Church, Please!

Dear Bride of Christ,

I love you with a relentless passion that I can't abandon no matter how ugly or derisive you become. You are the creation and beloved of my Beloved, and so I am inseparably part of you. So, since I can't leave (which is what I'm best trained in doing), I need to have a literal "Come to Jesus" chat with you.

You - we - have forgotten our First Love. This week's fallout hasn't just been about the election and two incredibly flawed candidates and grotesquely mutated systems. Yes, that is what evoked the vitriol - one side crying out, "You don't care about the unborn!" and the other retaliating with, "You don't care about the marginalized!" - but the division and contempt has long been there.

Thankfully, we serve a God who doesn't accept Band-Aid and make-nice solutions; sadly, our simmering turned to boiling with these catalysts and led us to a civil war for all the world to see.

So we are sitting in the aftermath, our fractures exposed and on display. And we have a choice: Will we continue on gloating without taking the time to understand, and condemning without taking the time to weigh our words for the Spirit's grace-filled wisdom?

Because that hasn't worked thus far. And that isn't our Savior's agenda. Our Savior came to unify through His transformational love diverse and disparate groups so He  can use us all to restore His creation, not to come up with the best comment zinger on a blog we disagree with. In fact, He probably would not spend much time at all reading blogs (including this one).

I have had two trees in my yard die. They had dead branches for a while, and then the whole tree gave up the ghost. That is too vivid a truth for me to ignore. A little bit of disease or neglect must never be avoided or hidden.

Galatians 5:7-10 tells us what happens to those who get in the way of the Gospel message of freedom and love through Christ alone. If we're part of the division, we won't be spared the penalty. 

So let's take a radical step to save our tree with its dying branches. Instead of debating the theology of what I'm saying here or calling out other siblings by the Savior in an unloving, uncompassionate way that is not at all our Redeemer's style, let's all commit to pray for those with whom we disagree before we say anything. Then reach out to those we may not understand and ask gracious questions if we must converse. Nonetheless, let's always focus on God's love, with learning and unity as the outcome - and that doesn't mean making them learn our side and be united to it.

Bride, we have a black eye we gave ourselves. So let's put healing back as a priority so we can resume the work of the One who called us, who has been waiting for us to return to His open arms - together. He has a lot of other stuff for us to do, and I promise it involves very little blog commenting.

By His grace & in His time,

P.S. Please listen to this song. We need to sing it together every day.


Excavating Accidentally Buried Talents

"All meat, no parsley."
I've never been labeled a carnivore, but I love that phrase. It describes my thinking, and why I don't like reading most blogs - or writing them very often.

The metaphor was uttered at Prism :: Gifts, an event I attended yesterday for women wanting to discover their spiritual gifts and how to use them. It was glorious in the way spending a day with open-hearted sisters who want to be real and effective is glorious. There were tears and dancing and cake pops, and writing this now makes it sound like a bizarro lovefest adorned with pink flowers. But being in it - participating in the prayers that spoke life and redirected lives, listening to women share how having their voices silenced has caused them now to speak truth all the louder - was no ladies' tea party.

I have long been an advocate for knowing and applying one's gifts, and my dad taught courses in it when he was a pastor. The problem is that not everyone has caught the vision cast by God via Paul in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4. A lot of churches I've been in seem to have viewed spiritual gifts as an afterthought, a luxury to dabble in once all the volunteer spots are filled with whomever is available regardless of their holy wiring.

And that is likely why I fell into doing all kinds of ministries for which I was not suited. I wanted to obey the instructions in the Bible to serve, so I volunteered wherever I was able. It was good to give, yes, but what I didn't realize is that I was called to serve using the gifts He had given me. Plus, I had gotten pretty good at thinking I could do anything if I needed to (we codependents are adorably delusional like that), so I wasn't even sure what my gifts were.

I often tell people, "Don't serve where you aren't gifted. You're taking up the space where the person who has that gift should be, and you'll burn yourself out." But what if you think you are in your gifting? What if you don't realize what it's like to be squarely alive in your unique passion?

The direct answers to those questions for me have been:
1. Take a solid spiritual gifts assessment like this one,
2. Read about your results,
3. Talk to people who know about spiritual gifts for further clarification and equipping, and
4. Get involved in serving with your gift(s).

Which brings me to now. The past few years have involved me confronting the uncomfortable reality that I am a leader. I've used a lot of other gifts to get around it - I'm really good at administration, teaching, and encouraging - but I love to lead when God opens that door. My life resume is replete in every single area with examples of me taking the reigns or emerging from a crowd or going my own direction. Okay, usually just that last one. But then I would turn around and see that people had followed me.

Being a leader is not a popular gift, especially for women, and I was content to simply lead small and avoid the responsibility of more consequential matters.

But "content" is kinda like a swear word to the Spirit - at least, in this context. And my own spirit was growing restless with this arrangement. Those two sentences are probably more related than the period between them would lead you to believe.

What was left for me to do? I owned it. I owned that my Creator designed me to be a leader, to cast visions and unite people. I owned that the other gifts have influenced the type of leader I am, but that I need to step out from behind their protection and allow myself to be unpopular, criticized, and unable to meet the crazy expectations assigned to me. This is how I serve, and by enduring these things I get to be me, energized in my perfect fit. I get to act out Ephesians 2:10: For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

We closed the event with the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30. During the reading, I realized I hadn't intentionally buried my talent; I had simply concealed the controversial parts of it and packaged the rest with other talents to make it more palatable. In doing so, though, I hadn't invested it as well as I could have.

I doubt I'm the only one. In fact, I know I'm not the only one. For starters, the Founder of Prism Women, Renee Ronika, is unapologetically open about her struggle to accept her gift as a prophet. Other women who attended previous events and were present as leaders at this one shared similar stories of discovering and claiming their gifts. The good news: Owning your spiritual gift will cause your life to make more sense. It may not get easier, but knowing this Spirit-infused part of you will provide a sort of bigger-picture mission statement that gives confidence and purpose to each step.

So the parsley is getting tossed, and my plate is now home to a giant rib-eye. Or a pile of lobster tales, which is infinitely more appetizing to me. I don't even know if a giant rib-eye is a thing.

But the parsley is definitely gone.