Why Go Home When The Harvest is Plenty?

I crossed a thing off my bucket list this last week. I got to preach a women’s retreat. It was as much fun as I thought it would be. I got to stand in front of a room of women and tell them all the things that were true, about them, about God, about the way God made them. I have known for a long time that this was something I wanted to do, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to finally do it.

Ironically, or perhaps not, while I was preaching my face off at this women’s retreat, while I was telling these amazing women that God made each of them on purpose, that God would go searching for them in the wilderness, would always welcome them back home, some man who I will not be linking to told the world women should go home. He scoffed at the idea of listening to what marginalized groups have to say about the Bible. He rolled his eyes at the idea of LGBTQ people made in the image of God. And the internet has not been able to stop talking about it. I got sucked into the vortex too.

But that was not the important thing that happened this past weekend. At least it wasn’t in my world. No, the important thing was that I got to see all the amazing work these women I spent the weekend with are doing. I got to hear about the impossible work of trauma recovery, the good hard work of advocating for the elderly. I got to hear about work being done in elementary schools, and non-profits working with foster kids. I got to hear about the ways that this work has brought people’s hearts close to the systems that are desperately broken.

These twenty or so women I got to preach to were already doing the work of the gospel. They trusted me with their frustrations and anger at the injustice of it all.  They pushed back on the things I had to say and they let me know the parts of the Bible they don’t like very much right now. They told me about the things they hoped to one day do, the non-profit they want to open, the hats they make for people who are cold. They promised to send me a church cookbook. I am going to hold them to that.

I was struck, yet again this weekend, by the millions of ways God has equipped each of us to bring the good news. I was struck by just how much good work there is to be done. I was amazed and astounded by the work that was already being done by these twenty women.

There is so much work to be done. There is so much good work to be done. The harvest is so plentiful. The workers are so few. There is so much justice to be fought for and so many people to feed. There are so many casseroles to be made and so many kiddos to hug. There are so many hats to be knit. There is so much justice to fight for. There is so much grief to be grieved. There is so much to laugh at. There is so much joy to be found.

I think it is trash that some man in a room full of other white men would take the opportunity to remind everyone of the lie that only they are qualified to preach the gospel, that anyone who is not straight, white, male, and able bodied doesn’t have a place at the table. I am so so so grateful that they don’t get to decide.

It isn’t their table. It isn’t their gospel. It isn’t up to them. The good news is for everyone and includes everyone, and if it doesn’t do that then it isn’t good news.

At the end of the weekend my friend who had invited me read pieces of Sarah Bessey’s commissioning from Jesus Feminist. She encouraged each of these women to go and do the work that God has uniquely called them to do. She encouraged us to find the things that we are home in, and do them with great abandon. For me, that is preaching. I am at home in the pulpit. It is a home God has made for me. You too have the home that God built for you. I pray you find it. I pray you go and do just exactly what God has called you to do with wild abandon. And I pray you are too busy doing that work to fool with the fools who think they get to decide.

When you are wandering

The last three or four weeks have been a beast preaching. I found out too late that the third lectionary year is a THING among preachers. I probably wouldn’t have skipped it anyway. I’m stubborn like that. Last week or maybe the week before I spent time on the parable about Lazarus, and Hades, which is tricky for a liberal preacher who is foggy at best about hell to a congregation that is pretty comfortable with the idea. I think it worked out okay. It usually does. At least that is what my very kind congregation tells me.

But I missed a sub point that day. I meant to talk about death, about the reminders of death and how we wouldn’t always have always and tomorrow. How we forget that, even in the midst of daily reminders. I forgot to talk about how true that phrase we had sung moments before was so stinking true “prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” I forgot to talk about how I don’t always love the things that Paul says, but dang it, that bit about wanting to do the things I do not do and doing the things I don’t resonates more days than it doesn’t. Being a human is hard. Telling the truth about it is harder.

Am I the only one struggling with this? I wonder that on the big things like God’s calling on my life, and little things like how the heck do I feed these children every single day? I see that cute sign in your instagram “Not all who wander are lost” and have to admit that some of us just might be. It is me. I am some of us. Being a human is just so hard, at least it is for me. I suspect I am not the only one.

I got some disappointing news on Thursday, I was deferred at the district level for commissioning. My paperwork was not as good as it needed to be. They want me to come back next year. They think I am called. They affirmed my gifts. This part is still hard. It makes everything less clear. I thought I knew the path toward ministry, I think this is probably a minor blip. A lot of the people I know say, yes I was deferred, they shrug, they got through next year. I am sure that will be me in a few years. Right now it stings. Right now it feels confusing and unclear.

I have left this post up for three days now. Hoping I can wrap it up neatly, put a little bow on it. I don’t have that. I just have this: If you are feeling parched, like you are alone out here wandering, wondering on the big questions, and also the daily minutia, you are not. I am here too. I believe God is out here with us. I can hold that today for both of us.

 

 

When you are changed but the same

The summer before I was to start seminary I freaked out a little bit. I had been a teacher for so long. I had heard seminary was going to change me. I wasn’t sure where or who I would be when those three years were up. I liked who I was, I wasn’t sure I wanted that to change. A very wise woman, someone who I often admire and seek council from looked at my fear with me and asked, Abby, why would you want to spend three years doing something that would leave you exactly where you started? Don’t you want seminary to change you? Isn’t that what worthwhile things do?

She was right. And I went. And I was right. Seminary has changed me.

This past summer I tried to write again in the ways I used to write, earnest and honest and thoughtful, with run on sentences and too many conjunctions. I tried to re-ignite the pieces of my brain that had been stored away in order to complete a full time three year degree while also being a brand new pastor turned accidental church revitalizer. I was a little worried seminary had broken my brain forever,

Turns out, I was just tired.

When I started blogging I was neck deep in diapers with a spouse trying to complete a PhD. I wrote as a way to remember who I was and also figure it out. I needed to not lose myself in all my rolls. And it did all of that for me. I wrote my way right into seminary. I wrote my way into calling myself called.

The blogosphere was changing when I left it to go to graduate school, and it seems I barely recognize what I have come back to. I will, I think, attempt to write articles that get published in places other than this, that pass through the hands of editors and give me a “by-line” but also I want to remember that I write because I need to, because it makes me feel whole. I write so that I can know what I think, so that I can remind myself of the good God has for me.

I write so I remember what truth sounds like, what truth sounds like for me and maybe you too. I write to order my steps and make sense of the ones that already come. I write here mostly to remind myself that I don’t need anyone else’s permission to be who I am, even if that has changed, is changing, and I am not quite sure exactly how.