Many Waters, #love, #lament Psalm 69

Recently the curator of the achurchforstarvingartists spoke at our Presbytery Retreat, to discuss counter-intuitive thinking for ministry.

Last Week the Psalms of Praise lead to thinking about the position of kneeling/servanthood as how we will ultimately be kneeling to Christ in order to be next to him, for that is obviously the position he will be taking in the 2nd coming (as opposed to a more victorious, glory-to-God-fear-inducing or otherwise judgy-type-stance)

So it makes an odd kind of sense, to me at least, that this week’s Psalm of Lament would induce and encourage the opposite position, the one of standing up and shouting.

Psalm 69 and Matthew 7 both encourage bringing our troubles to God. Not skulking or hiding them, not muttering them under our breath, but full out yelling. Standing up and crying out to God, Saying the words Hosanna! Save us! Save me! ” Save me, O God,
   for the waters have come up to my neck.” “I have come into deep waters,
   and the flood sweeps over me.”

Lament is a unique feeling it is somewhere between mourning and anger.

It is the energy of loss.

Lament is important, because when we do not name loss it consumes us. Madeline L’engle describes it in her book The Wrinkle in Time as being Xed. The nothingness, the loss of love and feeling of powerlessness starts to erase personhood. It makes your feelings look like *just nothing.*

Quotation-Madeleine-L-Engle-people-Meetville-Quotes-185385

If you’ve ever had a conversation with a loved one who makes a claim about what is bothering them, and you state that its *nothing* you might have opened a can of worms, because that *nothing* value you assign to the problem might make the person feel like their problem is *nothing* because they are *nothing.* This is a dangerous write off of others’ experiences and feelings, furthering the Xing process.

Lament can be different from just anger or mourning, because it is the energy behind naming and crying out for that which is a part of being human–for love, for laughter, for companionship, for safety and stability and beauty.

“But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord.
   At an acceptable time, O God,
   in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me.”

For the right to make mistakes and to seek forgiveness, for the right to call out the heirachical and bigotted structures that make one feel unsafe, from the fact that women are interupted for speaking during CEO meetings (and men aren’t), to the fact that young African-Americans are seen as more suspicious than young Caucasians, its the facts that Transsexual people cannot feel safe in either men nor women’s bathrooms, its the fact that sexual abuse is insufficiently prevented and addressed, its in the fact that some children go to bed hungry at night, the fact that some people have daily painful realities to deal with in violence or addiction or physical ailments or mental illness. It is the fact that life is not fair, and who has not lamented that one true fact?

God does not want us to paste our smiles on and live our life ignoring its problems. God acknowledges there is real and harmful evil in the world, real difficulties that are a part of everyday life and that fact means that lament is a necessary part of our existence.

Lament is the deep mourning for those things that the soul needs to survive and thrive. It is for that reason that standing up and naming what is going out, and calling on God for it, can be a creative and healing act.

Whenever there is anger in a system, be it a church or a school or the government, that means there is energy, and when named and processed that energy can be used for change. Love

Lament is a just form of prayer, and one which the church too often forgets or glosses over, but God invites you to pray, reminding us that when our children ask for bread, we do not give them snakes. We give them bread (or even sometimes cupcakes) How much more will God Give us.

Song of Solomon 8:6-7


Set me as a seal upon your heart,
as a seal upon your arm;
for love is strong as death,
passion fierce as the grave.
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
a raging flame.
Many waters cannot quench love,
neither can floods drown it.

P.S. Might I recommend Madeline L’engle’s less known books “Many Waters” (about Noah and the twins) and “An Acceptable Time” (about time travel and the role of evil) ….as you guess the names are from scripture 🙂

Extrovert

Look, there are lots of posts about extroverts and introverts, and they are (mostly) true, and I find the (noncondenscending) ones very informative/helpful. (extroverts don’t mean to interrupt/be rude and introverts aren’t really being standoffish/antisocial, etc).

In my profession, pastoring, I have met a lot of introverts-(wait don’t you have to preach on a regular basis? you ask)

The answer is, its because of introverts super-cool-awesome listing super-powers…which are very pastoral and help a lot.

Note: this is also why pastors take Monday off, they are recovering from the preaching/being large groups/expended lots of energy thing

Usually I take Friday off, after a week of only interacting with small one-on-ones or just small groups of people, I’m drained.

Church has time for both of these types: That passing of the peace time? thats for the extroverts, that silent prayer time? That’s for the introverts…(per usual, you prob should only like about 3/4 of the service, because you want people who aren’t like you to find meaning in the worship too)

Here is, what I find, to be a helpful metaphor for introverts and extraverts

When introverts interact, they are like a balloon that is slowly deflating….and in order to regain energy, they need to go and have some down time to re-inflate…..

When extroverts DON’T interact: its like a balloon that is being filled with more and more air…and if they don’t get a change to deflate (by interacting) they will “pop”

I tend to refer to this phenomena in my own life as “emotionally throwing up” where suddenly I burst out with all of my feelings in one long-winded moment, and I don’t have the energy to pare down or be quiet (help! I’m talking and I can’t shut up)

Respect the balloon…and whatever you need to do to keep your balloon at a manageable level…do so…

and go in peace!!

Being Pastoral

I love being busy, when the scale comes out between underachiever or overproducer–I am definitely on the overproductive side of life. This gives my ministry a sort of…let’s call it…hurried air. When I go on visits, or run meetings, or preach a sermon: my guess is I come off as rushed.

Why do I do this? I guess I have something to prove–I want to show myself as capable and responsible, able to “get stuff done” unfortunatley I probably miss things in the rush. I am full of energy, but people don’t feel like I can “sit with them and their problems.”

Energy–a gift and curse

 

 

Where is God???

 

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’” Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”

When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. –Matthew 2:1-12

 

When the wise men asked Herod where God was, they were not asking an idle or philosophical question. Instead they believed that Christ was present on earth, and were actively seeking his location. Today when we ask where God is, it tends to be a more philosophical question. Where is God when we feel alone? Where is Christ when tragedies happen to children in Connecticut? Where is the Holy Spirit when the catholic (world) church is so divided, and seems to split at the drop of a hat?

 

First, I don’t have an easy answer to these hard questions. What I do know is that God has a plan, and God’s plan does not include death, tragedy or violence. However, everything is not as good as God is, and God’s plan is not the one we hold primary in our lives (unfortunately). Secondly, if you are angry at God, then do so! God knows what to do with your anger. Did you know that 2/3rds of the Psalms are about being angry at God! (Note how we often assume that the anger is God’s–God is angry at us, or sinners, or other random people–maybe the problem is that we are angry with God and we cannot admit it…(for more on this watch the movie “Saved” see where one girl clocks another with the Bible…)

(Note the girl’s response is the hold the Bible and say “this is not a weapon” i.e. real love)

Life is unfair, and God created us, God allowed us to make choices and sometimes that hurts…

On the other hand, the only way to avoid hurt, is to stop loving, to stop caring about the people in our lives, the wars that don’t effect us and the children we didn’t get a chance to know. Grief, anger, sorrow, despondency, depression, emptiness—all of these feelings legitimize those relationships in our lives. They are real feelings, because the people we mourn were real people, and whether we are mourning the loss of someone through a death or a falling out, those relationships have meaning in our lives, and it is our privilege to feel complex and important feelings about the relationships.

 

Finally, it is important to remember that anger is energy, and the best thing to do with that anger is to channel it into something. If we (instead of debating guns for instance) focused all the anger and grief that we have from Sandy Hook into helping other children in unfortunate circumstances—those who suffer violence in their neighborhood everyday, or those who are stuck in the foster system with no way our, or those who live in poverty. Think of what we can do. Do you think Martin Luther was angry? How about Martin Luther King Jr. or Elizabeth Cady Stanton? They used those intense feelings appropriately. And our job is the same…to get off the tv, the internet and the office conversations. Remember Fred Rogers aka Mr. Rogers said that whenever a tragedy occurred on the news, his mother would remind him to not just look at the tragedy, but to note the helpers.

 

How many helpers are there in the world as compared to the sick and abusive? And can we be those helpers to. Where is God in all this? Part of the answer is that he is with us, showing us how to help.!!!!!!!!!!