“Do you feel called to this church?”
As we talked about this (very) common interview/friend-counseling question, we concluded that this is a flawed question.
It is flawed because it confuses calling with leading.
Hear me out: this is more than semantics. The distinction between calling and leading changes the questions we ask about which job (ministry or secular) we take and ultimately influences where and how we will impact the world.
When we ask, “Am I called to this place?” we are implicitly asking, “Is this the one right place God has for me?” That’s a lot of pressure, with a lot of shady implications for the future.Much of what Mackey explores relates to how we use the word "call" and its variations. We can wrap what we really want in theological language without it being a genuine path for us, because we're good at deluding ourselves through rationalization. Moreso when God is involved. So the questions he proposes are good checks on our own self-delusion.
Finally, words for what I feel. Mette Ivie Harrison reflects on how physical exercise contributes to her awareness of God:
Running is where I feel God because running is where I find myself. It is also where I break down and can't go any farther and need help most desperately. It's where I focus on my own body and the reality of mortality, that I'm going to live in this world for a little while, and if I want to really live, I'm going to take risks and sometimes fail. Running is where I really see how much the same I am as other people, whatever they do in their day job. I see them as fellow runners, and in that sense, as brothers and sisters and blessed in our joint endeavors.I would never say that I "enjoy" working out, but this article pretty well articulates what I do feel when I do it. It's important to me for the connection I feel with my body; the awareness of myself that it cultivates. And like she mentions above, whenever I see others running, no matter their body type or speed, I cheer them on without judgment, because they're out there doing it. Period.
The next right thing. A video from the SALT Project, entitled "Rock Bottom" and narrated by Glennon Doyle Melton, aka Momastery:
Nothing to add. It speaks for itself.
Prayer ----> action. Richard Rohr reflects on contemplation and action, using Thomas Merton as the quintessential example of how they're related:
Scott Peck explains that Merton "'left the world' for the monastery . . . because he was afraid of being contaminated by the world's institutionalized evil. . . . From within the confines of Gethsemani, he continued to consistently and passionately protest the sins of greater society. This burning desire to be in the world but not of the world is the mark of a contemplative."  James Finley, who learned from Merton for five and a half years at Gethsemani, says that when he would voice a complaint about something, Merton would tell him, " We don 't come to the monastery to get away from suffering; we come to hold the suffering of all the world." This can only be done by plugging into a larger consciousness through contemplation.  No longer focused on our individual private perfection--or what Merton called " Our personal salvation project "--we become fully human and usable by opening our hearts to God.Prayer is meant to inspire us to something. It is not a substitute for acting.
This is still in, right? For a little while, there was a meme around the time that the movie Straight Outta Compton came out where people could use different pics and substitute "Compton" with their own hometown and the like. It's been a few weeks, but this was my favorite that I saw:
Also, this. Also, this:
God is an artist. Sarah Griffith Lund shares a Q&A with a young artist named Rylie Zimmerman, who talks about her struggle with self-harm. I'll tell you up front that it can be hard to read, but it's also pretty powerful:
God is in my abilities to get out of bed and keep going, keep drawing and keep writing, hoping that someone, somewhere will read this or see my posts on Instagram, or see my scars under my tattoos, or one day read my journals, or see my art and think, “If she survived all of that, then I can too. If she is knocked to the ground over and over and over; and she keeps getting up; then I can too.”I don't have much to add to this. It can take a lot to seek help, to find a reason to carry on. And faith-related answers may sound too easy or trite. But when it all connects, it can provide great cause for hope.
A farewell of sorts. Gordon Atkinson has come to a realization:
But the bottom line is I can’t give myself to a church anymore. I just can’t. I can’t give to any church what they require before opening the secret door to their community. I don’t blame them for being cautious either. They’ve been hurt before by people like me who appear out of nowhere and then disappear when the wind changes. So I don’t blame anyone. And I have nothing bad to say about churches. I’m just feeling selfish with Gordon and not inclined to give him away so easily again.
I pray that you won’t forget me. And I hope you won’t forget to pray for me sometimes. Now and then when you think of it. I think of you every single day and still can’t quite figure out what went wrong between us.Many former pastors come to this conclusion, at least for a while. Some wander back, others give up completely. I don't blame him, to be honest. Leaving ministry comes with a lot of emotional baggage to sort through.
It sounds like Gordon will keep writing, for which I'm glad. But no more church life. I get it. I do.
Misc. Sarah Lund again, talking about mental illness in marriage. Jan on how weddings have changed. Jamie shows off her new writing space. I'm jealous. Blogging isn't what it used to be.