Thursday, November 17, 2011

Very funny, God

So it seems that God and the universe have something of a wacky sense of humor.  A lifelong avoider of public speaking, I started finding my way out of front-of-the-class speaking assignments as early as third grade.  I’d read extra books, write extra reports, create elaborate tri-fold poster board creations, pretty much anything to get out of having to face down a roomful of eyes and the sound of only my own voice.  I’ve always been a relatively confident person, but something about the sheer vulnerability of public speaking renders me a bit… ridiculous.  Hands shaking, voice quaking kind of ridiculous.  I’ve gotten over this in stages, though not without a few tears shed over speech and preaching classes at seminary.
            People frequently, and very sweetly, reassure me that this ongoing struggle doesn’t show much when I preach.   I hope they are right.  This is a good thing, since that’s a part of my job.  I love crafting sermons, and I’m learning to love the act of delivering them.
            But, getting a grip on the pulpit (often literally), I thought God’s hilarious choice of calling me into a life of preaching was just about all the comedy I needed.  I was spectacularly wrong, as is often the case when I try to guess where my life is heading.  Within the past few weeks, I have been invited to speak about the justice issue of human trafficking multiple times and the list is growing.  At a Mosque.  At a Big 10 university.  At a high school to a hundred or more teenagers.  At churches.  At community centers.
            I made a promise a few years back to communicate about trafficking to anyone, anywhere, any time because I think it’s incredibly important.  People must know this is happening, and must be called to do something about it.  I just never assumed it would be me doing the talking.  
          So, dear friends and family, please feel free to pass the word around that I'm available to inform groups about human trafficking.  If you know of a group that is interested, please feel free to send me an email (
            I am incredibly honored to be doing this work alongside the parish ministry I love, and am going to continue to do my best to swallow those waves of nervousness that are becoming part of the preaching and teaching and speaking experience for me.  There’s a lesson in all of this about call, about God equipping you for what you need to do, and maybe about keeping your mouth shut about things that make you nervous, lest you be thrown head first into them.  And if nothing else, it’s a reminder that God is very, very funny.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


            One of the real joys of working with little kids is their complete and ridiculous honesty (and even when they start learning to lie, they’re usually pretty bad at it for at least a few years).  They are who they are, wherever they are, regardless of who else happens to be around.  If they are tired, jubilant, scared, hungry, nervous, or, as my nephew recently proclaimed himself, “feeling too wild”, you know it.  Because when we start life off, we are pretty much whole.  We are unified.  All the parts of our lives are integrated.
            But the older we get, the harder it gets.  We recognize that we have roles in life and our sense of self changes based on our counterparts or audience.  Few people know this more acutely than teenagers – the way we speak, dress, behave and even think can be wildly different when we’re with our friends, in front of teachers, with our parents, at church, at school, etc.   We conform to the roles others expect us to fulfill – for good or for ill.  If we’re the funny one, we’ll make jokes.  If we’re the smart one, we’ll study hard.  If we’re the problem kid, we’ll get into trouble.  Kids are pigeon-holed from an early age and are tremendously aware of the expectations (spoken and implied) placed on them.
            The real trouble here is that, for a whole lot of people, we get the idea that the people we love will only love the version of us that they’ve come to know.  That’s more than a bit of a problem if we’re one person with them, and someone else entirely in other parts of our lives.  Everybody’s got some secrets, but the more varied our personas and roles get, the harder it can be to ever feel whole or intact.  Who doesn’t know an adult with a “business voice / face / demeanor” who changes 180 degrees around when they get home for the day?  Maybe that’s just the reality of adults doing what we have to do to survive.  Or maybe it’s demonstrative of our inability to trust that anybody would - -if they really knew the truest, most integrated “us” completely – love us just as we are. 
            Since God created us each as integrated and whole, maybe living into that a bit more in our daily lives will bring us closer to daily remembrance of that truth – somebody does love you, all of you, exactly as you are.