Emotional Shingles

That is how I’ve been explaining my mood lately. It seems that my emotions remain very close to the surface just waiting for the slightest brush, the smallest offense, the tiniest confusion to flare into a bout, often intense, of resentment, doubt, or anger. The prolonged disconnect from the people and the routines of the past acts like a scalpel peeling back the skin and exposing nerve endings.

For the past three years I have been praying Psalm 139 each morning –

Search me and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts, point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me in the path of righteousness. (italics mine)

The last few weeks God has responded to that prayer. Not in the way I would have asked or desired, but an answer nevertheless.

For these weeks have been a testing that has laid bare my insecurities and my anxieties in no uncertain terms. It has shown me where I’ve placed my trust in something other than God. And while not baring too much of my soul here, it surrounds being appreciated, valued, and respected. My testing has led me to see that I have been placing my self-worth on a response to a sermon, or blogpost, or leading, or well, you get the picture. And while all these are part of my gifting and important to the work God has called me, I realize now how much that I tied my well-being to the fruit of the gifts and not the love of the gift Giver. I deeply desired my identity that was built upon the work of ministry and instead of the work of the Gospel. In other words, they have become idols.

I am praying a prayer of thanksgiving for how God is not wasting this season of life. Without it, I may never have wrestled with these anxieties so often or intensely. Please do not hear me saying God is responsible for the trials – but rather please hear me say God is using a trial – beauty from ashes.

Oh, and I have a long ways to go. Identifying is but the beginning of the journey. My prayer is now focused on the end of the Psalm – lead me in the path of righteousness. May God bring about restoration to the brokenness within me.

I write all of this as a reflection mostly and perhaps a helpful encouragement if it sounds all too familiar. If the description of emotional shingles strikes a chord with you – know that it may be revealing something to be considered instead of something to just get through.

Can you spare some time and attention?

My morning Scripture reading was from the book of Philemon. At the end of the letter Paul says that “I am hoping through your prayers.” Philemon was praying for Paul and praying specifically for them to be reunited. It was the very prayer of his friend that was bringing hope to Paul. For Paul had seen firsthand the power of prayer and so his soul was encouraged that another person would take the time to pray for him and pray specifically.

Prayer isn’t a last resort it is our best one. It isn’t about making ourselves feel better. It is working alongside God to accomplish something.

If a result of prayer is hope.

And the cost of prayer is time and attention.

Sounds like a great way to spend our lives.

Pastoral Letter from June 5, 2020

A new kind of King. A different kind of kingdom.

This weekend launches a new sermon series that will take us through July. We move from the season of Easter to the season of Ordinary time by asking ourselves “now what?” What is our responsibility and authority as an Easter people in the Holy Spirit era?

And there could be no better moment to ask those questions.

Pandemic. Economic slowdown. Civil unrest. Those are a lot of stressful boxes to check for any one generation, and yet we are experiencing them before July. And with every trial comes physical, mental and spiritual tension along with a public lament and mourning.

For instance:

  • We desire for our black brothers and sisters to be treated equally and fairly as well as  we desire to honor those in law enforcement.
  • We mourn the loss of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and David McAtee in Minneapolis and Louisville respectively (to name three) while also mourning the loss of 100,000+ lives and counting from Covid-19. The pain of needless death fills our country.
  • We hear the helpful voice of peaceful protests while looking on in horror at riots.
  • We are trying to figure out how to restart the economy and stay healthy.
  • We are trying to thread the needle between isolation being helpful to keep the virus impact down and potentially leading to the harm of depression and anxiety.

Maturity has been understood as the resolve to stand in the middle of tension and not look away or accept a quick fix in order to relieve the uncomfortableness of the situation. And let’s face it, these days are full of opportunities where looking away or a quick fix seems comforting.  My role as one of your pastors, given by St. Paul, is to “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ (Ephesians 4:12-13 NRSV).

What we need, in this moment, is a group who is confident in who and whose they are. A community of believers willing to pray, listen, and then respond.

Are there things that offend me? Absolutely. Are there issues that I find confusing? Of course. Have I vacillated between wanting to do something and crawling into a hole until it’s over? For certain.

But this is no time to look away and lose faith, hope or love (1 Corinthians 13:13). We serve the One who has already won the victory for “every nation, from all tribes and people and languages” (Revelation 7:9 NRSV). We serve the One who brings unity and peace by healing our hurts, diffusing our anger, and giving wisdom for our confusion. It’s time to lean in, not away.

Neither is this the time to rush to snap judgments or decisions as if we understand fully all that is happening. I can’t tell you how many blogs, social media posts. and newsletter articles that I’ve written and deleted in the past few months. I have come to the realization that the more I learn the more I have to learn. I humbly admit to realizing, especially with the events surrounding George Floyd’s death, that I am inevitably part of the problem even as I long to contribute to the solution. It is time to listen often, deeply, and with the intent to understand, not fix.

It’s time for us to continue being an Easter people equipped by the Spirit to accomplish Christ’s mission. Therefore, let us turn (repent) to Christ; support our neighbors; and be an anchor in the storm.

I know you are ready. You always are.

You remain in my prayers,