Goodness, what a lengthy blogging hiatus I’ve happened to have. Life has been a series of trips and projects the past month or so, where an entire week in my beloved little Cameron has been an impossibility. I’m a gal who thrives on travel, whether that be going to a Presbyterian Camp 45-miles away to be the camp pastor for a week, or loading up a van of church folk and headed to Atlanta to work with some amazing people affected by homelessness in the inner-city. But even my wanderlustful self is feeling a bit road weary. And so I have taken this morning to sit on my favorite loveseat, drink coffee from a mug my mother gave me, and reflect on the past few weeks. Because I know this blog to be something of great worth to me (regardless of whether it’s worth a whole lot to others). This was really proved last night when, after a day spent with a church member and their family, I came home missing my sweet old Hayden in a visceral way. A simple search of blogs past with the name “Hayden” brought back many wonderful memories, and let me see that kind face once more. So yes, more blogging there shall be.
After not having been to Texas in 6 months, I was able to go for a week at the start of July. It was a cathartic week of playing with my favorite three little humans on the planet (my nieces), sitting in the back yard of my parents’ house chatting and sipping cold beverages and having deep conversations with my sister. Then I was suddenly jet setting back once more, just in time for a mission trip to Atlanta. Mission trips, whether they be working in someone’s yard in our own community or leaving the familiar for what is unknown, are powerful for me. My seminary professor Carlos Cardoza-Orlandi once quoted Emil Brunner saying, “Mission is to the church what combustion is to fire.” The church can’t exist without it. I find that I can’t, either. And so I was so glad we were headed to Atlanta. And also, a bit tired, honestly.
I spent a lot of time thinking and praying for this to be a meaningful experience for everyone involved, a way for us to “see church” in a radically new way, and discover Christ among those who fall through the cracks of our society. As to myself? Well, I just sort of wanted to be fully engaged, and facilitate that experience. Of course, I wanted to discover Christ in a new way, too. I just wasn’t sure I had the energy for it.
But as I entered Mercy Community Church in Atlanta, and saw my dear friend Maggie blossom into a caring and no-nonsense pastor before my very eyes, I was inspired. When a dear woman named Barbara slept on my shoulder during worship, placing great trust in me in that moment, I couldn’t help but feel Christ. He was sitting right next to me, leaning on me. (Or she, as it were.)
Eating delicious soup made by one of their own on the streets next to people whose stories I’d begun to learn was amazing. And the one thing I took away from it all was quite surprising.
It wasn’t the overpowering need to rally against and/or navigate the systems that make it extraordinarily difficult for a person to get in, so they can have the tools to build a life so many of us take for granted, though that was learned.
It wasn’t that Christ really is present with those on the margins in a different and obvious way, though that was learned.
It wasn’t that every person affected by homelessness has a story, just like I do, and that if I wanted to recognize their dignity as a human being and a child of God, I better listen, though that was learned.
Quite simply, the lesson I learned was this: Life is extraordinarily simple, in the end. God created it to be simple. And ever since then, we human beings have been about the business of complicating it.
So these days, this morning when I allow myself the grace to work from a comfortable abode graciously provided for me, I am choosing to live my life with simplicity. Yes, this might mean de-cluttering my space, and giving away what I don’t need. But even more than that, it means de-cluttering my heart, my tired soul, my overly-analytical mind. God is good, and can be trusted. We are all children of God made in God’s image. We need to treat each other that way.
I’m reminded of a story of Rabbi Hillel in the Talmud, a sacred text in Judaism. Rabbi Hillel was around about the same time Jesus was, and legend has it, that a man came to him one day promising that he would become Jewish if the Rabbi could explain the whole of the Torah in the time it took him to stand on one foot. Rabbi Hillel replied, “What is hateful to yourself, do not do your fellow human. That is the whole of the Torah; the rest is commentary. Go and study it.”
Sounds quite a bit like something that Jesus fellow said as well. So, here’s to a simplified life, seeking grace in every moment and seeking to share it with others in every moment as well. The rest is commentary. Beautiful, raw, healing, reconciling, hopeful commentary.