Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Practice of Emptying

This week has been really- Really- Really -full week.

We celebrated the life, death, and resurrection of a very dear friend of mine on Sunday. Powerful, sad, joyful, inspiring.
This was Sunday.

Change comes into life. Well- really- it doesn't "come" into life-- it is life-- change is life-- change, rhythm... and yet sometimes, it is so hard.

Our church life is experiencing change now-would you call them growing pains? I'm not sure. Vision pains? I don't know what the words are. I am learning and learning and learning. I am watching and feeling sad and worried and praying. I pray for church unity and for sisters and brothers in Christ to hear one another, to assume the best (rather than the worst) of one another, to seek to know the heart of people rather than place blame, judgment, and hostility.
I feel so much for those who feel upset and for those who feel angry and for those who feel worried. Fear and anger are intricately connected. How do I soothe this? How do you comfort and lead at the same time?
The church hurts sometimes.... (it aches as a whole, it hurts those in it, and it just hurts....)
This was Monday (and a lot of days).

Life as a Clergywoman presents challenges that I would venture to say clergymen do not experience. Even beyond the basic parts (if you are Mom) handling temper tantrums while trying to respond to an emergency pastoral phone call.... Being a clergywoman sometimes means that you remind "The Church" to recognize the need to strive towards equality (because I'm telling you- we are not there). We do not see as Christ sees- we do not see as Paul said, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus"(Galatians 3:28). Being a clergywoman means that you remind "The Church" that we do not need a "special occasion" to have a woman speak at an event - it doesn't have to Women's History Month, or a special women's anniversary, or a Women's Ministry Event. Speaking up and doing this well get you comments and sometimes snarky jokes, rolled eyes, annoyed people. You are not being a "femi-nazi" (a term I loathe) if you do this. You are being called. Others will look at you like you are an annoying thorn but so be it.
This was part of my Tuesday (and sometimes part of a lot of days...)

It all felt so so very full.

I must say a disclaimer here: I hesitated to share this all because it is all so vulnerable.
I'm really putting myself out here- Yes, I hurt when I lose people I love. Yes, sometimes the church is hard. Yes, sometimes being a clergywoman is tough. But I have hope. I share this out authenticity, out of honest, raw, realness. Some people read stuff like this and say- that's why its easier not to get close to folks and feel (because you'll hurt), that's why I don' t go to church (because sometimes people can be hurtful), that's why women shouldn't be pastors (they push back and stand up and need to be taking care of babies too)...
I share this because yes- I feel it all and

I don' t give up on living, on faith, on church, or on my call.

In many ways Lent is about emptying your self---- giving, sacrificing, letting go, letting go of self.

Sometimes people give something up to come closer to understanding all Christ gave for us. Giving something up is not about saying, "See - I gave something up."

Thought this was a good article on Lent and giving things up.

Sometimes adding something is helpful.
Inevitably if we add something- we give something up. The point is about making the focus less on us and more on Christ. Its about seeking to grow closer to Christ and what God has done and is doing for us.

We empty self and are filled with Christ.

Its been a full week--and its only Wednesday.

Sometimes we fill full in a good good way. I've felt that this week at times.

Sometimes we fill full and its not so good (and I'm not just talking about when you've eaten too many samoas) - I mean filled with emotional pain....

Both can be overwhelming.
And strangely enough- we can sometimes feel both of those at the exact same time....

So we need to empty. Empty ourselves.....

We're holding a lot.

We try to hold it on our own.

And it is a burden.

And it is heavy.

And we can become weary.

And then we are not our best selves...

We don't need to hold it ourselves.

We all have different words painted on our hearts, on our hands...
and we can just lift them to God.
Give them over.
Empty them out.

Last night after getting the girls to bed, I ran out to Target. Picture day was today and I wanted to be able for them to have coordinating outfits for their pictures (sibling pictures). Last year I was able to get similar outfits that were different colors.... So I headed out- took the dog for the ride with me.

The minute I was in the car- alone- no radio going...
I just started weeping and weeping and weeping.
I wept for everything.

So so much. (I haven't even hit it all here.... nor could I) .

Our poor dog Lucy came over and tried to comfort me.
(Dogs are so smart and I think there is some reason beyond me that Dog is God spelled backwards...they have powerful compassion).

I could not stop weeping.
I thought of calling a friend...
and I did... really...

I just started talking to God about everything.

I love the cross that hangs in the sanctuary at Messiah United Methodist Church.
It is an empty cross.

This picture was taken last year on Holy Thursday.
This was the garden of Gethsemane above, and as always hangs the Empty Cross.

Its kind of powerful that the picture I could find is of the sanctuary turned into the Garden of Gethsemane. In the Garden, Jesus emptied himself and gave everything over to his Father in heaven. On the cross- he takes everything we have. The empty cross is a sign for us that Jesus can take it all. Give it all over. Fill it up-- the cross can take it. Jesus already has taken it all. There is room here for everything. Lay the weight down and stand.

Jesus says, "
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11: 28-30).

Letting go is not easy-- but being empty of the burden is so powerful.

Its empty in a way that you are no longer in want (Psalm 23)
Its an empty in a way that you no longer thirst (John 4:10)
Its an empty that means you will no longer hunger (John 6: 35)

Throughout Lent (and always), I will need to continue to empty myself, so that I may be filled with the love, joy, grace, and peace of Jesus Christ.

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