O Joy?


There is this strange idea in some strands of Christianity that we will never have problems or have “bad things happen” if we are truly Jesus-loving people. As if.

From the first fig leaf, humanity has seen and known pain, discouragement and doubt. But that’s not what sells, is it?

The kiddie Bible my kids had growing up reinforced this. All the characters (who were remarkably Caucasian looking… which is another essay…) were all smiling and content. There were a few pictures of the Israelites frowning about manna burgers, I guess. And maybe a few tears at the tombs of Lazarus and Jesus, but the Christian faith was, for the most part, this “in-right-out-right-up-right-down-right-happy-all-the-time” religion. (That song still makes me shudder. And bonus points to you if you don’t know it. If I just gave you an ear worm, I’m sorry!)

I’m not suggesting we teach children “life sucks and then you die” either (just to be clear). But there needs to be a balance. Enough of a balance that when the hard times come, there is a reserve of faith that says, “I will get through this… with the help of God and God’s people.”

We live in disturbing times. Frustrating times. Fear-mongering times. Hate speech fills the airwaves.

This should not surprise us. It is as much a part of our Christian lives as walking in joy and seeing glory! A full-rounded faith does celebrate, but it also mourns. We are called to  embracing pain. Accepting change. Finding hope in the unknown. Making sense out of nonsense.

When I was thinking about the world’s events over the last few months, the old hymn by Robert Matheson came to mind. How often do I remember that God is made real in our lives is many ways?

A Love that will not let me go…
A Light that follows my way…
A Joy that seeks me through pain…
The cross that lifts up my head…
(Full lyrics here.)

Yes, it’s a schmaltzy old hymn. But the thread of faith through the verses brings me some comfort and courage. Perhaps you, as well.

O Joy? Yes. Joy. One frustrated, tired, hoping, yearning step at a time. There’s joy.

From my journal recently:

I’d like to know why, God.
I really would.
I could go through the whole alphabet of whys…
And I can say trite words and cheap phrases
to make myself feel better…
But that’s not how faith works.

And every time I think I might understand
A little more
Another piece of insight into Your world,
Some tsunami of stupid knocks me flat.
And here I am
Asking why.

So there’s doubts.
O God, so many doubts.
And there’s pain.
I’m tired of pain.
But then… There’s beauty and grace and love
And laughter and hope and joy,
so much joy!!
And the Spirit winging me upward
for just a glimpse
for just a taste of Glory.

And it’s enough.
It’s enough to say one more day,
I love you.
Thank you.
Let’s do this thing called “life”
one more day.


Sept 2017

Friday Five: Priesthood

DSC_0175When I took this picture, I was fascinated by the push of the stream and the intention of the water to MOVE down the mountain. Rocks? Trees? Plants? No problem.

The leading and guiding of God in my life has been the same. Where I have seen obstacles, God has made a way. And I have not traveled without a lot of help and love. And that’s what this Friday Five is all about.


Mary Beth writes:

I’ve just finished a great little book by L. William Countryman called Living on the Border of the Holy: Renewing the Priesthood of All.


Find it on Amazon

Countryman suggests that not only do all Christians have a ministry, but all of us have a priesthood. The “priesthood of all believers” comes to mind, and he takes that farther to suggest that humanity shares a ‘universal human priesthood’.  Every human has the capacity to encounter and then pass on something of transcendent significance.

For today, think back over your life, and share about five (or more) who have been priests in your life (or ministers, pastors, whatever language is comfortable for you). In sharing, know that names are not necessary.

So there’s ANOTHER book for my “to-read” list, I think…

It’s hard to limit this lineage of “priests” to just five! But, it’s worth reflecting on the ways that God has shaped and led me on this transforming journey of Life. I suppose if I created this list at another point in my life, it would be quite different. This is what comes to mind today…

1. My Parents: Encouraged, coaxed, demanded and nurtured the independent Spirit within me. All the while expecting and demanding that I give my best. When I was a slacker, we all knew it. Whether or not I admitted it. By extension, I’ll add my family: Ken, Beth, Cj; and my sibs: Bobby, Lynn, Becky, Carol, Claudia and David. The hardest place to live out your faith is in your family. I am so grateful for the ways they have been there for me and stretched my possibilities.

2. My High School Piano Teacher: After a disastrous year in music school, (one where I almost quit), my parents encouraged me to go back for summer piano lessons with him. He was aghast at the repertoire that I had been assigned (far beyond my capabilities and interest) but gave me some much needed affirmation. I was a musician. I could play piano. I did have a heart and soul to pour into my performances. I passed my next “jury” (finals in music school) and went to a new piano professor.

3. My prayer partner and balcony friend, Dana: We worked with youth together, praying for our families and our respective callings. We were in seminary together, crying and laughing over Greek and Hebrew, hermeneutics, preaching class and all of those “-ologies”.  We don’t see each other as frequently these days, but we are still  there to cheer each other on, and we believe in God’s working in each other.

4. My CPE Supervisors, mentors and cohorts:  I was fortunate to have good supervisors and cohorts. We were of different faiths, experiences and beliefs. Sometimes the experiences we went through were hellish. But we learned how to listen to each other, challenge each other, laugh with each other, and hone each other’s gifts and skills. I stay in touch with some of them (thank you, Facebook and LinkedIn) and am grateful for their continued grace in my life.

This is a hard one, but it’s true…

5. The doubters and adversaries I have faced: I still kind of want to stick out my tongue at them and say “SEE? I TOLD you so!” But in the places where they have intentionally been obstructionist or (to put it politely) unkind, I have seen God make “streams in the desert.” Not the way I would have imagined, and not in the places or roles I would have chosen. In spite of “the haters” I have come into “my own shoes” as one of my mentors would say. (And that’s a new blog post in itself!)

I am learning to rest and trust in the Shepherd of my heart and soul. These folks and many more have helped me in these lessons.