly. We just don’t mourn without hope. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

That’s something I’m trying to hold onto even in this moment. That when all the brokenness, suffering, pain, and everything else passes away, three things remain. Faith, Hope, and Love. Love is the greatest of these. (1 Corinthians 13)

As you read this, please let me know where you find hope today. Perhaps in our sharing we can find strength together. Right now, your words of comfort, compassion, and community would mean a great deal to me.

That’s what it’s about, right? Sitting together?

RIP good servant. Wherever you are may you know your time and witness here made a difference. You were a bringer of love, the kind of love that lives on beyond all that we see or the questions we have.

You may never have known the full impact you made but you made it with me. I’m grateful

Wherever you are this day, thank you for sharing this part of your journey with me. Remember always, in the realm of love,

Love accepts you no exceptions.

Peace Love and Acceptance