Blog Post: My Own Resurrection…of Sorts…My Own Easter Miracle in the Form of a Two Month Anniversary

Easter Sunday was a very special day for me on a number of levels: I celebrated Easter and the Risen Christ with my Field Ed church, a church that was in and of itself celebrating its own “risen-ness,” with a new pastor, its first student in at least 6 years, and a deep-rooted pain after its last temporary pastor. I also celebrated my own Easter, my own resurrection Sunday, my own coming to life. 

Easter Sunday, 4/20/14, marked exactly two months since the implantation of my pacemaker, and my new beginning. Now, for many, a pacemaker isn’t much, and I get that. But let me explain. For my EP, it was a decision that we wrestled to the ground, even in the moments leading up to its implantation. In the day and even hours leading up to the surgery, my EP and I discussed whether I was making the right decision, and whether I could possibly have one more ablation before putting in a pacemaker in five weeks. He said that the eventual outcome would be a pacemaker, and likely sooner rather than later, but why not try (my previous form of treatment, definitely not curative by any means) once more just to see if it would improve my quality of life? If it would give me my Easter moment? While I appreciated what he was saying, I simply wasn’t willing to do this – I wasn’t willing to gamble five more weeks of my life (five weeks that I could actually be living as an adult, breathing (something I have grown to take completely for granted), enjoying my life?). And so, in the late afternoon of 2/20, the walk toward my Easter resurrection began. The work was not easy, and involved a second, emergency surgery, but resurrection happened. New life and a second (or fifth) chance was granted.

I was sitting at the table with Debbie & Bill Davis (a close mentor of mine, an ordained PC(USA) minister, and a member of the PTS faculty) and my parents on Easter, when all of a sudden, Debbie said, “didn’t you have surgery eight weeks ago, today?” I smiled, and thought, “How appropriate, that today, Easter, would mark the two month anniversary of my surgery…that I could be breathing and enjoying life two months out on Easter?” 

We all have our Easter Resurrections – either little, or big, like mine. They come in all forms, and can be medical, academic, vocational, or relational, but they are deserving of stopping for a moment. We should pause, and celebrate the meaning of the resurrection, the change, the cause, and the tremendous blessing that has come as a result of such a change. Sometimes these resurrections come and go without much notice, either because they are so small and seemingly insignificant that our lives change without any need to pause. Or perhaps these resurrections are so incredibly life changing that we need to pause, take a breath and celebrate how life has been altered, maybe for the better. 

My resurrection was life changing. Eight weeks later, on Easter morning, I couldn’t remember life before surgery. Life before surgery meant taking the elevator instead of the stairs, driving places instead of walking, sitting down all the time instead of being able to stand, and sleeping constantly instead of living wide awake. My resurrection has meant a complete 180 in terms of my lifestyle, and a new life – I will never be the same person I was before, but rather I got a new life. Every morning, when I get up and get ready in front of the mirror, I have a new buddy: a 2” scar and a lump right under my left collarbone. 

But I don’t remember my life before, nor would I ever want to go back. Resurrection life means a sense of newness, not a return to the status quo, or a return to the old. I got something new – a battery, two leads, and a brand new lease on life. And now, I need to live it head on, with everything I’ve got! 

 

What are your resurrection moments? Are they life-changing? Or are they just pauses? Where are your Easters?

Blog Post: Are You There, God? Its Dark All Around…Finding God in the Dark Places

One of my best friends Crystal once described faith in God as being much like the ocean tide – it goes in, and it comes back out. Sometimes, it comes in smoothly and laps against the soft sand, and other times, it comes angrily back toward the shore, crashing in gigantic, looming waves that look as though they are going to eat you alive. I love this metaphor, especially as a seminary student preparing to graduate and enter full-time hospital chaplaincy, which is chock full of crisis, end of life situations, trauma, and horrible, tragic, and for some, imaginably Godless (?) dark places. 

For many who know me best, I’ve been there. I’ve walked my own path along the shoreline of lapping tides and crashing riptides; I’ve had moments where it has seemed incredibly difficult to imagine God’s face, filled with loving grace in the midst of the deep, dank, darkness, where nothing seems possible. In the midst of a diagnosis, no diagnosis and every diagnosis, some treatment, no treatment, and a scary, and very FINAL treatment that involves regular follow ups for the rest of my life, imagining and feeling God was at times, interesting to say the least. 

And yet, God. Was. There. Some have asked whether it was because I already had faith to begin with, and because my faith was strong, because I had something for my faith to stand on. 

Perhaps. 

Others have asked me whether it was because I was a seminary student, with ample theological  and scriptural training, with lots of resources, support and a community to bolster me. 

Perhaps again. 

But I wouldn’t place my credit in such earthly or vain places. Yes, it did help that I was in a place where others could help me reason out my heart’s deepest longings, and that I had a community who could be there through it; yet, location isn’t everything. It also greatly helped that I had faith before I got sick. Yet context isn’t everything, nor is history or past. 

My very Reformed beliefs teach that God never goes away – no matter what, no matter when, and no matter how horrible the situation, no matter how terrible the circumstance. I am not going to tackle the issue of theodicy (aka why bad things happen, and what role God plays in these unspeakable things…that’s NOT for this blog post…that’s for another blog post entirely), but rather, where God goes (or doesn’t go?) when that bad stuff happens. 

It begins with understanding this God. Back during Lent, I blogged on Deuteronomy, and especially on chapter 31. Chapter 31 talks about the character of God, especially during times of adversity and struggle. Verse 6 says: 

“Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the LORD your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.” (NRSV)

See, God sticks it out – He’s there, not failing the suffering, not forsaking them, even when it is really impossible, dark, terrible, when all seems lost. But it seems to imply that we – the suffering – are supposed to respond and be something…do something. Be strong. Be bold. That seems rather tough, especially when things are difficult. 

Even Christ felt forsaken by God, HIS FATHER (ok, trinitarian theology time, Christ IS GOD, but also human…), on the Cross, just as he was about to be crucified. 

“At three o’clock, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34, NRSV) 

What’s up with that, God? Did that REALLY have to happen? Did you really just forsake your human/incarnate son? 

The thing is, God is still there. God hasn’t abandoned Jesus, nor has He abandoned the audience of Deuteronomy 31; He just is exercising his authority to let things play out. He is still present, still being the divine pastor, the divine counselor, the divine presence. But He simply cannot be the puppet master, intervening in each and every negative, dark and icky aspect of our lives as faithful members of the body of Christ. God simply CANNOT be that type of Father, that type of creator, or that type of anything. It is irrational and impossible to expect that God can protect us from everything that happens, or only make the light, bright, shiny things happen in life. That would be nice, but not the reality – scripture shows us that cannot be so, and our lives are the living evidence. 

What he can do is this: 

“We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28, NRSV)

Stuff happens. Bad stuff, dark stuff, evil stuff, really unspeakable, at times seemingly God-lacking stuff happens, and yet, GOD IS STILL HERE, no doubt about it. We are undoubtedly shaped by our dark stuff, by the icky stuff, by the rough and bumpy stuff. It makes us who we are, it informs our journeys, and shapes our call narratives, as it undoubtedly has mine. I would not have come to the conclusion that I am called to ministry, let alone called to a particular area without my ick, my tough, my dark. 

And yet, we must persist in looking for God in the dark. The ick makes us whole, but only by the grace and love of God. If not for God, we are only ick, unhealed, unreconciled and frustrated. God gives the words, frames and shapes a story out of the ick. Makes the brokenness a message, a story, and most importantly, a foundation upon which to stand. 

The dark stuff is a part of our walk with God – it isn’t God-given, nor is it God-created. It isn’t punishment from God, a message from God, nor is it a trial from God. It isn’t God testing us to see if we are strong enough to walk with God. The God of the Bible DOESN’T work like that. Stuff happens, and God walks with those going through the stuff until they emerge on the other side – or don’t. But either way, God is there. Because our God is the God of Deuteronomy, of Mark, and of Romans. God is a God who isn’t afraid of the Dark, nor is He afraid of the Light. He is capable of being a shepherd, a persistent Father, a loving pastor, a graceful and tender hearted protector, and a stronghold until we are “good” again. 

But what are you going to do with it? This darkness turned into light journey with God? Will it be empowering? Or will it be paralyzing? Will it be the story that informs the rest of your walk with God? Or will it be the thing that causes you to flee? Will it be the very thing that puts pen to paper – for your sake or the sake of others? 

What will you do and God together with it? Because you sure as heck are not going to go into the darkness alone. God as your guide and shepherd will be there every step, shuffle and crawl of the way.

Thanks be to God.

Blog Post: Call Me Liz.

I used to be a runner, field hockey and lacrosse goalie, a cyclist, and a dancer. In the deepest and darkest throws of my illness, I couldn’t do any of those things anymore, and at the very beginning, I used to dream these vivid, almost lifelike dreams about the things and activities I was craving most to do. In one dream, I could run along the mill river, one of my favorite places to run in college. In this dream, I would run without limitation, and likely, even better than I could ever run in real life – without pain in my muscles or joints, without spasm or tightness in my airways and lungs, and no sharp stabbing tightness over my heart. In my dreams, I could run completely without fear, feeling the cool Western Massachusetts air fill my lungs, the smooth stones against my shoes, and mud splatter against my calves. In the last few months, in the really bad moments of my illness, my dreams weren’t nearly as carefree – my lungs felt choked and filled with spasm, my chest hurt, my muscles seized and joints ached. 

Only in my dreams could I dance, run, and do the very things I loved, and even in the end, I couldn’t do these things. 

But how life has changed, with a 2 inch scar. But lets make things very clear. I am NOT anything but Liz. I am Liz.

Not a millennial, not a pacemaker patient, not a seminarian, not a chaplain, not an ordination candidate, not a ______, not. Not. NOT. 

A while back, someone asked me to demonstrate my arrhythmia – to illustrate for a table full of people what it was like. Forget feeling mortified, forget feeling embarrassed (not for myself, but for them…), forget feeling completely angry. I remembered that just because people go to seminary, doesn’t mean they are comfortable with illness, nor does it mean that they are equipped to be pastoral or sensitive to the needs of others. I wanted to tell them that it felt like losing your dignity, your ability to breathe, to see, to think clearly, to get normal day to day things done, and to feel like a normal human being. 

But rather than honor them with a dignified response, I said, I don’t fit in a box. I don’t choose to be identified by what has happened to me. I would rather be called by the name I was given at birth. What I’ve been through colors the way I look at the world – both theologically, socially, culturally, and definitely informs how I think about each and every day. Yet, I don’t choose to think about it. The fact that I’m blogging about it does not mean that I am thinking about it. What it means is that I’m recognizing and acknowledging a change, and a shift from being sick to being well, from being only sick to getting to explore what life is like, as Liz, and my life with others in community. 

Being sick is self-absorbing; and to some extent, I’ll be sick for the rest of my life. Yet, I’m the best I’m ever going to get! So I want to be identified as well, as someone in their 20s, as vibrant, as lively, as adventurous. Not as someone who has spent the last eight years in and out of the hospital. See me for the sum total of my successes and victories, not the account of my bumps, bruises and scars. 

I am not my vocation, I am not my seminary or undergraduate degrees, I am not my hobbies, I am not my relationships with others. I am a sum total of my experiences, but most importantly, I am my relationship with God, who saw it fit to create me, to reconcile me to Christ, and to guide me through the Holy Spirit. 

Think back. Think back to all the times you have been rejected, or characterized based on a singular quality. Has that rejection been entirely correct? Rejection is never entirely fair, nor is it always right, but if it has been based on one singular quality, is it fair that you were judged or put into a box because of it? Probably not. When I was looking for a field education placement for my senior year of seminary,  I had a pretty difficult time. I looked, and looked and looked, and looked again. More than 10 churches interviewed me, or considered me, and once they heard that I was in the middle of a health issue, and had a food allergy, they pretty much said, “thanks, but we’re not interested.” Or better yet, “We don’t think you’re a good match for what we are looking for in our church.” (And we say that pastors are pastoral by nature…) By Christmas, I had one site all but lined up, and then shortly after New Year’s, on the day of my very first heart surgery, my perhaps-supervisor emailed me (yes, emailed. For those of you who DON’T think social media and the internet is destroying human relationships, perhaps you might reconsider now?) to tell me that suddenly the position no longer existed. All of a sudden, my would-be field ed was gone and out of reach; rejection hurts, but it hurts even more when you find out that it was offered to someone else who didn’t have any health issues or limitations about a month later. But eventually, I found a pastor and supervisor who didn’t see the need for me to prove myself, for me to justify my ability to complete my placement, and who was just satisfied with me as I am. He was ok with what I had to offer, was willing to meet me where I was, and work with what I could bring to the table in ministry. Praise God for true and genuine pastors, who prayerfully consider and give a Called individual a chance. 

Reality and rejection really hurts, and it especially hurts when others who barely know you insist upon placing you in a particular box or category. Yes, I have a food allergy. Yes, I have a pacemaker. Yes, I am a future RCA minister of the Word and Sacrament, and Yes, I am a chaplain. I am a woman, a twenty-something, a ginger, and a former collegiate athlete. But I am also a heck of a lot of other things that DON’T define who I am, and neither do any of these things. These things all COLLECTIVELY make up the footprints behind me, but don’t make up the footprints yet to be made in front of me, the experiences yet to be had, and my ability to make them. 

Call me Liz. Because a lot lies behind my name. Where I have walked, the lives of those who have touched me, who I have touched, my hopes, dreams, and where I desire to go in the many, many years to come. But to place me in a box or category will only stifle that.

Easter Monday Post: Christ is Risen. Now What?

Yesterday was Easter. In case you didn’t know, or missed it, because you have been living under a rock. For some, Easter is just a day for kids to be overstimulated on sugar, white and pink rabbits and marshmallow peeps, but for many of us, Easter means a heck of a lot more. Easter means CHRIST IS RISEN. Yesterday meant the beginning of a new life, the initiation into a new existence as a result of the one who was willing to die on behalf of sinful humanity. This Christ, one of the Triune God, overcame the impossibility of death, proving that he was not just human, but also God. 

I titled my post, “Christ is Risen, Now What?” for a number of reasons. Not just because Easter has come and gone, but because Easter marks a significant moment in the lives of many. Already, I have seen many a Facebook status saying, “Well, already my day is better because I could have _______.” [Insert Lenten fast object/item/food here] If this is all Lent means to us as Christians or secular humans – 40 days of extracting coffee, chocolate, beer, or what have you – a Facebook status celebrating its reentry after the appropriate period of time, then who are we? Are we just 40 day Christians? To be blunt, we are just Lent and Easter Christians, and that isn’t right. That isn’t fair and true to the one who was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice on the cross for our minute and temporary (40 day, excluding the 6 Sundays where WE CAN consume our lenten object/item) sacrifice. This sounds harsh and blunt, and frankly, it is. But I’m willing to make such a claim because to preach the Gospel or Good News of Christ on Easter and then go back to drinking coffee 12 hours later is hypocritical. We need to be better – we need to remember the sacrifice of Christ, and to live into the new creation Christ initiates us into each and every day – not just once a year, but EACH AND EVERY DAY. 

Now, now, don’t think that I’m all holier than thou and trying to condemn y’all. Because I’m not! I’m no better! I will likely go back to occasionally purchasing my favorite makeup items, and over time, it will get less restrained. But understand that the Gospel message Christ preached was not one without strings attached; it was not one without a full commitment. Christ demanded that we give up everything and follow Him, and we are still expected to follow that. Not literally, of course – we are not expected to give up our homes, jobs, money and families to follow Christ. But we are supposed to live into the Easter miracle of resurrection – that is new life – and give up those things that inhibit us as Christians from fully focusing on what it is that is the Christian existence. We are also supposed to continue to live into the sacrifice – not woefully or with obvious complaint (i.e. public Facebook statuses griping about how difficult it is to be a Christian during Lent, how difficult it is to give up X or Y…), but with joy,  thanksgiving and supplication. Faith is not an easy journey, but it is a worthy journey. But it is not one where we can lay down the cross Christ picked up out of sheer inconvenience. 

Now what for the blog? Well, the blog will definitely continue, but not every day. I’m starting into the final push of my M.Div., and with that comes an insane number of papers, exams and also my Final Review for Ordination. A lot of lasts. But also a lot of firsts as well. My nursery school had this song, written by Joe Raposo, the man who wrote the songs for Sesame Street (he coincidentally lived in the town where I grew up): 

“This is the ending of the beginning, Oh what a good place, for us to start.” 

I think that’s very fitting, both for this post, and for the direction of this blog as well. Faith does not necessarily begin at Easter (although for some it might), but perhaps it is refreshed and made anew. But more importantly, our lives with God, as reconciled through Christ should not dwindle down to the niceties after Easter Sunday ends, as Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf was far too significant and transformative. Now, as for my blog, I certainly won’t be writing every day, as my Lenten challenge of sorts is over, but I won’t be putting the blog away entirely either. I have enjoyed sharing my life, my journey, and what’s what in the church with the world. So stay tuned, keep your ears to the ground, and SUBSCRIIIBEEEE!

Blog Post #40: This is His Pulpit, Not Your Soap Box: Earning the Privilege to Preach, Not the Right.

Princeton has a wonderful and blessed tradition where students in their last year can preach a “senior sermon” in Miller Chapel, this incredible building where many famous professors and Ministers of the Word and Sacrament have previously shared the Gospel Message with countless seminary classes before. I have partaken in this tradition, as have many of my friends and classmates. Witnessing the preaching over the last three years in Miller has been what I have come to consider an interesting journey; sometimes the preaching is incredibly thought provoking and theological, and other times, it is less than so and more testimony and political tirade. I can just hear my favorite preaching professor say from one of Stuart Hall’s classrooms, “WHERE IS THE GOOD NEWS IN THIS SERMON?” And I now find myself asking the preacher in my head day in and day out in chapel, “Where is the Good News of Jesus Christ in your seven minute message?” 

It must be recognized upfront that every tradition speaks from a different place and in a different way from my own; yet there is a basic understanding that church and worship is not a song and dance performance act but a sacred opportunity to interact in community with other Christians in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Worship is not a time to conduct a concert, to glorify the self, but solely a time to GLORIFY GOD in community with others. The way this is done can happen in any number of ways – based on tradition, ethnicity, race, heritage, orthodoxy, language, etc. But it ultimately IS NOT ABOUT THE GLORIFICATION OF THE SELF. Not through the music, not through the prayers, and certainly NOT through the sermon. 

The interesting part of becoming a preacher is that it gives you a stage, and in some cases, a very elevated one – one physically higher than the congregation, but also one theologically and academically higher as well. Preaching the word is a difficult task on a number of levels, but is firstly, NOT GIVING A TESTIMONY. It is not getting into the pulpit to share how Jesus touched a person’s heart, it isn’t an opportunity to share feelings, observations, nor is it a chance to give an account of a pastor’s walk with God. The pulpit is not a place to share political views, or to belt out a message of how the world has wronged an individual. That’s what a blog is for…

The pulpit is a sacred place, where God through the Holy Spirit speaks to God’s people. The message being delivered is not that of the preacher, but that of God and God alone. The message being delivered unites and gathers the community of God around that sacred message TO and FOR them. 

Preaching is not something that is a right. It is a privilege. It is not something that every person can and should do, but something that an individual is ordained to do and selected to do by God. The message preached is not their own, but God’s, and at any moment, that privilege can be taken away. The pulpit has to be earned, and can easily be abused, as scripture shows, humans are not the wisest, nor the most thoughtful of creation. We are foolish, frequently poor thinkers, and not great at forethought. The message preached, the words used, and how it is presented all have the power to change and alter a life – either for the better or for the worse. And so preaching should be a sacred act and a Godly act alone. 

As one of my mentors said best, preaching should be best left to the experts and to those who hold it to the highest esteem, and the theater should be left to those who enjoy the song and the dance. The Gospel is not something that should be messed with, nor should it be altered for the benefit of another’s agenda. The Gospel has one agenda and one alone: that of the God who was willing to selflessly be crucified on behalf of the sins of humanity. 

So before each and every one of us gets up to preach, let us ask, are we preaching God’s Good News, with the intention of lifting up, challenging, shaking the foundations and also attempting to build back up. Preaching is not self-glorification, self-gentrification, and the attracting of attention. It is not to say, “See? I have it all figured out because I have this $90,000 theological education and you don’t…” Preaching is intended to gather in, not to exclude, and when the message does such, it is not done to the glory and honor of the God who was willing and able to die for all creation and sins, and for all time. 

Think. Think about your words – prayerfully, and thoughtfully. They are not yours in the pulpit. And the minute they become such, back away. Step down, and pray. Pray for revelation, for discernment and for assistance. For maturity and growth, and for those people who can give assistance and clarity in life that isn’t there now. 

We don’t have it all figured out, and the pulpit isn’t the place to figure it out, nor is it the place to make such a declaration. However, it is the place to declare the broken glory of our Lord, and the inclusiveness of that community to all – not because you are the gatekeeper, but because the Lord is. 

But we can be a vessel for that message, if we are worthy and humble enough to embody that message. We can be a vessel for such a message if we are humble enough to recognize that we are not the literal Gospel of Jesus Christ, but Christ is, and we live because of the triune God. The pulpit is the place for the proclamation of the Gospel, and we can be the light on the lampstand for God’s word to God’s people in all situations, in all places and in all corners of the world. That is, should we listen, pray and discern what is right and true for the church and for the body. 

 

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Lent Post #39: Jesus Didn’t Go Easter Egg Hunting, So Don’t Do It At Church.

Over the last few days, I’ve seen many a Facebook message and event go out advertising “Easter Egg Hunts” at churches and houses of worship. Usually they begin with the following types of tag lines:

“Have nowhere to go this Sunday? Come on over to _______ Presbyterian/Reformed/Congregational church for an Easter Egg Hunt!” 

Now, I’m sure that Jesus enjoys plasticized, break in half neon colored eggs filled with chocolate candies and jelly beans just as much as the next five, six and seven year old, but is that really what should be happening this Sunday? Is that really the type of activity our houses of worship should be holding come Easter Sunday? 

The reality is, a vast number of Americans come to church on a choice number of Sundays each year – Christmas, and this coming Sunday, the celebration of our risen Lord Jesus Christ, Easter. To expect regular attendance would mean a competition with soccer, lacrosse, hockey practices, sleeping in (aka being bedside baptists, morning methodists, etc.) after a night out partying, just plain inconvenience, lack of belief, doubt, or what have you. 

Sure, God loves the pomp and circumstance, the brass, pageants, frilly dresses, and I’m sure that he is glad people come to church when they can to praise and thank Him for everything, even if out of familial obligation once or twice a year. Usually, Easter celebrations are filled with extra flowers, usually more beautiful than the average Sunday, dramatic music, and an even lengthier sermon (which the children especially appreciate, I’m sure…NOT!). 

But the tone of church drastically changes when Sunday Services turn into a secular Easter Bunny celebration. There is no Easter Bunny in Scripture. No, the Easter Bunny did NOT come and greet Jesus at the Cross, nor did he/she come to the empty tomb with Mary Magdalene when she discovered that the stone had been rolled away in John 20. 

Perhaps we as a church run immediately toward Easter Egg hunts for our children on Easter, leaning to the image of the Easter Bunny rather than the miraculous image of our risen Lord out of fear of scarring children with the gruesome depictions of a crucified human deity who is Christ. Yet, why are we choosing to protect kids from what the Bible teaches with more palatable Marshmallow Peeps and sour Jelly Beans? Yes, granted the crucifixion is scary, and the idea of a resurrection is difficult for young children to figure out, but how often are we really and properly teaching kids using these Easter Egg Hunts at church what the true meaning of the crucifixion and resurrection means? Maybe these hunts are just an opportunity to have kids over, let them run around and hop them up on sugary treats before sicking them back on their parents…

One Christian advocate for Easter Egg Hunts at churches makes the claim that pastors should include scripture passages in the eggs instead of candy during these hunts. Ok…good idea, except how many 3-8 year olds are actually going to want to continue to hunt for the eggs after realizing there isn’t any yummy candy inside? My guess is not too many. [This also makes a statement and assumption regarding his denomination, audience and the level of scriptural capacity of his congregation versus the majority of mainline Protestant congregations elsewhere in the United States. Let’s be honest here.]

My summation? Keep the Easter Egg Hunts in your homes, on Easter day morning, and keep Jesus out of it. It is a lovely tradition, and definitely something I enjoyed as a child, apart from my Sunday mornings in church with my family. But Jesus and the Easter Bunny have nothing to do with one another, and to force them together is simply not a good nor theologically acceptable connection to be making for children. Don’t force Jesus into it. 

However, and here I go again…playing Devil’s advocate…if it is at all possible to make this hunt a tool for evangelism and outreach, then by all means do so. But this should be the motivation for the activity. 

So where am I landing on this topic? Don’t just willy nilly have an egg hunt at church unless it is being used as a tool for education and evangelism. It can be confusing for kids, and can make them think that the Easter Bunny comes to church. Instead, make it an opportunity to include scripture, teaching about why Easter happens every year, and why they should come to church. If these motivations are NOT behind your Easter Egg Hunt, DON’T DO IT! STEP AWAY FROM THE PLASTIC EGGS IN YOUR FELLOWSHIP HALL AND TELL YOUR KIDDOS TO GO HOME! 

Remember that church is not your home, but one of those places that we as the body of Christ gather together to worship God. Therefore, everything that happens at church should be done for the glorification and worship of God and God alone, not humans. This is important and necessary to remember, both for you as a leader, as a parent, as a friend, and as a member of the body of Christ. 

 

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Lent Post #38: Don’t be Something/Someone you’re not. Plain and Simple.

Facebook. A place filled with lots of interesting facts and lots of things that are something a little bit less…factual. 

Think about what is posted and the motivation behind it. Are the words posted because attention is desired? Is this truly and authentically you? It is difficult to be authentic on the internet, when nothing is truly at stake. But think about it. How are these words received by others? Are your posts taken for inspiration? For assistance? Will you be received as something you aren’t? 

I have frequently written about the twenty something desire to post every breath, thought and emotion on the internet, especially on Facebook before taking a deep breath, or before thinking of the reception these collection of emotions. The internet is a vast and expansive place where anonymity is somewhat permitted, and where people can become whatever and whomever they please to some extent. They can create certain identities, can slip into a position of victimhood, empowerment, or whatever they please in a moment’s notice, and then, a moment later, can be entirely something else. The wonderful thing about the internet is that it truly lives up to its previous moniker of the World Wide Web – a place where you can be who you want to be and not be held accountable to it.  

But do you want to live this kind of life – split between the false realm of impersonal and even fake exchanges divided by pixels and screens and the real world where authenticity reigns? Do you want to be the person constantly being caught by others in a web of lies, scrambling to cover for this story or that, trying to remember which story you told when and where? 

The bottom line is, plain and simple, don’t be something or someone you’re not. It is too complicated and too disingenuous to live two lives, especially when one is based entirely upon a series of untruths. If God had intended for us as created humanity to live two or more existences, he would have made it such that our lives were entirely that complicated yet simply gorgeous. But that isn’t the way it works – not at the moment, at least. Each of us were bestowed one story, with a series of doors, branches, streams of life, whatever you would choose to call them (narratives) that come off this main life story, and with each, our life becomes more dynamic and exciting. But we are still given only one life story, not two, three, four, or God forbid, five. 

Authenticity is sacred, something that is created and cultivated, carefully forged, not in a moment, but over time. It is easily lost, and once lost, possibly not ever gained back. It can be lost over the matter of a lie, over the matter of untruth-telling, over a life lived without care for others. For me, authenticity is extraordinarily sacred, and is not taken lightly. But once secured, it is hard fought for, protected like a precious gem. But test it, try it, and all will be lost. 

Illness (as well as tragedy, divorce, a loss, a separation, a huge life transition that is devastating, etc.) strips you of everything – dignity, privacy, and calls you to be only who you are – nothing else. It attempts to call into question who you are, even asking to rip away your very being – identity, personality, mobility, personhood. And yet authenticity is all you have. All you have is the truth – your story, who you are, what you are going through, every single day. To some extent, there are no hopes and dreams, only todays, and tomorrows. For those who are truly sick, authenticity is everything, and the desire to be normal is everything But for the fake sick, the possibilities of life are endless, and authenticity has no meaning – attention seeking is everything. 

Where is this going? What is the point of this? It is all to say that authenticity is everything. Being who you are, for the sake of who God created you and only you to be is everything. It is all you have, and a tremendous gift! My short run yesterday, however taxing and humbling was a reminder of all this. Three years ago, I was able to run marathon distances – with chest pain, a sign of the impending doom I soon faced. Three years of illness, of not being able to do the things I loved – running, riding my bike, of being simply exhausted, of having to be constantly confronted with more “nos” than “yeses” gnawed away at my rough edges, and even some of the smooth, more refined ones. It revealed the person I truly was, as a close friend revealed to me one day – it forced me to examine who I truly was created to be. True and genuine illness calls into question the true identity of an individual, and forces a person to examine the important things, both good and bad. 

Running Sunday, with my hair down, my brand new pacemaker scar out for the world to see like a badge of courage felt like the building back up of me. Not an inauthentic construction, but a reconstruction – the giving back of something I had been forced to give to the illness. My mechanical, battery-operated heartbeat is a vibrant, dynamic and blessed part of me. But it is NOT who I am, and it will never define me. I will continue to emphasize this time and time again – both for myself, and for others. Without the battery sitting just below my left collarbone, I’m not sure where I’d be. But it sure as heck doesn’t define me, and it doesn’t make me. Its not me. I am me because of my relationship with God, my relationships with others, and because of Christ’s willingness to go to the Cross on my behalf. A battery does not and will not define me. It never will be my middle name, it never will cause me to do anything, nor will it put a box around me. I never will be a certain thing because of a patient status. And nor will I allow anyone or anything to define me as such. This is why I will never be anything that I am not – yes I have a pacemaker, but I am NOT weak, I am not constantly thinking about what I can’t do, but rather thinking about what I can. I am not publicizing on a social media site what I cannot do, but glorifying God for what I can, and thanking the people who have made it possible for me to breathe deeply, walk in graduation next month, and serve God and the University of California San Francisco Medical Center in September day in and day out. Never should it be about the can’ts. It should only and always be about the cans…plain and simple, even when things are very challenging, and nearly impossible. 

But it gives me the ability to get up, put on a pair of running shoes and hit the trails, take a deep breath, sing hymns at the top of my lungs in church (not very well, but God understands!), and belly laugh at my own terrible jokes. I am able to be who I am as a result of my highest highs and lowest lows. It took both to figure that out, and now I can be who I am again. 

But I don’t post my every breath and thought on Facebook – some privacy is necessary, and is that authenticity? Does the world need to know these things? Are these who I really am? I don’t think the internet world (sad to say there is such a thing…) needs to become such a place that we clutter it with our bitches, gripes (against others, institutions, places of work, etc.). Is this who we are? I doubt it…sincerely! 

Be inspirations for others, not Debbie or Don downers…What would you like to see on a given day? Would God be proud, sustained of and/or by your posts? Are you glorifying God through your internet action? Seriously. Contemplate this. 

 

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