“Without maps and signposts, people search for their inner home in the wrong places: in professional success, material status, institutions, person, pleasure, and on and on. But none of these can be home. We end up spiritual refugees.” – Sue Monk Kidd

I’m blogging through Sue Monk Kidd’s 1990 book on midlife transition, When The Heart Waits: Spiritual Direction For Life’s Sacred Questions. (Click here for earlier posts in the series.) Chapter 4 is called “Crisis As Opportunity”, which sounds like a business school pep talk. Instead, Kidd situates her observations about midlife in the natural world. Think of the process of transformation by which a larva becomes a cocoon and a cocoon becomes a butterfly. She writes, “…there’s first a movement of separation, then a holding environment where transformation happens, and finally an emergence into a new existence.”

She describes the nature of this transformation via a series of crises in the prophet Jonah’s life. She references Erik Eriksen’s eight stages of life development and notes that it takes crisis, then resolution in order to progress/mature from one stage to the next. Another pressure point that draws us into crisis include an intrusive event like illness, divorce, unemployment or death of a relative or close friend.

In addition, she notes that our own internal world can force us into crisis. “An internal uprising could be as a vague sense of restlessness, some floating disenchantment, a whispering but relentless voice that says, There has to be more than this. Why are you doing what you’re doing?” Internal uprising might also include exhaustion, burnout, addiction or a crisis of faith. [Read more]

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May

16

2015

Blessed Are The Angsters

Ed Stetzer wrote a helpful post called “Missional Angst and Western Church Norms” about the shift in the church away from consumer-driven models of ministry. He noted that some are being called out of existing churches to live their faith in more organic ways (the Radicals), others are choosing to stay put and tweak from within the organization (the Conservatives), and a third group are the Critics.
He describes the latter group this way: “…church consultants, authors, professors, etc.—can be professional church ‘angsters.’ Their blanket criticism against Western cultural norms in established churches can prohibit pastors from loving the people to whom Jesus has called them in the style consistent with their social context. Furthermore, many critics want to still operate within the Western culture norm, but constantly complain about it. They are vocal in criticism, but light on action. They condemn the norm, but won’t actually quit their jobs to live out their proclaimed principles.”

Stetzer is right in calling out these folks. I read blogs written by some of these armchair analysts. I have friends who’ve carried their wounded souls out of the church after getting caught in the crossfire of bad politics, abuse, or lousy teaching. Heck, I’ve been told on occasion that I complain too much about the church. Sometimes I have. But…[Read more]

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This is hell week for those who are grieving the loss of a mother or child. Greeting card companies, florists, jewelers and kitsch vendors urge us to celebrate the mothers in our lives. School children across America are making crayoned cards to gift to their mamas this Sunday. Churches have mothers stand for a round of applause or pass out carnations to adult women as they leave the service. Though some churches have grown more sensitive to the fact that Mother’s Day isn’t easy for some in their congregation, mentioning those who are sorrowing for mothers or children in prayer during corporate worship, is a scant comfort for a day that seems full of pastel sentiment and family brunches.

Birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays amplify grief. Loss isolates us most when everyone else around us seems to be celebrating. Those of us who’ve never been mothers but long to be are suffering alongside those who’ve lost mothers or children through death, abandonment, addiction, or abuse. There is no alternate Hallmark holiday for any of these people. [Read more]

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May

03

2015

Marking Time

When we were in high school, we’d compare notes about everything from boys to menstrual cycles to math homework. Of the six of us girls, five of us were brand-new followers of Jesus. We learned something about walking with him by following each other. For one brief moment in time, we were even all enrolled at the same state university.

When I got engaged, my girlfriends told me I was getting married “first”. We were in the habit of measuring ourselves using each other’s lives as rulers. Though some of the relationships among this sextuplet have faded over the last four decades, it’s a testimony to God’s faithfulness when I contemplate that all six of us are still following him. Some of us first came to him and each other out of homes defined by abuse or addiction issues. Others among us were dealing with the fallout of their parents’ divorces. Our ad hoc spiritual sisterhood was the first glimpse many of us had in what the church could be as we carried each other to a place of safety in Jesus in profound ways during those early years.

I’m grateful for those friendships, as they’ve formed a foundation for every other friendship that’s come into my life since then. Though some of the relationships in this sextuplet have faded over the last four decades, I find myself still marking time by them. [Read more]

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A book by a Catholic priest who journeyed to Tanzania to bring the gospel to the Masai gave me a new way to think about evangelism that goes beyond the models I’ve seen in action. These models have borne a passing resemblance to either 1950′s door-to-door vacuum cleaner sales, game shows featuring lovely parting gifts, or encoded Christian mime performances.

Father Vincent J. Donavan journeyed to Tanzania to during the 1960′s and 1970′s bring the gospel to the Masai people. Encamped in the lonely, starry darkness outside a tribal village, Father Donovan experienced a paradigm shift of the highest magnitude as the culture and belief system of the Masai collided with his preconceived Western understanding of what evangelism, church and faith were each supposed to be. He came to the region as an evangelist, and recognized that the history of mission in the region, particularly in Africa, had been almost entirely about overlaying Western cultural norms and institutional Church practice onto an existing people, suffocating their God-given identity and calling in the process. While one of the rallying cries of the Church for generations, in particular among Protestants, has been “Ecclesia semper reformanda est” (the Church must always be reforming), we have often defaulted instead to small tweaks and recalibrations within our own institutions. Father Donovan’s story shows us what true reformation looks like.

His book, Christianity Rediscovered (Orbis Books, 1978) offers a valuable exploration of the process of stripping faith down to its naked essentials. [Read more]

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