After writing Monday’s post (found here), I stumbled across this one from March 2016, that uses some of the exact same language. This happens quite often — I find that I return to the same topics over and over again. I keep returning to the same lessons, the same messages, the same truths. So, here’s a message from 2016, brought forward to 2019…and I imagine, I’ll return again in the years to come.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been tempted to feel a little pessimistic lately. The presidential campaigns, acts of violence, international events, and their portrayal by the media could make a girl pretty cynical. Add to that the postings on Facebook and Twitter, and I might just walk around grumbling about the ‘terrible state of the world’. I might even be heard muttering things like, “this country is a mess,” “it’s only going to get…
Walking through the grocery store, I heard a ping, then another, then another. I looked toward the sound and saw a woman grabbing her phone, looking at the screen, then smiling. She put the phone down and continued pushing her cart down the aisle. I saw her several more times as I made my way through the store. Each time, it was because I heard the ping first. Her phone was calling her attention, and it caught mine, too.
As I pulled into campus where we live, I drove past a half a dozen teenagers who had just finished rowing practice on the river that flows behind our house. Waiting for their rides, they sat in a silent clump, all hunched over their phones.
I get lost in my phone, too. In fact, as I sat next to my mom yesterday, watching a football game, I was scrolling mindlessly — looking at social media, checking email, Googling to fact-check.
We’re on our phones all the time. We’re always taking in information– seeing what’s going on in the world– trying not to miss anything. We read, we post, we comment. Much of our daily life revolves around our phones.
My attention has been drawn to our phones over the last few days as I’ve simultaneously been hearing a narrative in the settings I’ve found myself in. From a collection of very diverse voices I am hearing the same words in a resounding cacophony: The world we live in today..so much violence.. hurricanes… fires…total destruction… racism… sexism… broken systems ..crime… poverty… corruption…. what can we do? It’s terrible…
And you know, I think the fact that we are continuously scrolling through our cell phones (or sitting in front of our televisions), is related to this narrative –this growing societal anxiety. If we are frantic — about the weather, the environment, crime, money, scandal — then we continue to scroll. When we scroll, our anxiety increases. What can be done? It’s terrible!
The cycle is self-perpetuating.
And we’re becoming a culture of reeling, hand-wringing, panicking worriers, chanting with the masses, “It’s no use! We’re doomed! This is surely the end of the world!”
And, to be fair, these issues are real. and significant. and scary.
I’ve found myself reeling and worrying, too.
Friday morning, as I was writing out three pages of mind-dump, I cried out, “Lord, help! Lord, lead! Lord, please!”
Not long after, I was listening to a sermon I missed recently, which centered on the text in Exodus 1-2 where Pharaoh was ordering that the Israelite slaves be beaten and that their babies be murdered, a time when certainly the people were reeling, wringing their hands, and panicking. As I pictured the slaughter of innocents, I heard our pastor read these words:
We read scripture in order to be refreshed in our memory and understanding of the story within which we ourselves are actors, to be reminded where it has come from and where it is going to, and hence what our own part within it ought to be.”
I got kinda choked up, and I leaned in.
As I listened to the rest of the sermon, I remembered how God had shown up for the Israelites, how He had miraculously delivered them from the hands of the Egyptians, how he had saved even little baby Moses as he bobbed down the stream in a basket made of reeds. I felt a peace wash over me as I remembered that the God who rescued Moses and the Israelites is the same God who hears me as I “cry out” on the pages of my notebook.
The same God who heard David and Hannah and Mary and Peter.
I am part of a bigger story — a story that was written before the beginning of time, a story that has a beginning, a middle, and an end.
An end! Guys, we already know the end!
Last weekend, my granddaughter wanted me to watch a “scary movie”. When I told her that I don’t like scary movies, she said, “It’s ok, Oma, I will sit next to you and cover your eyes if you get really scared.” So, figuring that I’d probably be ok if a four year old was coaching me into bravery, I agreed. Throughout the movie, whenever a scary part came up, she put her little hand on my glasses so that I wouldn’t get too frightened. Toward the end of the movie, the scariest part of all, she narrated for me ahead of time exactly what was going to happen so that I would know in advance that everything was going to be ok in the end.
And guys, we already know that even if it gets pretty darn scary, it is all going to be ok in the end.
“See, Oma, I told you!”
Sometimes we need to return to the story, remind ourselves how it all turns out, where the story has come from, where it is going, and what our part within it ought to be.
So I listened to that sermon. Twice. (Click here if you’d like to hear it.)
Then, I turned on Pandora and heard these lyrics:
The weapon may be formed, but it won’t prosper. When the darkness falls, it won’t prevail. Cause the God I serve knows only how to triumph; My God will never fail.”
“See a Victory” Elevation Worship
Hundreds of times during the day, I check my phone — for texts, for calls, for updated news, for weather reports. Just once every morning, I return to scripture as I drive into work. And I wonder why I feel a bit unsettled and somewhat frantic. My dosage is off. I’m taking in too much frenzy and not enough fact. And when I do that, I can forget.
I can forget that:
I was lost, ’til You called me out by name And I was down, ’til You picked me up again And I was wrong, ’til Your love it made me right I was dead, ’til You sang me back to life.”
“Garments” Cory Asbury
When I return to the story — not only the story of scripture, but the story of God’s faithfulness in my own life — when I see where it has come from and where it is going, I start to wonder what my role within this grand story might be. I wonder if my role is to join the masses in frantic scrolling, hand-wringing, and worrying, or if it is to continue to return to the story, to remember that I already know the ending, and to live a life a hopefulness — a life that knows that times get dark and scary, but it’s going to be ok in the end.
Because guys, we live within a story that has been crafted by the Author and Creator of life. He has designed for each of us a life of hope and significance. Each of us matters before Him, and we have the great privilege to live into that truth and to share that truth with all of our fellow scrolling, hand-wringing sojourners.
We are not a people without hope.
We are a people who know the story of how God has been kind and merciful to His people over and over again — in the direst of circumstances: famine, flood, subjugation, tyranny. We have seen Him provide for us, connect to us, and lead us.
We know how the story ends.
Death is all around us We are not afraid Written is the story Empty is the grave.”
“This Dust” Kip Fox
Let’s keep returning to the story; we’re gonna be ok.
This post was written in April 2019 — just four months ago –however the theme and language resonate with Monday’s post, Screw ups, so I’m re-posting a tidied up version today, September 5, 2019.
Teachers sometimes utilize an approach called ‘layered instruction’ to ensure that all students attain mastery. Taking into account the individual learning styles and abilities of their students, they design multiple lessons using a variety of modalities over a period of time .
For example, when I was teaching writing, I introduced the importance of using sensory details by showing my students photographs. “Your writing,” I would say, “should include enough sensory details, that your readers begin to see images, like photographs, in their minds when they read your words.” For some students, that statement was enough. They would begin to include vivid details in their writing. Others needed guided practice in describing a scene.
Last week, when the phone rang at work, I answered and gave the answers the caller was looking for. I stumbled a little bit, because the call had interrupted me in the middle of another task, but I heard the mother’s heart of questions, and I gave her honest answers. However, I didn’t follow protocol and provide only the prescribed answers I was supposed to give on an initial phone call. Instead, I provided a few bits that are usually reserved for a lengthier conversation so that they can be provided in context. In carelessly oversharing, I might have said too much and gotten in the way of a student receiving the help he needs.
Ask me if I scolded myself, tried to offer excuses, or felt shame.
I think you already know the answer.
In an Instagram post, an athlete who competed over the weekend expressed the emotion that comes from a missed goal, a less-than-hoped for performance, a perceived failure. I heard frustration, disappointment, and even anger — a bludgeoning of the self for not doing better.
I see it in my students, too. Even though we celebrate every success, hooray for each minor victory, and applaud the journey of all of our students, they know when they’ve read a word incorrectly or when they’ve missed the point of a story. I see their eyes look down, their shoulders slump. I hear their internal (and sometimes external) voices saying, “Ugh! I’m so bad at this!”
And, you know, sometimes we are bad at this — all of this.
We undercook the roast. We drip bleach on the darks. We spill coffee on our white shirt. We break glasses, run over nails, and forget to pay the bills on time.
Even worse, we spend time with family and fail to look our loved ones in the eyes. We don’t ask about one another’s relationships or jobs or health, and we poke open wounds intentionally.
We screw up, make mistakes, lack empathy, and are sometimes downright mean. And when we realize it, we can really rake ourselves over the coals, can’t we? We can stay up all night rehearsing and re-rehearsing scenes, imagining what could have been different if only we’d left the roast in the oven a little longer, had put the bills on autopay, or had really leaned in to see what was going on in the lives of the people sitting right next to us.
And if we stay there too long, we can begin to believe that not only do we screw up, but we are indeed screw-ups. We are losers, miscreants, pond scum.
And once we have re-named ourselves, it becomes very easy to own that identity: I’m a screw-up, and I’m probably going to screw up more today. I don’t even know why I bother trying, I’m just going to get it wrong again. We might not say the words out loud, but we can get a pretty elaborate tape running. Or am I the only one who tells myself, “Geez, why do I even go out in public? I always say the wrong thing! I miss the point over and over again. When will I ever learn?”
The narrative can get so loud that it can drown out the still small voice that says, “Yeah. You screwed up. You’re human. Forgive yourself. Apologize to the ones you may have impacted. Try again.”
Our internal narrative is frantic — wanting to go back and un-do. Its mantra is shoulda, coulda, woulda. It refuses to believe that life can go on, that this too, shall pass, that anyone could forgive us or give us another chance.
But if we can hear the quiet voice of the One who designed second (and third and hundredth) chances, the One who can restore even the most broken of relationships, the One who forgives the unforgivable, we might just hear (and believe) a different narrative.
We might be able to tell ourselves that people make mistakes. It’s a fact. We can’t get around it. I can probably expect to make a hundred mistakes on a given day. I’m definitely going to say the wrong thing, make the wrong facial expression, and laugh at the wrong time. It’s a given. I am going to forget to pick up an item even though it’s on my list, take the wrong exit, and leave a sweater in the dryer for way too long.
And when I do, I can shrug my shoulders and say, “Yup, I blew it again,” but instead of berating myself and burying myself in shame, I can forgive myself, apologize to the ones that were impacted by my actions, and try to move forward. Of course, I can take steps to minimize my errors. I could, for instance, slow down and double-check my list. I could pause and think about my words before I let them come out of my mouth. I could stand, for a moment, in the shoes of the person in front of me, and consider her needs, her heart, her life.
And, I might find that I’m able to hear that she, too, is listening to the shoulda, coulda, woulda mantra of self-blame and that she, too, is being tempted to own the identity of screw-up. I might be able to reach out, touch her hand, and say, “It’s ok. I screw up, too.”
And, you never know, we might embrace and offer one another absolution, “You’re forgiven. I’m forgiven. We’re forgiven.”
And, acknowledging that, as humans, we are going to find ourselves in this same space over and over again, we might agree to stick close, to lean in, to walk together, even when — especially when– times get tough, and messy, and it seems like all is beyond repair.
Because on our own, we can’t always distinguish what voice we are listening to, and we might need someone to call us back from the ledge — to take our hand and remind us that we’re gonna be ok.
We are. We’re gonna be ok.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
On Monday (August 26, 2019) I wrote that Change is Constant. Since then, even more change has happened in my everyday life. I’ve unearthed this post first written in August 2014 to remind myself of all the changes we’ve lived through and been changed by as a family — to remind myself that change brings the potential for transformation.
On December 21, 1989, when my husband proposed to me, he said, “Things are going to get busy for a while.” He wasn’t kidding.
In the last 25 years we have lived in eleven different homes, parented four children (giving birth to three within three years!), earned three Master’s degrees, taught hundreds of students, driven thousands of miles, and attended dozens of churches. Things have indeed been busy!
We have experienced lots of change–as individuals, and as a family. At first, I braced myself for change and tried to…
Shift happens. Change is constant. We live in a perpetual state of transition.
I don’t like it!
I mean, I do…I really do like things to change. I get bored with doing the same exact routine, seeing the same students, teaching the same lessons, making the same meals, doing the same exercises, day after day after day.
I like to mix things up.
And there it is — I like change when I am the one making the changes, but I don’t appreciate it so much when I am in a shifting situation that someone else has created. For example, in the past six months two of my supervisors have moved into new roles. Hooray for them! They both moved on to positions that better fit their lives, their aspirations, and their skill sets. However, their shift caused a residual shift — shift that affected me.
When my first supervisor left in April, I was shaken. I had been relying heavily on her–the one whose confidence in me exceeded my own; the one who had promoted me because she saw my potential when I couldn’t. When she announced her move to a different role in our company, I was a bit miffed — how could she leave me? I thought she was going to further develop me! However, my being miffed didn’t change the situation. She kept right on walking out the door, and honestly, I applauded her as she went, knowing that she was moving into a role that would better fit her life and multiply her impact among students.
When her replacement arrived, I squared my shoulders and had a conversation with myself that went something like this: “It’s going to be fine. The beginning may be bumpy — initial contact is rarely smooth — but hang in there! Chances are you will work just fine with this new person.” And it was all just fine — in fact, five months later, I remember few, if any bumps with that transition.
However, just a few weeks ago, that supervisor announced that he, too, would be moving on.
I responded in much the same way as I had the first time — “Good for you, but what about me?” He is moving on to a position that will better match his life and his professional desires; I get that. However, his gain is my loss, and I had an emotional response to the uncertainty that would surely come with another transition. I again anticipated some bumps in the road.
I tell myself, “Come on, Kristin, how many transitions have you navigated in your lifetime? Countless? I thought so. Pull yourself together.”
And I have, for the most part, pulled myself together. Our new supervisor has been in our office for one week. We’re getting accustomed to one another. We’re learning each other’s strengths and weaknesses. I don’t really like this getting to know you phase. I really just want to operate as a well-oiled machine, but as we know, every machine gets bogged down from time to time; it needs to be pulled apart, examined, reassembled, and oiled. We’re in that phase. And I’m trying to be at peace with it all.
To complicate matters, I feel a bit of obligation, being the most senior in age of all of my staff, to model an appropriate and mature approach to transition. (They don’t call me Momma K for nothing.) Yet my emotional responses have been real and sometimes raw. I am not one to front, so those closest to me have seen me struggle a bit. I don’t like that either. So, I’m doing my best to verbally process with them, as moms do when they are trying to walk their kids through difficulty. “Transitions can be bumpy,” I say. “I find myself feeling defensive, so I’m not doing the best at keeping a positive attitude,” I admit. “We’re doing fine. We’re all learning from each other here,” I cheer. “We’re a great team,” I chant.
And for the most part I believe myself, because I’ve been through change so many times. I know we are all going to be fine. I just wish I could get my emotions to believe me, too.
Emotions don’t always get the big picture. They cry out, “Danger! Unfamiliar territory! Proceed with caution! Bumps Ahead! I won’t let you hurt me! I was here first!”
So I climb out on the ledge where my emotions stand trembling, looking down at the rocks below. Together we take a good long look at where they are headed; I grab their hand and gently talk them back into the building. “I know you are scared. You are feeling a bit insecure. It’s going to be ok. You are ok. It’s going to get better. We’ve been through this before. Remember? It was ok then; it’s going to be ok now.”
And for a while we are ok. I smile. I do my job. I encourage my students and coworkers. And then something happens that triggers my emotions to walk back toward the exit, and we start the cycle all over again.
I’m at my mom’s right now; we’ve spent several hours over the last couple of days looking through hundreds of photos. We’ve seen photos of my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, nieces, and children from every stage of life. I have seen the innocent smiles of childhood, the strained poses from difficult times, and the sparkling eyes of age. Some photos take me right back to a moment — I remember the circumstances surrounding the occasion, the call to “say cheese”, and the click of the camera. Some are from times way before my years.
In all of them, today, I see traces of transition.
I saw my grandmother transition from an innocent child making a card for her mother to a young bride unaware of the difficulties life would hold to a mother meticulously caring for her children to a grandmother sitting among those she cherished.
I saw my toddler mother smiling sweetly for a professional photo in a perfectly pressed frock, my adolescent mother in her confirmation dress, my young adult mother in her wedding gown, and my beaming mother in her mother-of-the bride dress.
I saw myself in white blond ponytails for a school photo, in brunette hot curler-ed waves for my college graduation, and in a super short cropped ‘do buried in small children.
All of life is transitioning from one stage to the other. Each stage is full of transitions –in relationships, in school or work, in our bodies. Each year is transition from spring to summer to fall to winter. Each day changes from morning to noon to night.
We’ve all lived through thousands of transitions. So why do I get my shorts in a knot? Why do I wring my hands and pace the floors? Surely this is just one transition among many more that I will face in my life.
Surely as soon as this transition has run its course another will begin.
Change is a given, so as I continue to ride the wave, I will look to the one who stays the same. I will cling to the one who is constant.
Today is Move-in Day at this place we call home. Thirty-four years ago, I was moving in as a student; just over five years ago, I moved in as the wife of the Dean of Students. Both times I’m shown up on this campus, I’ve been just a bit broken, and both times this space has provided the time, the resources, and the community in which I find healing. I wrote this post in on August 3, 2014, when I thought my biggest problem was my health. As I revisit it today, I wonder at God’s ability to see the bigger issues and provide a space for me to held through difficulties yet unknown to me.
Nestled beside the Huron River is a small school — Concordia University. (You can see the chapel amid the trees in the photo.) The school was started in the 1960s by the Lutheran Church…
Early in this blog, much of my content was about my ongoing journey through chronic illness — pain, fatigue, and issues with my eyes and skin. I don’t write about it much any more, because most of my symptoms have leveled out; I don’t often have a crisis. Sure, pain is still present every day; yes, my eyes can give me challenges from time to time; and, of course, my skin continues to be my first alert system. However, for the most part, I have found a new rhythm that sustains my health and has even allowed me to work full-time and enjoy life outside of work. (Read my latest health update from March here.)
In fact, I’ve been in this rhythm so long, that I can forget how miserable I was just a few years ago — when I had to limit myself to 1-2 activities a day, when I frequently found myself doubled over in pain or lying on the bathroom floor waiting to throw up, when I had to lie down for a while in the morning and in the afternoon due to extreme fatigue. Yeah, it was really that bad, so now when I work 40 hour weeks for months in a row, occasionally meet friends for dinner after work, or travel two weekends in a row, and suffer no consequences, I can get a little amnesia — the kind of amnesia that leads me to push the limits.
For the past month, I have been pushing the limits. We have had out of town visitors at least four times and have attended two family reunions, one wedding, one dance lesson, and at least two dinner dates with friends. No problem. I was feeling fine. Yes, I had to go to bed early a couple times, but I recovered quickly. I was able to keep writing most mornings, do yoga, go for walks, and still manage my regular household tasks like groceries, laundry, and cooking. I didn’t miss work or cancel any plans.
But this past week, I kicked it up a notch — I threw all caution to the wind.
After church last Sunday, my husband and I shopped for a few hours while we waited for new tires to be installed on our car. Monday, we met after work to grab a quick bite before cheering on our son in a local 5k; we even hung out with him for a while afterward. Tuesday, I attended my end-of-summer staff party complete with Chipotle and trivia. Wednesday, I met an old friend from high school for a quick reunion. Thursday, I ate out, played, and laughed with my son and godson. What a fun week!
And it might have been ok, if I hadn’t missed my last PT appointment or skipped my chiropractor for three weeks running, if I hadn’t been up later than usual every single night, if I hadn’t omitted yoga four days in a row, if I hadn’t had the corn chips with my Chipotle, if I hadn’t had two slices of pizza (all that gluten and dairy) at work on Wednesday, or if I hadn’t said, “sure Ethiopian food will be fine.”
People often ask me, “What do you notice when you avoid gluten and dairy?” or “Does yoga really help you?” or “Really, a chiropractor makes a big difference?” or “That PT sounds weird, are you sure it works?”
I typically say something like, “I’m not sure what does what, but I know that when I do all the things, I feel good enough to live my life. When I don’t do the things, I’m on the couch or in the bed.”
After a month of rich living, I abandoned my good practices for a week, and when I woke up Friday morning, I felt rough — my head hurt, my eyes were begging to be closed, I was nauseous, and I really thought I wouldn’t make it through my work day. I allowed myself an extra 30 minutes in bed, then begged the hot shower for transformation.
I dragged myself to work, mentally marking the four-hour countdown to lunch hour when I would finally see the chiropractor. It was a particularly challenging morning at work — complete with schedule changes, atypical student behavior, and two parent meetings –but I did my best and made it to lunch time.
I willed myself to drive to the chiropractor, rubbing my aching neck and fight back nausea. I was miserable. “Please, Jesus, let this adjustment at least alleviate this headache.” The chiropractor may have said, “wow” a couple of times as he moved up and down my spine putting each piece back in its assigned location, and he may have said, “well, that should make a difference” as we heard the pop of my sacroiliac joint jumping back into place. I can’t remember exactly what happened, because he then applied acupressure to two spots right below my eyes and then two spots on my forehead and the pain of my headache was instantly cut in half. I was astounded and relieved.
I walked to my car promising the doctor (and myself) that I’d return on my regular schedule. I drove back to work, where my office manager met me with a Whole Foods delivery — warm goodness without gluten or dairy or corn. I sat at my laptop with an ice cold Coke and my roasted chicken and vegetables and began to feel well again.
It was a quick turnaround — unlike the systemic flares from just a few years ago that would take 24 to 48 hours, this one lasted only about six hours. Just long enough to scare me straight.
All during those six hours I was picturing the tile of the bathroom floor and imagining myself packed in ice on the couch. I had forgotten those realities, but they showed up to remind me to return to my best practices.
I made a home-cooked meal on Friday night — roasted pork cutlets with rice and sautéed fresh vegetables and then slept for nine hours. I started Saturday with writing, yoga, and oatmeal before heading to a 90-minute structural medicine appointment where the practitioner moved all the muscles and ligaments to support the chiropractor’s work. I spent the afternoon doing food prep — making Kristin-friendly muffins and cutting up veggies and melon– and organizing my office. I finished the evening with three episodes of Queer Eye because it’s wholesome and friendly and hopeful.
I’m writing this on Sunday morning, and I’ve already journaled, done yoga, and am writing now to remember — that the full life that I enjoy is a gift. In a little while, I will head to church where I will give thanks for this gift– this physical restoration that is a mere shadow of the more complete restoration that has been happening inside. I will give thanks for both, and I will continue to return to all of my best practices.
Addendum: It’s now Monday morning. Yesterday on our drive to church, my husband and I started filling our day with visits and errands, and chores. We had quite a list, so we both agreed to “see how it goes.” By the end of church and a congregational meeting, I had decided I needed to see a doctor; I had symptoms that suggested an infection. So, we drove to our practice’s walk-in clinic to have me checked out. No infection, just more evidence of inflammation–I needed more than twenty-four hours to recover, apparently.
So, we scrapped our plans, came home to nutritious leftovers, an hour at the puzzle, a nap, and two episodes of The Great British Baking Show — yes, we’ve pulled out all the stops! In a little while, I will start my week with a trip to the physical therapist for the final “laying on of hands” in this series.
I am so thankful for my current health and this journey I’ve been on — a journey that tangibly shows me the value of self-care, a journey that allows me to do my best and gives me grace to recover when I’ve gone off the rails, a journey that reminds me to return to my best practices.
For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.
Monday’s post, Do Something, was meant to be an encouragement to take a step — any small step — toward making a difference. This post, written in November 2014 and cleaned up in August 2019, reminds me thatwhatever I do is best when it comes from a place of love.
Last night at dinner sat a student, a teacher, a pastor, a cardiologist, and a soldier…It sounds like the beginning of a joke, doesn’t it? It’s not a joke. They were all at our table last night. The soldier asked the cardiologist, “so what exactly do you do?” The cardiologist answered, “the sexy answer is that I stop heart attacks and save lives, but the reality is that I take a lot of measurements and do a lot of diagnostics.” The soldier answered, “well, my sexy answer is that I jump out of planes and blow things up, but…
On Sunday August 4, 2019, Ohio Governor Mark DeWine addressed a crowd on the same day that a mass shooting killed 9 and left 27 injured. He had just barely begun to speak when someone shouted, “Do something!” Before long, many had joined the chant, “Do something! Do something!”
DeWine was moved to action. Within 48 hours, he had proposed several changes to gun laws including a red flag law and universal background checks; his initiatives also included measures related to education and mental health. He announced his actions saying, “We must do something.”
Now that is what I’m talking about.
The people in that Dayton crowd, along with many others, are done with hand-wringing and weeping. They are tired of excuses and finger-pointing. They have seen enough bloodshed, and they are demanding change.
“Do Something!” they yell, and I find myself joining their cries, “Do Something! Do Something!”
Last week I wrote about prayer — the lifting up of our burdens to the One who is able to change everything.
I’m not taking that back.
Pray. Keep praying. Never stop praying.
But here’s the thing, we can pray with our breath and our movements at that same time that we are doing something.
Yes, we can have dedicated times of solitude, where we go in our prayer closets or lie on our beds and cry out to God. Do that! However, you can also put your prayers into motion. Much like you talk to a friend as you go for a run, drive down the road, or cook a meal, you can continue in conversation with God as you do something about the things you are lifting up to Him.
You can cry, “Do you see this, God? Two hundred forty-six people have been killed in mass shootings in the United States this year,” while you are demonstrating in front of a governor, or writing a letter to your congressman, or donating money for mental health resources in your community or educational services at your local school.
You can say, “Lord, I’m really worried about the environment, I beg for your mercy and the renewal of our planet,” as you ride on public transportation, use cloth shopping bags, or carry your compost outside.
You can sob, “I’m begging you to heal my broken relationships,” as you encourage the people you encounter every day, as you go to therapy to process your regrets and learn healthier strategies, as you do your best to rebuild relationships.
We can be people of prayer and still do something. We can do more than put on sackcloth and ashes, grieving the loss of a life we once knew. We can speak out and fight for change. We can defend the defenseless, call out the unjust, and offer solutions.
We can engage in conversations about politics — ask the hard questions, admit that we don’t have all the answers, and even change our minds.
We can volunteer in our communities — working with the homeless, tutoring public school kids, or leading clean-up projects.
We can support the people in our neighborhoods — being available, providing resources, dropping off flowers or meals.
I don’t know what your gifts are, but even while you are praying, you can do something.
Why should you? Why should you expend any effort? What difference is one person going to make any way? The problems we face are big — almost insurmountable — rampant gun violence, a drug epidemic, a decaying environment, a world-wide sex trafficking network, an immigration crisis, our dysfunctional families, and our own broken hearts.
We could crawl into our beds, cover our heads with blankets, and weep as we cry out, “Come, Lord Jesus, Come.”
But, friends, He isn’t here yet, and He is inviting us to do something.
I am not suggesting that you strap on your gear and go about butt-kicking and name-taking. Instead, I am suggesting a mindful, prayerful approach to action.
You and I can consider the items we are continually lifting up in prayer: a family member with health concerns, a strained relationship, personal debt, the environment, racial disparity, and violence against women, for example.
As we lift us these concerns, we can be asking, “What difference can I make? What is one thing that I can do? How can I help?” And we will begin to see opportunities: we can make a phone call to encourage that family member, we can respect the requests of the one who just needs some time and space, we can pay off some bills and move toward financial freedom, we can decide to buy fewer products packaged with plastic, we can vote for proposals that promote equity, or volunteer at a local women’s shelter. We can do something.
We don’t have to do everything, but we can each do something.
Imagine the impact of 10 people consistently choosing to do one thing toward improving a neighborhood, of 100 people dedicated to just one action to decrease homelessness, of 1000 people committed to improving the lives of children living in poverty.
You could be the start of transformational change, if you just decide that you are going to do something.
For the past few years I’ve been looking for something big to do. As I’ve been sorting through the broken pieces of my life, I keep trying to put them together into one redemptive action that will somehow turn my tears into wine. I want to end poverty and violence and heal all the broken hearts. I want a project, a mission, a cause.
And as I lift the broken pieces up in prayer, I hear a still small voice saying, “you don’t need to single-handedly change the world, Kristin, but you cando something. How about you just start with one small thing?”
But there is so much that needs changing!
“Behold, I am making all things new.”
I want to help!
“Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly.”
Ok. I hear you. I’ll start small, but I’ll dream big.
I’m praying that others will pick their one small thing and join me.
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”