A Note from Josh – College & Center Newsletters, October 2019

“I am a long way from Jonesboro Indiana.” I cannot repress that thought because of the distance between Jonesboro and places like Princeton and First Presbyterian Church Nashville. The kind of Christian I am, the kind of pastor I am, the kind of person I am, has everything to do with that distance. That distance, moreover, creates the space that makes the good news I have to tell possible. (This paragraph is reworked from Stanley Hauerwas’ memoir, Hannah’s Child, Pg. 17)

I was born in Marion Indiana, but I grew up in Jonesboro, mostly. Less than 2000 people live in Jonesboro. It’s small. I enjoyed growing up there as a child. There were plenty of other kids to play with in my neighborhood, and interesting enough surroundings to keep a young one entertained. There were ponds, creeks, and parks. The main road was all brick, which never seemed all that unique until I moved away.

The woes of growing up in a small town like Jonesboro didn’t become apparent until I got old enough to realize that most teenagers would say something like, “there is nothing to do in this town.” That sentiment was the womb which birthed the addictions that plague my family still today. I have two older brothers, and both are in prison. Growing up, it was known that I was “Diann’s youngest son.” That meant I didn’t act like my brothers. People knew me in our small town as, “the good one.” That always made me pause, because I knew I had gotten into my fair share of shenanigans, but I always had a way of keeping them more hidden, or so I thought. It’s hard to hide in the fishbowl that a small town in Indiana can be.

On occasion, I am struck by the distance I have traveled in this world; physically, emotionally, and spiritually. In Dr. Seuss’ book, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, as he writes about all of the different things, he says, “Where do they come from? I can’t say. But I bet they have come a long, long way.” My sense is that most of us have traveled long distances in this world; physically, emotionally, and spiritually. In my most sanctified moments the distance I have traveled evokes gratitude and wonder – gratitude for where God has brought me, and wonder for where I may end up.

May we be a community that names the roads Jesus has traveled with us, and remains curious for where the Holy Spirit may guide us. Amen? Amen.

A Note from Jessie – Covenant Newsletter, October 2019

I came to an awful realization the other day:

I can be a selfish parent.

As in really and truly self-focused. In fact, what I realized in this uncomfortable, epiphanic moment was that the motivation behind far too many of my parental choices, behaviors, and practices are undeniably prideful.

Yikes.

So there I was, listening to another parenting podcast while folding laundry last week when Dr. Aliza, a developmental psychologist, hit a chord that reverberated painfully in my brain. Paraphrasing her question here, I heard her ask, “Who is the audience for your parenting choices, and why?”

For whatever reason, this query crystalized one of my growing concerns and made my motivations plain to myself, as if she had held up a magical mirror from a fairy tale to my inner mind. I realized in that moment that, indeed, I am often parenting to an audience…and unfortunately for everyone, that audience is not God.

For example, if one of my children does not remember to use good manners, I sometimes feel as if a spotlight is shining on me in center stage, illuminating my failure to rear respectful humans. I will then ridiculously insist, in far too-booming of a voice, “Say thank you more loudly so this kind gentleman can hear you!! Look at him in the eyes when you say it!!” You know, just the type of showy exclamation that undoubtedly reveals its prideful intention. Even when I tersely talk to my children in the car after a lapse in manners, the subtext of my words is– if I am being honest– “please don’t make me look bad!”

On the flip side of this vanity, a similar issue arises when my children do something wonderful. Whether they have shared their toys well or mastered a new skill or helped pick up a stranger’s spilled belongings, I almost catch myself looking around for affirmation. “Look at me! I’m raising good humans,” I silently think while giving myself an imaginary pat on the back. Double yuck!!

So why do I unwittingly slip into parenting to an audience? And why does my focus keep returning to myself like a moth returns to a flame? And… can you relate?

Well, the answer to my conundrum is simple yet not pretty. The answer is pride.

As the ever-insightful pastor, Timothy Keller, writes in a sermon titled “Blessed Self-Forgetfulness,” the trap so many of us fall prey to is believing that we are in court each day, trying to prove our worthiness. We compile every action and experience, each failure and achievement, as evidence for either the defense or the prosecution of our worth. We think, “if only I can collect enough right actions and positive moments as a person or as a parent, then my worth will be securely sealed.” 

But as Keller so wisely points out, this line of thinking is inherently flawed. Afterall, the verdict is already in: our worth is securely sealed, and it has nothing to do with worldly approval and everything to do with Christ’s saving grace.

As Christians, if we know this to be true, why then do we return to that imaginary courtroom each day? Keller explains that our own egos lead us there, longing to puff up on meaningless praise when it is God alone who can fill us up with sustaining life. High self-esteem is not the antidote to low self-esteem, because at the center of both cases is self. In order to find peace and true worth, we must transcend ourselves to rest fully in God’s love. It is just not about us. It is about Him.

Perhaps asking ourselves these questions each day will be helpful:

Whether working or parenting or engaging with friends, how often does pride and self-focus creep into our psyche? 

How much space are you taking up in your brain? 

Who is your audience? And moreover, who are you the attentive audience of today? 

As we know, sweet relief and peace flood in when we turn our eyes back to the Lord. What a breath of fresh air we receive when we take our focus off of ourselves and our need for wordly approval, instead reengaging with His love and His gracious calling to love each other well. I want my children to know that He is the only audience that matters, and even more, that seeking Him with our hearts and minds gives us sustaining life. Dear Lord, thank you for reminding me to keep my eyes on you. Please help me teach my children to do the same. Forgive me for being prideful and selfish and seeking approval in the wrong places that only suck the joy out of the beautiful life you have given us. Invade my heart and change it to be more in line with your will. And thank you for these precious gifts of children you have bestowed upon me, knowing that neither parent nor child is perfect, but that in You we find perfect peace and new life each day.

Amen

A Note from Josh – College & Center Newsletters, September 2019

John O’Donohue was was an Irish poet, author, priest, and Hegelian philosopher. He wrote a book of blessings before he passed in 2008. I have been longing for beautiful words of hope and healing in the midst of so many other words in our world today. I have found a bit of what I am looking for in O’Donohue’s blessings; perhaps you will too. Consider his blessing For a New Beginning at the start of another season of life.

 

For a New Beginning

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plentitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

Amen? Amen.

A Note From Jessie – Covenant Newsletter, September 2019

Days upon days have passed, and I am still reeling from the beauty that was the Rooted in Christ: Family Conference. 

What a morning. 

As I have reflected over all I heard, all I saw, and all I learned, it struck me that this blog space would be the perfect place to tuck some of the treasures that I gathered during the conference. Storing those pearls of wisdom here serves the dual purpose of sharing them with you, as well as preserving them as reminders for myself to return to often and marvel over anew.

So, here we go. Here are the “Pearls of Wisdom” I gleaned from all of the magnificent humans listed below:

From Mark and Susan DeVries:

Perhaps it is time to stop working so hard on our relationships and begin enjoying them again. Laughter has tremendous healing properties, and joy can be contagious.

From Sissy Goff:

Anxiety can also be contagious. Remember to breathe. And also remember that, “Courage is fear that has said its prayers and knows those prayers have been answered.”

From Betty Ann Santi:

We each have a latent “Mama Bear” inside that can be triggered in competitive environments. Lead with grace and inclusion, keeping in mind that, “God’s blueprint for your child’s growth and development pattern is yet a mystery and may be surprising as it unfolds.”

From Jeremy Shapiro:

We all have stories from our past that– whether we are aware of it or not—  hold significant influence over our current patterns, fears, and relationships. Bravely entering into the pain and messages of our past will not only help us unearth deep truths about our personalities, but it will also bring us closer into the arms of our loving Father who has been with us every step of the way.

From David Thomas:

Being purposeful parents requires becoming “students of our children,” curious about their inner thoughts and motivations, and aware that the children we are given may be very different than the children we imagined.

From the attendants who eagerly participated in each session and walked the halls during the interims with tears in their eyes:

Keeping our ears open, our minds ready, and our hearts vulnerable will help us learn and grow and share beyond our wildest hopes.

From every single staff member at FPC:

Being part of a team is a humbling, inspiring, and fortifying gift. I am grateful beyond words for all the hard work each and every staff member poured into the Family Conference. Special shout outs go to Sabrina Vlahos, the awesome Young Adult Program Coordinator; Karen Fitts, Deb O’Brien, Tina Rose, Leanne Hudson, and Valerie Duncan of the wonderful Children’s Ministry Team; Erika Shapiro, the most joyful leader of Camp Watermelon; Bryan Miller, the Pied Piper of the Recreation Department; Chan Sheppard and the inspiring Preston Taylor Ministry team; Tim Minnefee and the amazing Maintenance Staff; Kim Rogers and the talented Kitchen Staff; Ronzo Cartwright and the skilled Tech Support; Kayla Clark in the incredible Communications Office; our beloved FPC volunteers such as Amy Pearson, Rachel and Lipscomb Davis, Tricia Scott, Raygan Greer, Mary Elizabeth Colton, and Angelina DeVincenzo; and of course our fearless and bright-shining leader of Young Adult Ministry, Josh Rodriguez. What an honor it is to be teammates with dedicated, hard-working people. 

Gratitude abounds.

God is good indeed.

Amen.

A Note From Josh – College & Center Newsletters, August 2019

My barber’s name is Joe. Joe can give a mean haircut. Joe also works on cars. Well, to be more specific, he works on car. Each time I get my haircut I ask him how the car is coming along. He has been working on it for years, and definitely has years ahead of him. He talks about how the car has parts that no other car in the world has. Some of the parts are made specifically for his car, and don’t exist anywhere else. He has collected parts for years from all over the world. The car is one of a kind. I asked him if he was going to race it when it was finished, and he responded, “Probably not, it’ll probably just sit in my garage, and I’ll tow it to some car shows.” I couldn’t believe it! How could you not race this thing?! No other car in the world is capable of what this car is capable of!

Lately, I’ve been wondering if my faith isn’t like Joe’s car. I have traveled on mission trips all over the world. I have read books and sat through classes that only a fraction of Christians have access to. I have profound spiritual experiences that are unique to me. I wonder, “Am I putting all this to good use? Am I going to race this thing?” I’ll pose the same question to you. Are you putting everything you have learned, experienced, and have access to in your faith to good use?

I’m not trying to condemn anyone here. I don’t care to offer condemnation. But I wonder, what would it look like if we saw our faith more like, well, a car? What would it look like if we considered all of the worship services, bible studies, and mission trips an opportunity to build our car and then take it on step further and race these things?! What would lit look like for someone like you, in all of your God formed uniqueness to put your faith to practice in every way possible? Who could be clothed, fed, and cared for that isn’t currently? Who might believe, repent, and trust who isn’t currently? What person or situation needs your understanding of God, your take on the text, and your view of the Kingdom of God?

What if for the next season you committed to as many opportunities to put your faith to task you did to forming your faith? To be clear, I don’t think faith formation is near as sexy as living out your faith, but a lot of us settle for formation in the name of living out our faith. It’s easier. You can plan it and check off the box. However, we are meant for more than liturgy and exegesis. Let’s get our faith out of the garage, get it off the tow truck, and take the cover off. Let’s see what these things can do! Amen? Amen.

Josh

A Note From Jessie – Covenant Newsletter, August 2019

Not too many moons ago, I felt myself sliding into a season of grumpiness. Of ugliness. Of bitter, discontented, petty complaining-ness. I think I was tired. 🙂

Who can relate? 

Many of us know all too well that over-extended feeling when we are so spent– yet altogether unwilling or unable to seek refuge — that our emotions get tangled upside down and everything seems entirely and unsalvagably irksome. Well, one evening as I was washing dishes after wrangling my two little ones into their beds, I thought to myself, “Now, why exactly am I feeling so annoyed in this very moment? Is it that I have two lively young souls under my roof who are not as interested in bedtime as I am? That there are dishes in my sink that once held healthy meals and now need washing?” Ugh, I was suddenly annoyed with myself, too.

Thanks be to God that at this seemingly dead-end moment of utter frustration a question bubbled up out of the sink suds and into my weary brain. 

What do you have in this life that is not a gift? 

As I flipped through my mental rolodex, I could not name one single thing that I have in my life that has not been gifted to me in some form or fashion…

My children? My home? My marriage? My dishes? My working brain and body? Even my struggles and losses? All gifts. All among the greatest gifts I have ever received. I needed a major attitude adjustment, so right then and there I grabbed a piece of scrap paper. I cut the paper into several smaller pieces, and on each one I wrote a single word: 

“gratitude” 

I then hunted for spaces throughout my house where I noticed I was feeling grumpiest lately, and I taped the word in those places. Over the kitchen sink, on the landing that leads to my children’s rooms, near the laundry piles for sure… I think Steele thought I was losing my mind.

But I think it was divine intervention. I think God knew I needed a reset in that moment and a reminder that when we plant our feet firmly in gratitude and use that humble ground to set our perspective, everything shifts. If in humility we recognize that everything we encounter is a gift in its own right, and if we take a beat to breathe in and out the thanks those gifts deserve, a type of cleansing takes place. Gratitude sweeps out the cobwebs of anxiety and envy and self-pity. It recenters our focus on God from whom all blessings flow. And it helps us realize anew the big picture that we are blessed beyond measure and loved beyond comprehension. I try to remember these truths everytime I see those little hand-written signs that still hang around my house, and I pray that holding on tight to grateful feelings will help us all get through the tumultuous, exciting, exhausting, and unknown school year ahead. Amen.

A Note From Jessie – Covenant Newsletter, July 2019

“Hello darkness, my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again.”

Sometimes I’ll overhear Vaughan or Poppy singing deep, intense lyrics like these to themselves in their soft, little-kid voices, and it makes me chuckle. They will be lost in thought– drawing pictures or playing with the puppy– and a song will thoughtlessly escape their small mouths. Their unexpected range of musical taste always amuses me. Lately, one of their favorite records to play on the old-fashioned record player Steele gave me years ago is a Simon & Garfunkel album, and one of their favorite songs off the album is “The Sound of Silence.” It reminds them of a funny, campfire scene from the movie Trolls, and the melody is easy for them to mimic.

When I heard them singing the chorus from “The Sound of Silence” last Sunday, however, it struck me for a new reason. We had just arrived home from church, and I was still ruminating over the thought-provoking lesson Chan Sheppard had shared with our Family Fellowship and Cornerstone classes that have combined for the summer. The lesson was based on Rob Bell’s Nooma video series, and the lesson’s title was “Noise.” 

The lesson’s focus, however, was more specifically on the faithful practices of silence and solitude, and how challenging these practices can be in today’s world. Bell’s message included data on noise pollution, on overstimulated brains, and on our culture’s obsession with visual and auditory distraction. I found it fascinating and all too true.

There were several questions Bell posed that struck me as especially profound and convicting:

  1. “When was the last time you spent time in silence?”
  2. “Does your schedule, your time, your life look like that of a person who wants to hear God’s voice?” 
  3. “Have you spent the same amount of time worrying and talking about your difficult, confusing situations as you have spent in silence, listening to what God might have to say?” 

My internal answers to these questions were something like,

  1. Uhhhhhmm…
  2. Nope. 
  3. Shoot. Probably not.

Chan followed up with digging into Scripture, pointing out the numerous times that Jesus removes himself from the group for quiet, personal time with God. The lesson also reminded us of Elijah hearing God’s voice in the silence, of God reminding His people to be still and know, and of Psalm 4:4’s message: Search your hearts and be silent. 

When was the last time I spent prolonged, intentional time in absolute silence?

Am I living a life reflective of someone who is searching for God’s voice in the stillness?

Instead of numbing my emotions in technology, a busy schedule, noisy environments, or even the sound of my own voice, perhaps I can pledge anew to create more space for silence. For prayer. For contemplation. For opening my heart to God’s quiet voice in the stillness.

Yes, silence is a sound. For some, silence is an uncomfortable, disturbing sound. And for parents of young children, opportunities for silence may feel positively unheard of (pun intended). But perhaps prioritizing a prolonged moment of silence at some protected point every day will allow us the restful reset we subconsciously crave so earnestly.

I am going to try this month to turn off the TV at night a little more often, to put down my phone a bit more frequently, to dial down the radio in my car, and yes even to let that record player collect a tad more dust. 

Will you join me? 

For in the silence, who knows what restorative treasures await.

A Note From Josh – College & Center Newsletters, July 2019

Summer is here! And with this season comes new rhythms and a new pace to life, which of course brings about potential. My life gets more hectic in the summer; maybe yours does, too. It is my traveling season. This year I went on the Mystery Trip, will be on the Taize trip when this newsletter goes out, and before the summer season ends, I will return to Cuba for a fifth time to continue our relationship with our sister church in Varadero. But now, I want to talk about the Mystery Trip. This year we went to . . .

Northern Ireland! Ashleigh O’Sullivan was a year long intern in the youth ministry, and if you could tell by the name, she calls Northern Ireland home. It was a no brainer when she suggested the destination for our trip this year, and I couldn’t be happier that we let her run with the planning. She set up opportunities for us to learn about the government, which is much different than ours and is currently shutdown, but I was told “collapsed” is probably a better word, and has been for about two and a half years. We got to partner with different ministries of reconciliation in the country – everything from Habitat for Humanity to Project Surf, yes that is right, we surfed in Northern Ireland! Who knew that was a thing? We also learned about “the troubles”.

“The troubles” are what Northern Irish call the years from around 1970 or so until the early 2000s . . . ish. (I sense that depends on who you ask as to how they would date them.) those decades were plagued with violence from different paramilitary groups – everything from car bombings and mass shootings to an RPG attack on an inmate from the road that overlooked his jail cell. It’s hard to know exactly what has created “the troubles” entirely, certainly a week is not long enough to say anything too definitive on the matter, but one dynamic that was most difficult to learn about was the one between Protestants and Catholics.

In Belfast, there are “Peace Walls” or “Peace Lines” that divide communities between Catholic and Protestant. They were originally built up to about 20 feet or so, but were extended once officials learned that people from both sides would throw rocks or even flaming bottles of gasoline over at random, the last of which was thrown about four years ago. Most everyone in our group at some point expressed confusion and disbelief as to how something like that could happen. A few questions that were asked were, “How are there still walls like this standing?”, “Why would people do that to one another?” and “How can someone claim to be a Christian and do such a thing?”. Of course, it didn’t take long for the conversation to come up that, though our context is quite different, and we do not have the same physical walls as our Northern Irish brothers and sisters, there are certainly divides in our nation, city, and personal lives that testify to the same division.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:16-21, “From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of his reconciliation to us. Se we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

I couldn’t help but think, our nation is just as divided as the Northern Irish. Our hate for others runs just as deep. We attack at random and accept violence as a means to an end in all sorts of ways in our country. We are different, but we are the same, too. Despite this harsh reality, it is not what we are called to. Paul was convinced that in Christ we are new, and in him we have been reconciled, and we have been entrusted with the message of reconciliation. Can you imagine if Paul could see the walls we have created in this world? What might he say?

As you go through the summer season, a season of different rhythm and pace, with all sorts of potential, consider where you might be an ambassador for reconciliation. Consider, where does there need to be reconciliation? I’d guess it won’t take long for each of us to answer the question. It may take longer to know what to do, but, brothers and sisters, that is our task. May we risk being disturbed and changed, that we may experience Kingdom come through ministries of reconciliation. Amen? Amen.

A Note from Jessie – Covenant Newsletter June 2019

“Do you ever feel as though you are being chased by tigers?”

Several years ago, I was dining at a new, hip restaurant in East Nashville with an even hipper friend who posed this question to me over a plate of farm fresh eggs.

She continued to describe a self-inflicted, stressed-to-the-max condition of life she had been noticing among the patients she saw in her alternative medical practice:

It seems that the urgency with which people approach something as simple as a to-do list has ramped up to an all time high. The frantic intensity many of my patients feel inside their hearts, brains, and bodies– whether they are heading into a meeting or helping their children get ready for school in the morning– is actually mimicking the anatomical response to a life or death situation. It is that extreme! I watch people enter my office doors, and I can see it in their eyes: they feel so inwardly tense that they might as well be bracing for a tiger’s attack!” She paused for a moment and then continued, “And I think I can recognize that look so well because I sometimes feel the same way, too.”

Chased by tigers? Hmm.

I remember in that moment shamefully reflecting on the scene that had unfolded in our driveway an hour before as I handed over our two tired, hungry children to my husband. Steele’s case at work had taken longer than expected, and he was rushing home to relieve me so I could drive all the way over to East Nashville. Stress was written all over his face upon arrival, and as I tried to extract four small arms from my weary neck so that I wouldn’t keep my new friend waiting, exasperation constricted my whole body. I remember driving the entire 25 minute commute with a white-knuckled grasp on the steering wheel, weaving through traffic. The friend I was meeting was an understanding sort, and our plans were friendly and casual, yet I was inexplicably hurrying toward my destination as if my life depended on it!

Why?! And… do you ever feel that way, too?

Sure, being punctual is important, as is being respectful of others’ plans, meeting deadlines, and finishing our daily chores. And sure, each day holds its own share of stressors and burdens. But why do we allow even the small moments of uncertainty or strain to penetrate our psyche in such big, powerful ways? Why do so many of us tend to overemphasize the burning exigency of menial tasks, all while inflating our delusions of control and self-importance?

Sometimes God speaks to us in the most unexpected ways, doesn’t He? For me, it was during that meal and through the wise words of my friend. It was necessary for me to pause and realize the weight I was lugging around from a false narrative that I am in this world alone and that meeting every need from others is a matter of life or death. That’s quite a pagan view of the world, afterall, isn’t it? It is an entirely unfaithful mindset to run my routes through a maze each day, thinking that every small wall or obstacle I encounter is of the utmost importance and also the difference between success and failure. When I start to feel like this, I know that I have lost perspective and need to refocus on the bigger picture.

God invites us to step away from our self-made traps. He invites us to look up. To pause, and look up to Him.

In the book of Daniel, after Nebuchadnezzar sees the grave errors of his ways and resurfaces from the throes of madness, he exclaims,

I raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever; For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom endures from generation to generation (Daniel 4:34).

These verses beautifully echo Psalm 121, a passage that always soothes my soul at the very moment I begin reading it:

I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip– he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD watches over you– the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm– he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore (Psalm 121:1-8).

Perhaps it is time to ask ourselves, “when was the last time I raised my eyes toward heaven?” Perhaps we could also start pausing throughout the day to ask, “How am I feeling today? Is there tightness in my chest? Knots in my stomach? An agitated buzzing in my head? Are my shoulders or jawline bracing for some sort of unseen impact?” And then we can take a deep breath and ask the more important question: “What worries or anxieties can I hand over to God today, to my omnipotent Lord who loves me so very much?”

Let’s allow this gift of summertime to be a period of new breath and restored perspective. And all the imaginary beasts we unknowingly empower to chase us through the grocery store aisles or down our office corridors or in our email inboxes or through traffic jams or during our morning and evening routines– let’s give them a summer break, too.

Dear Lord, help us look up. Please help us look to You. Help us remember that we are not in control as we run around in our self-importance. You have invited us into something so much more peaceful and fulfilling. Help us to accept your invitation gratefully.

And may we all take more time this summer to pause, breathe, and look up to the heavens. God is everywhere. And there is not one tiger in sight.

A Note from Josh – College & Center Newsletters May 2019

When I was about thirteen years old, I remember seeing someone on a skateboard. They were riding around a group of people, but they weren’t pushing; their momentum seemed to propel them. I didn’t understand how that was possible. Then I saw someone jump off of a curb. They didn’t just ride the curb, they jumped into the air. I later learned the term for this is an “ollie”. I didn’t understand how the board stayed on their feet. I was captivated by the whole scene. From that day on, I began to play in this world on a skateboard. How do you play?

Summer is the season of play. We play on boats, at the beach, or online. The season is changing, the weather is warming, and I am sure, like me, we are all starting to plan how we want to play this year. How do you play in this world?

Sometimes it’s hard to play. After all the work is done, the obligations are fulfilled, and the adulting is handled, there is hardly any time or capacity to include something like play into our regular rhythms. Maybe, if you are like me, you settle for a Netflix show or just a drink. I’m not down on things of that sort necessarily, but they aren’t play. They are more vice than play. Some may think vices are all bad. I don’t. I think vices have their role. However, someone once told me, “Things like television and beer simply don’t have the capacity to re-create you, and in this world we need that kind of re-creation. We need to be re-created on a regular basis.” I think they are right. What re-creates you?

As Christians, sometimes it can be hard to figure out how to play faithfully. There is no bible verse that says “be sure to play a bit while you are making disciples and feeding the hungry”. That would have been a nice one from Jesus. However, if we notice our natural tendencies and the makeup of this world, there is something about the image we bear and the creation itself that beckens play. There are trails that invite us to hike, winds that call for a kite, and streams that demand we splash. We don’t have a verse, but we know play is supposed to be part of life. How is play part of your life?

I hope this summer season is filled with more than task lists, obligations, and studies. I hope you take the time to do the thing that re-creates you. Participate in the makeup of yourself and this world by playing a bit. Trust that you are made for more than work and duty. And in the midst of all the ways you play, wonder at the creator who wired you to be more. Amen? Amen.

Josh

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