On prayer

Here’s something I wrote on December 23, but am just posting now.

Today, the heaviness of Christmas felt near to me. As I drove to work, I was imagining what it must be like to be a mother on Christmas. I’ll bet mothers have this special kinship with Mary– they share in her labor pain; they fear for their own children the kind of torment that Jesus bore.

Then, on my way home, I found myself running an errand on the chilly, familiar Euclid Corridor. I parked in front of Trinity Cathedral, a place I used to visit often during my undergrad years. I used to go there to walk the labyrinth, and I thought today might be a good one to walk those same steps, and pray and reflect before the Christmas. I was sad to find out that the labyrinth had been taken down to make room for extra seats for Christmas Eve services.

But I stayed a few minutes anyway. There was no one around, so in the quiet of that beautiful church, I took a moment to pray and prepare my heart for Christmas. It occurred to me on the way home, that I rarely think to go inside a church to pray. I don’t think anyone saw me slip in or slip out. It felt like a scene from a movie: me sitting alone in a pew, talking to God. Only in the movies, when people do that, God is a distant friend, or a stranger, even.

But there, I felt contemplative, and I knew that God was not- is not- a stranger. He is alive and close and a sweet dear friend who I usually hang out with in my bed or in my car or at my kitchen table, but today, we went to a beautiful church, and it was quiet, so we could spend some time really catching up.

Race

A black and white portrait of Martin Luther King Jr.

Race. It’s been on my mind a lot this week.

From the radio stories of people who risked everything to be at the March on Washington. And the people who made it their life’s work to end the injustices that were happening. And the man himself, Martin Luther King Jr., who gave the speech. 50 years ago.

To the woman I had lunch with a few days ago who was the first black teacher in a Cleveland middle school of mostly white children. [That school is only blocks from my house, and wasn’t formally desegregated until the 80’s.] White parents used to throw rocks at her bus. That was only 30 years ago.

To the black woman in line in front of me at the grocery store who had to wait 5 minutes for a manager to come clear her check. [The same cashier didn’t even check my ID.] That was 4 days ago.

I know that to write this, I don’t have to be brave. 50 years ago, even having ideas about racial equality took courage. So, there’s been progress. But it’s been too slow, and not enough. I don’t know the answers, but I know that this race conversation—it’s still a conversation worth having.

Single?

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Hi interweb, can I rant about something for a moment?

A few years ago, something strange happened. I was assigned a new identity. I didn’t choose it. But it was given to me. I graduated from college in 2010 (at the young age of 20) and all of a sudden, I was… a single. I was no longer a college student, therefore, I became defined by my marital status. How strange.

I remember shortly after I realized that this identity had been thrust upon me, I was talking to a [recently married] friend and trying to explain the phenomenon. She was perplexed and didn’t know what that meant.

For a while, I bought into the identity. I would scour blogs and newspapers and books and the Bible for things that applied to me in my “stage of life”. I wasn’t dating anyone, and no one was really on the horizon, so I figured, I had better learn what this new identity meant so that I could live in it.

I’ve read some good things about singleness. Some really true things. I’ve also read some really damaging things.

Sometimes, I wonder if I would have struggles of loneliness if there wasn’t such pity from the Church toward me, as if the pity of the married masses somehow tells me that I am missing out on something that is infinitely greater than what I am currently experiencing. The evangelical community (I’m talking the big, political evangelical community, who I mostly don’t identify with) talks so much about “Christian family values” that I think they sometimes become an idol. And all that talk leaves me out– because I’m not a family; I’m just me.

But I think that in the grand scheme of things, my singleness does not define me any more than my work defines me, or where I live defines me, or my womanhood defines me, or my race defines me, or what clothes I wear define me, or what music I listen to defines me, etc.. Each of those things are circumstances or preferences. They are things that I need to explore and understand and be at peace with God about. But my identity is in Christ crucified. Completely. And if I get married, it still will be. And if I have kids, it still will be.

I think if people- married people, single people, divorced people- focused more on Christ and less on how to be a “good” wife or husband or single, the kingdom of God would be better for it. Maybe I’m wrong. I’ve never been married. So maybe when you get married, perspective changes. But at least right now, I don’t think it’s doing me any good to dwell on how to serve God in the midst of my singleness (as if my singleness is a battle that I’m fighting). I think I just need to dwell on the person of Christ and how I can serve Him. Period.

Amen?

Holy Saturday

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In humanity’s distorted way of looking at the world, we ask, “How could God allow this pain?” Honestly, it’s a question I dare not ask myself very often. I work around a lot of pain and brokenness.

Paraphrasing something I heard in my church’s Good Friday service yesterday, “We live amid pain & darkness, & because of what Jesus did, we can’t be okay with that. We have to fight against it. And if we don’t hear people’s stories & know the bad news in their life, how can we begin to tell them the good news?”

The questions, then, is not, “How could God allow this pain?” We brought that on ourselves with our sin. We inherited some of it, but we chose it over and over again. The real question is, “How could God, knowing how painful & dark this world is, knowingly send His son here?” And yet, He did. Jesus came. He was here. His Spirit still is.

I read a blog that said, “And our God is not a God to merely believe, but to experience, not to only believe in, but be held by. A God who not only breaks for you but breaks with you, a God to not only have creeds about, but to have communion with, a God who not only who dies for you, but who cries with you, the God who touches you and binds you and blesses you and heals you and re-members you because He let Himself be dismembered and He is the God we not only believe in— but we knowWe know – know beyond a shadow of doubt, death or despair.”

When a teenage boy is shot and killed on Cleveland’s east side, where is God? The best answer I can think of is the one that I believe to be True. He was there. Right there. He wasn’t looking away or distracted. He came to the inner city & hung out right where that kid died. That’s more than I’ve done. That’s more than most Christians are willing to do.

The God I love on this Holy Saturday is one who is with us in the darkness, and that is something over which we can rejoice!

-K

Surprised by pain

When did I get so jaded? I’m 23.

I sat in on an intern meeting at work today. Our new interns are a week and a half into their semester at The City Mission and I listened as they reflected on some of the things they have seen. One had done her first intake at our women’s crisis center. Some of them had witnessed a mom screaming at and threatening her child. One had helped make a video about a woman who has successfully completed our program; hearing her story had a profound impact on her.

Listening to these interns talk, I was struck by how un-surprised I was by all the things that had been so surprising to them. Traveling on 5 buses in the negative temps to get to an appointment? No big deal. Abuse? Neglect? Old news.

Now, I suppose that in my line of work, it’s good to get to a place where I have a keen awareness of the issues that plague my community and the world. I shouldn’t be surprised that there is pain and suffering. But I also shouldn’t be unfazed by it.

I think of Jesus’ reaction when he heard that his friend Lazarus had died. He was God- so he wasn’t surprised. He knew that Lazarus had died. Even more importantly, he knew what was going to happen next; he knew that he was about to raise Lazarus from the dead. And yet, when he heard the news, he wept.  The ESV says that when he saw Mary and all the other disciples grieving and crying, he was “deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled” (Jn 11:33).  So he didn’t weep because of the loss, but because he was moved by the grief of his loved ones.

Oh, to love like Jesus loved. To be God of the universe and see the redemption that is coming, and yet be filled with empathy and compassion for people’s present suffering.

Lord, help me to be sensitive to the pain that is around me, and the depth of tragedy that is so prevalent in my day to day interactions. You’ve given me this great responsibility, this great task. Help me to be faithful to it, and fill me with your spirit, even if that spirit will be troubled.

Amen, amen.

Shaping up.

shaping up

 

I started 2013 with not a single resolution. Well, I resolved to floss more frequently, but I am always resolving to do that. I told myself something about how silly resolutions are and how I never keep them anyway. Around the new year I was swept up in the busyness of work and life (when am I not?). I barely gave it a thought.

But this past week, as I was stuck in bed with the flu, I had a lot of time to think about how little I’ve been doing. I’ve been busy, sure. But not with anything very significant. And now that I’m 2 and a half years out of college, I hardly think that “adjusting to a full time work schedule” is an acceptable excuse to forsake the rest of my life.

I’ve gotten out of shape. Physically. Spiritually. Emotionally. Relationally. Creatively. Intellectually. I have not been disciplined in any part of my life in far too long. And I’m ready to make a change.

I worked out today. I got out my dusty freeweights and resistance band and worked out. That was 20 minutes ago and I’m still wheezing. I’m out of shape.

So, this is not a New Year’s resolution. This is a life resolution. I’m going to take a break from netflix and hulu. I’m going to look up from my computer and see the world. I’m going to really read my bible and really look at the world around me. I’m going to pray. I’m going to start living as if I live in the Kingdom of God, which is at hand, because I actually do live in the Kingdom of God. I’m going to write, and take pictures and paint and have conversations that matter. I’m going to memorize scripture. I’m going to exercise and eat food that I love, and not all of it will be bad for me. And when I’m sore tomorrow from a workout that should not have made me sore, I’m going to stretch and work out again. I’m going to remember that once, I was passionate and inspired. Once I was optimistic, and not jaded. Once, I wrote in my journal. I’m going to write poems and read books and learn things. Because all of those things are so much more valuable than what I’ve been doing.

And if you see me, ask me how it’s going, because Lord knows I need to be asked.

And I’m going to post this blog for actual people to see and read. Even though it only has 3 posts, 2 of which are over a year old. Because this isn’t about what people think of me. At all.

 

sapporo, & the library

I’m learning: that doing the dishes is part of baking. And if you do them while your treat is in the oven, it will taste even better. I feel like there is a metaphor for life in there somewhere…

I’m inspired by: Cleveland. Something about tall buildings, and biting cold air, and amazing things that so few people know about. That, and the grey streets there are wrapped up in so many memories.

I’m loving: Christmas shopping. When I have the time to thoughtfully decide what to get for each person that I love, Christmas shopping is so much fun! And, since I work crazy hours, I haven’t had to stave off any crowds. I’ll gladly keep it that way.

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