Call and Obedience

Frederick Buechner very famously said that "the place where God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet." Isn't that lovely?

I'm not sure it's true. I'd like it to be true, but I'm not sure it is.

Think of Jonah. (I love to think of Jonah. Possibly my favorite book in the Bible.) I really, really get it when he cries out to God, "Are you KIDDING ME? They do all this terrible stuff, and you're letting them off SCOT-FREE?!?!?!

This does not sound like Jonah's deep gladness.

And Moses. You know I've been thinking of Moses lately. Moses was not excited to take God's call to be the Mouthpiece of the Lord. Pretty well turned it down, actually. And then when the Israelites kept complaining to him in the wilderness? Or when he came down from seeing God on Mt. Sinai, and they were knee-deep in debauchery?

Moses was not loving ministry.

So, instead of deep gladness in the work itself (in which I am presently skeptical), I'm thinking instead of Nouwen, McNeill, and Morrison's description (I'm still reading their Compassion) of Jesus's obedience to the Father:

Obedience, as it is embodied in Jesus Christ, is a total listening, a giving attention with no hesitation or limitations, a being "all ear." It is an expression of the intimacy that can exist between two persons. Here the one who obeys knows without restriction the will of the one who commands and has only one all-embracing desire: to live out that will ... When used by Jesus, the word obedience has no association with fear, but rather is the expression of his most intimate, loving relationship.

I'm thinking vocation is about being as immersed in the love of God as possiblye and being directed by that love.

Though, come to think of it, that definition might not apply to Moses and Jonah, either.

Which leads me to the happy conclusion that we can be used by God, even if we're bull-headed and crotchety. Praise be to God.

But Jesus's way seems better.


Gentle Prayer Wednesday

"We are poor listeners because we are afraid that there is something other than love in God."
-Nouwen, McNeill, & Morrison, Compassion

This line has been rattling around in my head for the last week. I read it in the context of obedience, a word some of you know I sometimes uncharitably translate as, "indulging some crazy power trip" "giving others licence to misuse their authority."

I'm loving this particular chapter of Compassion, which describes Jesus's obedience to God as an intimate response, born out of a deep knowledge of God's goodness. An entirely different thing than obeying someone because they rank and you don't.

And so, my prayer this week is to trust in that great love, so that I can better hear God's call.

What's your prayer this week?

Post Series to Come!

Merciful heavens! I sat down today to write a post about being multi-churched (growing up Christian, but not in a specific denomination), and a couple of hours later... I was still writing.

I think, rather, we have a post series in our future.

Stay tuned!


Mrs. M Ruminates on Her Heart's Desire

Yesterday over lunch at 5 Guys, Mr. M asked me what my vocational discernment is like right now, and a crystal-clear response popped out of my mouth before I even had time to think about it: I feel called to Spiritual Direction, but to something else, too.

I am blowing big raspberries at the institutional church right now, there's no way around that truth. I get that it's a human institution, and thereby can't help being flawed. But sometimes I feel like there's a gaping chasm between the stated mission and the de facto mission observed in the life of the church. It's not even that we're striving for holiness and missing the mark, but that we've lost sight of the mark entirely. Mary Beth writes about frustration and sorrow. Carol Merritt Howard tells a horrendous story of call that, frankly, didn't even surprise me.

I don't think we're meant to only live out our faith individually. I can't reconcile that with my theology. Coming together to know God better, to love God and each other so that we can carry that love everywhere with us-- this is overwhelming. This is what we're here to do.
And church is exciting to me, it sings out to me, both spiritually and intellectually-- worship that conveys what we believe and reaches out to all our senses and sensibilities, or even worship that demonstrates how what we really believe is different from what we say we believe-- this is enthralling stuff. (Would someone let me study and then teach Liturgy someday? That would be fantastic.).

Can we find a way to be different from corporations? Less concerned with prestige, and more committed to lifting up everyone? Aren't we called to be servants first, and not CEOs? I've seen congregations that work this way, but is it possible in a larger context?

I worry that this sounds like sour grapes. But I don't think I'm wrong.


Prayer Request Wednesday, Burning Bush Edition

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, ‘I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.’

When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then he said, ‘Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ He said further, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. --Exodus 3:1-6, NRSV

Every changing tree I see today looks aflame, maybe a call to remove my sandals, and listen for God. And the way the story continues, "But Lord, who am I to..." is exactly where I am right now. Who could possibly take me seriously-- or more important, take God seriously with me as ambassador? I'm too young. I'm not dignified. I don't come with institutional endorsements right now.

So, if you pray for me this week, I'd be grateful for prayers to hear God's call and respond with obedience and trust.

Book recommendations?

Anyone have a favorite book on the Reformation? I'm looking for a few.



SHOE Friday Five!!!! How exciting!


Jan has just posted a SHOE Friday Five!!! I just know I won't be able to limit myself to one answer on these puppies! I generally dress very simply, preferring classic clothes that will still look nice in ten years. As a result, I go wild with shoes!

Too often the Friday Fives I offer up seem extremely introspective, so here's something that could be fun. I notice as I finish my sixth decade that my taste in footwear is much different than when I was younger, as comfort wins out over fashion. So look at your feet and think about what you put on them!

1. What is your favorite footwear at this time in your life?
Oy. I can narrow it down to my trusty old cowboy boots. Or, to my very high-heeled navy suede peep-toe Mary Janes. Or maybe my red plaid Mary Janes with the kitten heel. Or anything with an ankle strap that I can dance in. Or these fun pumps. Or the brown or black knee-high boots. Or maybe just my running shoes?

2. What was the craziest shoe, boot, or sandal you ever wore?
See, this is one of those questions that doesn't have one answer. Was it the red patent leather high-heeled sandals? Was it the silver sandals with the clear high heels that I painted with irridescent glitter? Was it the 4-inch white Mary Janes? There's no way to know.

3. What kind of shoes did you wear in your childhood?
I very clearly remember a pair of tri-colored Reebok high-tops-- yellow, pink and baby blue. Those were great.

4. How do you feel most comfortable? Barefoot, flip-flops, boots, or what?
Barefoot. Even in February. I like a little freedom.

5. What kind of socks do you like, if any?
NO SOCKS unless it's absolutely necessary (boots, sneakers). They're like shackles for your toes. It blows my mind that people can sleep in socks. Actually, it also blows my mind that people can sleep with the flat sheet tucked in.

Bonus: Anything you want to share about feet or footwear.
I've just discovered Sula paint-and-peel polish, and this is PERFECT for my tootsies, because I have the very bad habit of leaving polish on my toes too long, and then my nails get stained, which is disgusting. The colors are fun, and it's actually pretty fun to peel off, too.


Lethargic Wednesday Prayers

Empower me
to be a bold participant,
rather than a timid saint in waiting,
in the difficult ordinariness of now;
to exercise the authority of honesty,
rather than to defer to power,
or deceive to get it;
to influence someone for justice,
rather than impress anyone for gain;
and, by grace, to find treasures
of joy, of friendship, of peace
hidden in the fields of the daily
you give me to plough.
-Ted Loder
from The Complete Book of Christian Prayer

Mr. M and I just got back from a trip to Ohio (mostly good), and the temperature is finally starting to drop here in Central PA, which means that my routine is all out of whack, and I'm freezing my whatnots off. The combination of those two things tends to mean a listless Mrs. M, and that's certainly true right now. My get-up-and-go is hiding in the bin of summer clothes I've packed away.

So, my prayer this week is for a return of energy and focus. What's yours?


Not Right Now

I think this must be my year of learning to listen to myself, and I am immensely grateful for it. A big part of listening has been discovering the freedom of saying no, and I'm sure this isn't going to be the last time I share about it.

I'd been anxious about a friendship for months, frustrated and angry with my friend for certain choices, and with myself for not being able to muster more support. I didn't discuss this with my friend, but I didn't want to discuss anything else, either. I was impatient with myself, analyzing my feelings and not coming up with much. Was there some transference going on, making this less about my friend than my own past situations? Was I being intolerant? I would be embarrassed to tell you how much time I spent fussing with myself over this. I didn't want to stop wrestling with myself, because I didn't want to lose the relationship forever.

Finally, late at night when I was trying to sleep, I came to I am not able to be a good friend to this person right now. It was the most matter-of-fact thought in the world. It wasn't an indictment or an accusation, it was just an acknowledgment of the way things were. It was also permission to take some space, and through that permission I felt peace about the situation. Not everyone needs me to be their chief cheerleader all the time. It's OK for me to take a break if I don't have it in me. Trying to push my way through those feelings, ignoring them, would have made the situation worse. Taking space gave me exactly what I needed. Being able to say no (to my own expectations of myself) gives me more freedom. When I can detatch with love from my own turbulence, I can practice the same with others. Not surprisingly, once I accepted my limitations, I felt much more comfortable with my friend.

I was afraid that letting go would mean cutting off, and it's not the same thing. Sometimes we have to let go of things forever, but other times it's more like the tide going out, and returning in due time.


Prayer Request Wednesday: Weary Traveller Edition

Tomorrow, Mr. M and I take off for a long weekend in Ohio. Our plans have shuffled around some, and it's going to be more hectic and more productive than we originally thought.

I'm noticing a trend in prayer requests lately-- both of those received here, and ones I'm hearing in other places (including in our house). There's a lot of, "What's Next?" And so, I'd like to share a tiny piece of Rumi, as translated in Daniel Ladinsky's Love Letters From God:

Where am I going on this glorious journey?
To your house, of

And so, as we pack for our trip, I'm going to try to notice God's hospitality all along the way. I'd love for that to be your prayer for us.

And for you? How can I be holding you in the light of God this week?