Walking With God is Exhausting

Walking With God is Exhausting

Day to day, my life can be pretty hectic. I generally have about 5 classes per semester, I work at Trinity Lutheran Church, Fairview Village anywhere between 20-40 hours a week and I work as a very part-time spiritual counselor at Martin Luther Silver Springs about 5-8 hours a week. Needless to say, I work a lot.

On top of my academic work, I also have my own personal requisites that need maintenance. I am an alcoholic and so I attend weekly 12-step meetings that help maintain sobriety. Along with this program comes other “work” as well. We believe in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous that the best way maintain sobriety is through a few things: a community that will hold each other accountable, through working the 12-step process (which is pathway to self-discovery in who you were, who you are, and who you can be through the guidance of a sponsor, prayer and meditation), and finally (and most importantly) by serving others in positive ways (especially those who share the same addictions we have and we can possibly help to find a new path). This is some of the most rewarding and spirit filled work that I know.

Then I have the many joys of my life. I have my relationships with loved ones near and far. I play board games or just spend time hanging out with the people I love. Occasionally I can just sit in front of the TV and watch a few episodes of Game of Thrones and just turn off my brain for a minute.

But it is amazing how through all of these relationships and varieties of work, I don’t often give space and time for just God. Now as a Lutheran with a fairly high spirituality, yes, I absolutely believe that God is with me 24/7 and is with everyone, all around us, constantly. But, how often am I actively listening? How often do I actually make “space” for God?

The truth is… never. I fill that space with everything else. I fill it with work, meetings, friends, movies, work, family, dinner, work, food, sleep, work… you get the point. There is space all around us but we fill it immediately before leaving it open for God.

Psalm 46, “Be still and know that I am God,” is often beat over the head so often that I think it has lost some of its meaning. And so, I have found comfort in a different passage that speaks to this “space.”

Isaiah 30:15 states, “By waiting and by calm shall you be saved; in quiet and in trust lies your strength.”

This weekend I went on a directed retreat up to the Jesuit Center in Wernersville, PA and I left space for God. I didn’t leave the space in the hustle and bustle all around me. I didn’t leave it in the kitchen where I know I’d be distracted by cooking. I didn’t leave it near all of my work that I had not yet done and would call my name as soon as I began to “seek” God.

I needed to actually get away and make deliberate time and space for God. I needed to get away from every distraction so that my heart and mind could truly be open to listening instead of trying to answer every other question.

The moment that I stepped out of the way and left space for God, God began leading me and speaking to me and guiding me in ways that I never thought possible. I walked 5 miles around a snow-covered property. I trampled through snow mounds and walked up and down hills, I looked out into the distance for hours. God led me through each path, showing me different things, showing me paths that had been paved and paths untrodden.

When I finally left space for God, God was there waiting to show me the way. But the way was not easy, it was often difficult to walk through and by the end, I was exhausted. I needed to kick off my boots, take a hot shower and breath. But, in that exhaustion, I had never felt more alive and I understand my calling more than ever.

“In waiting and by calm shall you be saved; in quiet and in trust lies your strength.”

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Where to begin…

Disclaimer: I seek to be provocative. Therefore, it’s only fair that I can be challenged.

In a time, as the church, where there just seems to be so much that’s going on, so many unanswered questions, unknown paths and directions, and a constant state of worry and concern for the church’s future… Where do we even begin? How do we become unstuck and begin to move forward into the unknown that is the future of the church?

First, I’d like to say, thank you for reading. Second, I’d like to say that I do not intend for this blog to answer or fix any of those questions or to save the church. That being said… I would like to use this blog as a place to post my thoughts and perspectives on ideas that I’m hearing, on stories and scripture that capture my attention, and anything else that may call to me.

In my humble opinion, I believe the church will be going through a new “Re-formation” in the coming decade(s). To some this may come as no surprise. But, I believe now is the time for the entire church to be leveled and changed. I don’t mean that in a way to sound antagonistic or come across as an anarchist.

This state of the church reminds of Isaiah 5, when God speaks through Isaiah in a parable about a vineyard. In this parable, God plants a vineyard and does everything possible to make it grow. God chooses fertile land, digs and clears out all of the stones and brush, plants with the best vines and builds a watchtower to make sure that the vineyard is always looked after and cared for. God does everything necessary to make sure that it produces the best grapes. Nevertheless, the vineyard produces sour grapes. After all of that work… sour grapes.

God then explains that the only way to take care of this vineyard, is to level it completely… to destroy and burn it until nothing remains.

I think this thought and idea may come as a shock to many. How can we possibly level the entire church? Why would we level the entire church? I think the answer can be found in this parable in Isaiah. I believe we are doing amazing work in this church. I believe that there are such great things that come from parishioners, pastors, and bishops all around the world. But, despite all of our efforts, despite our hard work to clear the soil and plant the choicest vines, we are producing sour grapes. Our worship attendance is floundering, our programatic ministries are decreasing each day, we are closing churches left and right. Our vineyard is not producing the fruit that we expect. There is only one thing left to do with the vineyard…

If we hold on to too many of the old traditions, change will not work. God levels the vineyard because it is the only way to ensure that good grapes could come from the ashes. It has to be a new vineyard.

Now is the time to create this new vineyard. Now is the time to take our worship out of the buildings and to the streets and celebrate Eucharist (Communion) on the busiest avenues of our cities. Now is the time to lead worship services during protests and call for God’s spirit to enliven our souls so that we can make change for equal rights and privileges in this world. Now is the time leave Sunday morning behind us and bring the sabbath to our people on any day of the week, at all possible times and not force them to come to us.

Our backs are against the wall and if our trends continue, then we have nothing left to lose. Now is the time try something different. Now is the time to re-form the church for the future.

And so in this blog, I hope to keep writing about something different and trying new things. I hope to convey the radical Gospel of Jesus Christ in new or renewed ways. I hope to find a new beginning.