Justice hurts

August 14, 2017

Jesus walked on water. 

That was the Gospel reading for Sunday.

We skipped church this week,so I asked Waylon what he preached on, and he spoke such incredible truth to me. He talked about storms being the a presentation of chaos in the Old Testament. For farmers and fishermen, it make sense. Chaos is a great word for the devastation that nature can afflict on an agriculture system. 

Jesus walking on water, wasn’t just a neat trick, though if I was Jesus I would use it at parties. 

Jesus walking on water is a representatoin of His role in creation as the healing and restorer. Jesus is restoring creation to order in this particular narrative. 

Peter sees Jesus, and he wants to participate in the restoration. We get to assume that Peter had a moment of understanding, that he steps out on the water to seek restoration. To seek healing. 

We have all had these experiences at times. 

A moment of pure clarity,  a moment of awe, a moment when our chest seems to lift, our hearts seem to ache, our flesh prickles. 

The church has tried to argue, to shame, to impose our view of life upon the culture we live in, and maybe, just maybe, we, as the church, are called to show culture how to walk on water. With the guidance of the Spirit, maybe we are called to show the world that we are broken, and that we are called to be a place of healing. We saw a glimpse of this healing during Jesus’ life. 

A life including, supporting, and allowing for men, women, and children, to be healed. 

A life that was immersed in love.

 A life that is not about us versus them, but a life  that is about us for them.(thanks gungor)

This week we saw a great example of a storm, a storm that encompassed chaos. A storm of confusion, pain, and death. A storm shattered by sin and brokenness. 

We cannot be patriots and Christians, we cannot be Americans and Christians, we cannot be anything but Christians, because being a Christians means we are called to walk on water, to encompass healing, to open our arms, to be uncomfortable. 

Christ represents Justice, a justice that hurts because it’s a justice that makes everything right. A justice that does not involve redemptive violence, a justice that does not involve chaos, a justice that does not involve winning. 

Christ’s justice is driven by and for love. A justice that breathes into the broken, the hurting, the lost, the hateful, the misunderstood, and the bigoted. A justice that involves all and leaves no one. 

Pray for justice in your life, but know that the Spirit will most likely lead you to step out on the water of restoration, of healing. 

Because when our brother is not free, we are not free, and that includes our brothers who are imprisoned by hatred,

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Moving is hard.

August 7, 2017

No matter how much you prepare for the transition, how well you pack, how many meals you plan, moving is still hard. Throw four kids under six into the mix and there are days that feel impossible. Especially when you want your kids to have the ability to process your move. So, for weeks we had a continuous conversation about who we miss from Quincy, and for weeks my three year old has slept in bed with us, and for weeks we all basically have lived in the same room, even though our rectory is quite large. 
Creating a new home is hard.

All I have wanted to do is get in bed, and let the weeks pass into months. I don’t want to have to feel all the feelings that come along with a big move. I certainly don’t want to talk about all those feelings with my kids. It’s too hard and I too exhausting. 
But I also don’t want to raise my kids to avoid or numb their painful emotions, and so we talk about our old house, and our old friends, and we snuggle, and I try to be as vulnerable to them, as they are to me. 
We have moved four times in six years. In those six years I have had four kids, and three jobs, and Waylon has finished his Masters, completed a curate program, and become a Vicar at a church. I don’t write all that to sound impressive, but to remind myself that there is a reason for the exhaustion that seems to be the back ground of my life right now. I also write that out to remind myself that we have collected kingdom friends and seen glimpses of heaven along the way. From a pair of needed snow boots that were left on our porch in Wisconsin, to friends that become family when I went into labor with the twins and came to watch our older kids, to a five bedroom house that is big enough for this family of six. It would be so easy to feel the hardships of the last 9 years, when we started our ministry, instead of seeing the dance that we have participated in with the Holy Spirit. 
When Waylon and I met, we dreamt about our future life together. We would sit and talk about the dinners we would have, and the yearning to cultivate a safe place for clergy in ministry. Little did we know that we had to enter into a place of healing ourselves, so that we could see and understand what that would look like for others. 
Because that is what I truly believe the whole point of the church is, to be the healing place for the broken. 
A place, a community, a life,

tied so closely to the Trinity 

that it breathes wholeness. 

In the midst of a world of chaos, death, and the bandaids of instant gratification we are called to be a refuge for the broken. The men, women, and children who have lost their lives to the world and are seeking their truest identities. People who are longing to have a place to take off the facade of wholeness and to embrace a journey of healing to get to wholeness. 
For that is what the purpose of the church, to be a hospital, a rehabilitation, and a catalyst for the healing love of Christ. A love that brings us into our whole humanity. 
Our churches are called to cultivate a space that allows us to feel all of our emotions, to process those emotions together and to allow our minds and hearts to be captivated by Christ. For how can our minds be renewed by Christ if we the church is not a refuge for our minds first. How can we love our Lord with all of ourselves, if the church does not teach how to accept love for ourselves? 
If the church cannot be a refuge for our whole selves, a safe place for our brokenness, and a place of rest for our bodies, than what is the Church? 
I long to create health, well adjusted kids, and that means sitting with them in pain, and feeling all our feelings together. It means not only tolerating questions, but encouraging questions, even when I am tired. It means taking the time to play outside and to use our bodies well. 
It means cultivating a home that is safe, for not only my kids, but for any child that walks through our door.
And shouldn’t the church be a home just like that as well? 

Salvation in the Mud

December 22, 2015

Today we had a really tough morning. I think my children can sense the anticipation and excitement as we come into Christmas, because they were wild. We all had our fair number of tantrums, so finally I got everyone to put their shoes on and we went outside for a walk around the neighborhood.

The boys ran most of the block and enjoyed listening to all the noises of the traffic, and pointing out all of the various trucks along the street.

It rained this morning and we came upon a huge puddle which the boys became quite aquatinted with. They giggled, jumped, ran, and splashed as I enjoyed the first ten minutes of peace of the morning. As I was taking pictures I began to reflect on how this moment had saved our morning. This muddy puddle had made our chaotic, tense, tantrum filled morning into a memory as we found our joy again.

I found my joy again. Because being a Christ follower means the joy I have is always accessible, but can easily be forgotten in the muck of worry, stress, frustration, and anticipation.

I read recently that the term salvation really refers to a momentary experience. Both in the Hebrew and Greek salvation is often used to mean to be saved momentarily from a dire circumstance.

How appropriate to have our mud puddle of salvation point us to Christmas. The earthiness of our saving grace is echoed from the earthiness of our eternal saving grace found in the Nativity Scene. We find our joy in our saving moments as we live our life, as well as in the saving moments of the Nativity scene.

Salvation is a both/and experience and it is a good reminder to live in the moment as well as to hope for what is to come.

Like our mud puddle we find joy in what we are given as well as hope for another rainy spring like day for the future.

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Holy weariness

January 19, 2014

Anyone else really tired?

Maybe it’s just me.

I’m not just writing about physical exhaustion, but mostly a being of exhaustion. Now granted, I am working full time, raising a toddler, and I am within weeks of my third trimester with our second son.

My external experiences are tiring, but I think the exhaustion I am speaking about is more rooted within the deeper recesses of my being.

Here are some of the things that have me down;

I am tired of injustice, and perverted justice.

I am tired of the pointless babble of so many people.

I am tired of shallow answers to truly unanswerable questions.

I am tired of hearing “I feel” instead of “I think”.

I am tired of the cold and the snow.

I am tired of everything being so damn expensive.

I am tired of trying to fit in, and at the same time trying to “find myself”

I am tired of seeing the worst in people.

Here’s the thing. I think I’m tired of people. I’m even kind of tired and irritated with myself. I am tired of losing my patience, and having a short fuse. I am tired of feeling tired.

Have you ever been here?

I am in need of an internal fix up. A shift in my perspective and world view.

I think this weariness truly stems from my stubbornness towards the work God is doing in my heart. I’m also aware that my ministry time in southern Illinois left me with a holy discontentment.

The problem with this holy discontent is that for almost five years I haven’t had the words to describe what I am feeling and thinking.

My first reaction to this state of being was rebellion. The problem is I have been feeling and thinking as two different people. I desperately want to stay the same. I want to live my life as my own and I so desperately want to be comfortable.

The combination of the work of the Holy Spirit within my life and my own Holy discontentment has left me wore out.

Since God has been slowly changing my mindset I don’t really like the person I used to be. When I sit by myself I realize that I am materialistic, greedy, impatient, short in anger, and I am certainly not gracious.

But my mind, and my heart are both being transformed. While I am still learning the words I need to explain what has been happening to me I can tell you that through my weary and holy discontentment I have realized that the church is the only hope of this world. I have come back to believe when Christians get together and have faith that the Holy Spirit is moving, mountains move, and lives are transformed.

My holy weariness is slowly being transformed into a hopeful hesitation and trust within the Church.

Whenever I feel defeated or weary I cling to Psalm 13.

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,

and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him, ”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.

I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.

I connect deeply with this Psalm because the beginning is an outpouring of the poet’s heart and soul. It’s a description of a weariness. The poet doesn’t forget to trust in the Lord’s steadfast love though, because The Lord as been GOOD.

Whether you are praising God on the mountaintop, or under your comforter in the fetal position crying out, God remains to be GOOD.

Because God’s love is long standing.

Fear Not?

January 6, 2014

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people”

This verse has been stuck in my brain since I heard it read at Christmas Mass. I have been stewing on it silently. It struck me on Christmas because I realized I am afraid often.

Not in the sense where I am consciously aware of it, but when I sit back and look at my mentality towards life I tend to fear many things. Often my fears are irrational and easily downplayed, but they still weigh heavily on my being.

As we walked back from Christmas mass I told Waylon that I wanted to be free of my fear. I do not want fear to take control of my life in such a way that it determines if I can hear and see the Holy Spirit move.

As I have been reflecting on these thoughts I have wondered how to counteract this fear I often carry around.

The fear of not being financially secure.

The fear of worthlessness.

The fear of a lack of conviction.

The fear of comfortability.

The fear of long term discontentment.

The fear of failure as a wife and mom.

Coming into the New Year reminds me of resolutions. How can I practically give up my fears? What does this look like for me?

This morning I had a moment of clarity. I was re reading Luke 2:10 and realized that there is more to the verse then “fear not”. As I continued to read on I was reminded of 1 John 1. The angels were declaring the Good News. The news that was going to be life transforming, and as I flipped to 1 John, a letter written after Jesus’ death. I observed that that Good News was a reality for the church.

1 John 1:1-2
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life- the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us”

The reality of this faith is that it is real. It is tangible. If we claim to call ourselves followers of Christ than we must own our own redemption.

We replace our fear with the experience of the Gospel.

As the Johannine community writes about their living experience with the death and resurrection of Christ, so must we, as Christians today.

My fears are very real in one sense. If I give power to what I am afraid of I will lose sight of my own redemption within Christ.

If I choose to allow my fear to dominate my life I am choosing to deny the power of the cross and the resurrection three days later.

So, I have come to the conclusion that my fear comes with a choice. I can choose to give power to my fear or to let the power of the cross defeat it.

I wonder what 2014 will be like for myself, and for others around me if I choose redemption instead of fear.

The Lawrence Christmas Card

December 29, 2013

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2013 has been a long, hard year for the Lawrence family. In the fall of 2012 we decided to leave our church in Southern Illinois, and to join the diocese of Quincy Illinois so that Waylon could pursue his calling of becoming an Anglican priest. We truly believe that the Holy Spirit was leading us into that direction and still feel convicted in our faith.

One of the reasons 2013 has been so challenging for us is because we have had to really depend on the generosity of others. My parents opened up their home to us for nine months during this year of transition and helped us in so many ways. Waylon’s parents opened their home up to our dogs and then to us for about six weeks in the summer. They also rented our uhaul so that we could save money on our move. My parents took Arlo for two days so that Waylon and I could unpack and have some time together.1005995_10151768928841221_1740583325_n

Not only were we dealing with physical aspects of our decision but we were also dealing with the emotional aspects. We had a very hard and trying three years in Southern Illinois. Waylon’s job was challenging, draining, and exhausting. We were dealing with a toxic church and we were not equipped or prepared to navigate the emotional, spiritual, and physical burden of this ministry.

During the year of 2013 we have healed slowly from many of the wounds that ministry has inflicted on our marriage and our faith. This has been a good and hard thing to do, and we could not have gotten through this time without our community. We had dinner once a week with close family(my combo of friends who have become family) the Plassmans, Waylon met and worked with a new good friend Matt, and I was blessed to be around my two old best friends, along with making a new wonderful friend who is now becoming my sister in law!(how cool is that!) All these people including our family helped us heal from the isolation of our ministry experience during our year of transition.

We then moved to Nashotah WI and within two days I had two job offers. One that turned into a full-time position in November! We also have been blessed with a new baby who is healthy and will be born in May!

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We have been wonderfully blessed by the Raskopf family, who have adopted us and have truly loved on us during our first semester here.

We have had so many ups and downs this year, but during this time of Advent I am remembering that there is a reason we have been so abundantly blessed.

Advent is a wonderful time within the church that means waiting on The Lord. There is a great sense of anticipation as we wait for the birth of Christ.

With the birth of Christ comes the hope that when we are in despair we will have the church to cling to. We will have a community of believers to sit with us in our grief, and hardship and love us through it all. Then when we have been healed, we will have the opportunity to love others in grief.

What a powerful and astounding reality we are enveloped within.

As I reflect on our hardship and our journey the words “Don’t be afraid! I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The savior-yes the Messiah, The Lord-has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!” Luke 2:10-11

What a powerful message spoken by an angel to some sheep herders. So many years ago. Don’t be afraid, because the savior of the world has been born and is redemption and love within the flesh.

As we look towards Christmas Day, and towards 2014, the Lawrence family will be seeking that redemption in our lives so that we can extend it to others.

Lately I have been noticing a couple of posts circulating around FB/Twitter. These posts generally make me roll my eyes and at the worst give me something to complain about. I am sure you have seen them too.

The Mom and church posts.

You know…the posts about how great it is when you take your kids to church, even when you are tired, even when they are all under the age of three.

Ugh.

To my Protestant friends we are not talking about bringing your kids to church so they can go to kids church while you go to service. We are talking about high church services where there is often no kids service.

I normally don’t get so riled up about an idea like this. I am all for kids being in church. I still remember my Sunday School teachers in fifth grade and how special and loved they made me feel. How they showed me the love of Christ, just by expressing their excitement that I came every week. Through those relationships I learned to LOVE church. I continued to meet people who expressed Christ to me through relationship as I grew within the church.

I guess my strong reaction isn’t to the idea of having kids in church. It’s putting the sole responsibility of these kids on their parents, specifically on moms.

Hear me out.

I realize that Waylon and I are responsible for our kids’ spirituality. However, without all the moms, dads, sisters, brothers, at church I would NOT be the Christian I am today. Church is supposed to be a community of believers who all take responsibility for raising our children in the faith.

Because let’s be honest. Mom’s who have kids under the age of three are going to have a hell of a time nurturing their own spirituality within service if they have to keep their kids quite, still, behaved, and from running up on the alter to knock everything over. Mom’s have gotten their kids up, fed them breakfast, wrestled “church clothes” on their kids, packed the diaper full of toys/snacks, and then in the middle of service they have to walk out of service because their 15 month old wants to go run up and explore and is throwing a massive tantrum.

I react strongly to all the church posts lately because our Moms and Dads are working really hard during the week to not only teach their children how to live life well, love well, and to be kind. When I read posts that “praise” moms for bringing kids to church because they need to be there I really read a nice think GUILT TRIP.

And to be honest, this issue could be solely mine to struggle with, but when I see these posts I feel guilty that I do not look forward to church. I feel guilty for wanting to just stay home, because I am super aware that my high energy 15 month old will maybe make it thirty minutes if I am lucky, and then will see something interesting and will fight tooth and nail to try and get whatever he sees. It then ends in the high pitched scream that has been trending in our house lately, followed by some good kicks,  and a good old fashion tantrum. And I only have ONE child.  I couldn’t imagine having more than one under three.

To be honest, I would rather stay home. Because I cannot be present at church when I have to watch my own child. Especially when I already feel the strong emotion of guilt. Guilt is a wonderful emotion for the Devil to use to keep people from the Bride of Christ. And, when the church itself reinforces this guilt we are doomed in our effort of  spiritual formation for our families.

For my Episcopalian friends, if you do have new families that come to church and you do not have a nursery for the littles, or a children’s church you will have a really hard time trying to get those young families back into church. Moms and dads do not want to watch their own children in church.

And I get it, well they should just be mature enough to deal with it, right? Wrong. We should not be expecting people who walk into our church to be already mature in their faith. The church should be mature enough to realize that our young parents need to be spiritually formed as well as our children, because our parents are the spiritual leaders that form our children during the week. When the church puts the sole responsibility of raising their children onto the parents alone we cutting our feet out from under us. We are not equipping people who are gifted with children, we are wearing our parents out, we are not spiritually forming our families, and in the worse case scenario we are letting the sin of guilt to run rampant.

My student minister in high school always said, “You are not the church of tomorrow, you are the church of today.

Remember that we are leaving a legacy to our children. We are giving them the faith that we have experienced first hand. We are the eye witness’ of our generation of God the Father’s working within our lives and in our world.

We are the ones “which have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us.” 1 John 1:1-3.

We have the responsibility to express redemption, grace, patience, prayer, and the free life of Christ, to our children, as a church. Please don’t let parents try to do this on their own. Partner with them to express the legacy of our faith. Not only will our parents grow within their spiritual formation, our children will get to take part in the stories of so many different Christian brothers and sisters.

Story telling

June 6, 2013

My friend Nick loves a good story. He is actually a great story teller himself. He tweeted this statement awhile back and it got me thinking, “Rarely does someone hear a story and retell it well, the best story teller wins”

On further discussion he said that the best story teller is the one who experiences the story.

The reality is that we all have experienced story. We all started somewhere, got busy growing, made a few friends, maybe had some life changing experiences, and we will all meet the end eventually.

In all that living, we tell a story.

We are all apart of the big story. Somehow connected with each other for some reason. We are not just connected with each other but also to the earth, to the dirt, the water, and the air.

We are such physical people living in a very physical world. The Gospel is just as physical and when we first encounter the death and resurrection of Christ many of us have a whole body response in reaction.

We are not the first people to experience the Gospel as something tangible and as something real.

In the letter of 1 John the author demonstrates their perspective of the living story we all are about of, they write,

“The one who existed from the beginning is the one we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is Jesus Christ, the Word of life. This one who is life from God was shown to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and announce to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was shown to us. We are telling you about what we ourselves have actually seen and heard, so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy will be complete. This is the message he has given us to announce to you: God is light and there is no darkness in him at all.”

This community did not only receive the story of Jesus but actually experienced the story first hand through their own life transformation.

When we call ourselves Christian we are choosing to own that the Gospel is alive and has transformed our own lives. That the man we call Christ did truly die and rise and through the Holy Spirit has put his signature on our lives.

Whatever our story holds, when we choose to buy into the Gospel we are handing the tale of our lives over to Someone else.

And when we tell our stories to each other, and live our stories with other people we are expressing the life of the Gospel we have seen, heard, touch, and know.

That is why silly generalities or sweeping theological statements often contradict the Holy Spirit and the living Gospel.

People, life, stories are full of error, mud, holes, and misunderstandings.

But Christ, is in all of the story and the love that he offers transcends all understanding and misunderstanding.

Post Birthday

May 20, 2013

Arlo turned one last month. It was kind of a big deal. I’m sure every parent feels that way when their first kid turns one. The wonder and awe, both because they have kept this little creature alive for a year, and because this little creature has transformed their life.

So, to prepare for Arlo’s birthday I finished his baby book, bought decorations, and tried to appreciate all the changes that have come with becoming a mom.

I have read a lot of “parenting” blogs warning future parents about the surface issues of parenthood like; you will have Cheerios all over your car, you won’t sleep well again, explosive poopy diapers, massive toddler tantrums, ect.

But no one really talks about how being a parent forces you to live in the moment.

Arlo has blessed me with the gift of living within the present. If I choose to day dream the day away I miss a whole day with my son. Even on the days when he is cranky or really needy.

I think intense love does that to a person. It makes them come up into reality. Weather it be falling in love, making new friends, having a baby, or doing ministry. Intense love forces us to live in the moment. To appreciate the small details of a person. To remember the intricate touch or the refreshing conversation.

I have been blessed by this intense love through Arlo, through Waylon, and through the church and I am thankful for the opportunity to live in the present.

Because today is all we are promised.

Anxious Alison

April 24, 2013

I get really anxious. Like to the point where my chest gets tight and I have a hard time breathing.

I guess I have always been anxious but after Arlo was born it really sky rocketed. I think “they” call it postpartum anxiety.

I call it darkness in action. If you have never suffered from anxiety than you won’t understand someone who does. Often times Christians can think if you eat well, exercise, think positive, and pray really hard that the anxiety will go away. These things help, but they don’t take the anxiety away.

Unfortunately you cannot work something like this off.

While it has gotten better as Arlo has gotten older it still can be crippling. I write about my anxiety not so that you will feel bad for me, but because it’s a way to cope.

Actually with all the shootings in ‘Merica it has been brought to my attention that there is very little room for mental illness within the church. The pharmaceutical company has a corner of this market but the church has little if nothing to say on the matter. Often if the church does speak on the matter it’s negative.

However, metal illness can cause a lot of problems for kingdom people in relationship. Christianity often looks differently through mental illness when it comes to reconciliation, forgiveness, love, or discipleship.

I wrote on Matthew 5:48 this morning. The perspective that Jesus calls us to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect.

That Greek word translates as complete. We are called to be complete people. Wholistic people.

What a beautiful image. To be a whole, complete, unbroken person. To be a person at peace.

So, how are we called to love the people who might not know or express this love back?

How do we navigate forgiveness, reconciliation, discipleship with Christians who suffer from bipolar, anxiety, OCD, chronic depression, ect.?

Maybe meeting people where they are at and loving them in a practical way; Cooking meals, watching their kids, going on walks.

Maybe if we love in a practical way we can walk with people through their hardship and see what it’s like to walk in there shoes.