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God,

I just got home from a benefit concert hosted by Deliver Darfur.  100% of the money raised tonight was going to be donated to the International Rescue Committee.  We watched a short video that explained a bit of the genocide that Darfur is experiencing.  We also listed to some good music; overall it was a good evening.  Here’s the thing, God, I don’t mean to minimize the tragedy that is going on in that country, but I am finding it hard to find a response to that situation that will be in line with how you feel about it.  They are your children that have chosen to pick up weapons against each other.  They are your children left without home or family or food or hope or peace.  I know that you love your children deeply, but I’m having trouble know how I should love them too.  The thing is, so many of your children are hurting and being hurt by other people, and I’m afraid that I don’t have enough compassion for all of them.  But how can I care for all of the honest causes that are shown to me?  I don’t have enough energy or money or love for the genocide in Darfur, the young girls in Thailand sold as sex slaves, the Mexican kids caught up in running drugs and guns, and the millions of people throughout the world that are dying of malnutrition and starvation.  How can I care for all of the people who need help?  It so easy to see why people become numb to the reality of life in most of the world.  What can I do?  Should I pick one thing that pulls at my heart and throw myself completely into it?  Or is it better to spread out my abilities and resources to as many as I hear about?  Is it heartless for me to say that I am sad about what is going on in Darfur but not do anything about it?  But really…what can I do?  Is it really my job to do anything?  I mean, you’re GOD.  You are the creator of the cosmos.  You don’t need me for anything.  But if I’m trying to shape my life after yours then I feel like I should do something about it.  I feel a bit helpless myself.  I don’t want to become the type of person who just tosses some money at a cause expecting that to be all that can be done either.  I realize that in most of these cases money isn’t going to fix the deep-rooted problems, but what else do I have to offer? I know I’m babbeling on here, God, but this is really stuck on my heart right now.  I need help to see where and how to help.  Give me some vision to see what I can do.  I don’t want to become calous to the brokeness around me and the world, but I feel like if I don’t do anything soon my heart will start to grow hard and I’ll just feel overwhelmed by everything.  I’m trying to listen for your voice and I’m sorry for all the crap I listen to before I listen to you.  I need help to shut things down and listen, really listen.  Teach me about compassion.  Show me what it looks like and why you care about it.  I need to know that compassion is really better than numbness, because sometimes I’m not so sure it it.

Less of me, God, more of you. Amen. +

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This morning I lit two candles for Advent.  I listened to the reading for the Second Week of Advent.  I sat and meditated on “preparing myself” for the coming of GOD.  I did this sitting at my kitchen table…alone.  This has been one of the first times in nearly a year that I have felt this great sense of loneliness.

I have been walking a spiritual journey by myself for a while because I have felt so uncomfortable in a church setting.  I am still so critical of the words I hear spoken in churches that seem to contradict the actions of the church.  I have heard so many people say, “My church is different.”  And I’m sure it is, but I don’t think that it would change my perception.  I am still nursing deep wounds from the last church I worked for.  Emotional and spiritual wounds that have altered the way I view life and religion.  Looking back I see things that I didn’t see then.  I now see that I looked at the senior pastor as a father figure, emotionally connected to his approval.  I was so confused emotionally that there were times that I actually considered going back and trying to figure out how I could continue to work at the church.  It was the emotional equivalent of a woman continually going back to a physically abusive man because she is so broken down that she can’t see anything else.  It has been almost two years since I left that church, but some days the wounds still feel fresh.  I’m not sure how to move on.

If I could reduce all of my issues into one, run-on sentence it would be this: How is it that people can claim to have the same Messiah, who say they follow the life and teachings of this person, can be so decisive and exclusive especially when one of the teachings of this Messiah is about knowing a tree by its fruit.  I’ve grown tired of Christians using the line, “we’re not perfect” as a crutch.  When will we be honest about the parts of following Jesus that we suck at?

In my confusion about all of this, I still feel a pulling in my soul to gather together with other Christians.  It’s at this crossroads that I find myself.  Can I move beyond these deep wounds and gather weekly with other Christian or should I continue down this path alone?

The year following my job at the church I was leading a house church for ‘displaced’ people from the church I was working for.  It was by no means perfect and was not easy, but there were things that I really miss about it.  I think that if I find myself in a church setting again it will be in something like the house church.  Broken and honest.  I really miss sharing food with people as an intentional act of communion.  I miss sitting together and listening as people opened their hearts to each other.  I miss worshiping together with music and art and prayer.  I miss walking with people through very difficult times of life and rejoicing with people in the happy times.  I miss reading the Bible, out loud, with different voices.

All of this leads me to my kitchen table to celebrate Advent – alone – and thinking of what it means to anticipate the coming King.  I wonder if I should be asking people to join me in this journey when the way seems so uncertain?

john-and-jesus1

Part of the Advent reading for today comes from the Gospel of Mark.  It’s the beginning of Mark’s story when he introduces Jesus, but before Jesus is on the scene Mark talks about John the baptizer.  John knew that the Messiah was coming and called out to the people around him to “Prepare your hearts.  Confess your sins.  And make way for the coming Messiah.”

So today we pray:  Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

It’s during evenings like this present one that I wish I lived in a house. I am blessed with this apartment. It’s a great place for Lauren and I to begin our life together, but it can be noisy. I’m sitting the porch reflecting on my day, anticipating Lauren’s arrival, enjoying a wonderful beer, but all of that continues to be interrupted by whiny children yelling across the apartment complex.  I know that every neighborhood deals with their own unwanted noises, so I’m not thinking that a house would provide the utopia that I dream of.  But I can’t shake the dream of having a house some day.  I know that Lauren and I aren’t the “settle down and get a house” type of people (not that there’s anything wrong with that), and our conversations about a house often involve other people living there with us.  I want a house that creates a community.  I want the whiny children to be my children (well, not really, but you know what I mean).  I want a back yard that is filled with vegetables, people, tree swings, and laughter.  I want a house that welcomes the stranger and the broken and the healing.  I want a house that knows the needs of the neighbors and is quick to help however it can.  I want a house that shares in the rhythm of the seasons through school calendars, holiday celebrations, and planting cycles.

This is the house that I dream of.  A house who’s dwellers share life and all that entails.

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