Important Disclaimer

Since I currently have several employers/supervisors/churches/etc., please know that none of the words on my blog represent them or their beliefs. This blog is my own creation.

It also does not represent my children's perspective, nor my mother's; they think I am funny, but misguided.
(Quick update: only my mother thinks I'm funny now.)

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Better Is One Day

How lovely is your dwelling place, 
          O LORD of hosts! 
My soul longs, indeed it faints 
          for the courts of the LORD; 
     my heart and my flesh sing for joy 
          to the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home, 
          and the swallow a nest for herself, 
          where she may lay her young, 
     at your altars, O LORD of hosts, 
          my King and my God. 
Happy are those who live in your house, 
          ever singing your praise. 
~Psalm 84:1-4

Carpinteria Community Church in California
25 years ago I sat in this chapel next to my father and listened to my pastor, Terry McBride, read a story called The Ragman by Walter Wangerin. It is the traditional closing for our Love of God (L.O.G.) retreats. The story by itself probably doesn't mean much to you, and in all honesty, it didn't mean much to me either when I sat in that chapel at age 16.

I sat next to my father, weeping uncontrollably as Terry read that story. I was graduating from high school that year and headed to college in Massachusetts, three thousand miles from home. Most days
I was really excited about that, but on that Sunday night, in that chapel, listening to that story, I was hit with an incredible sense of loss.

I had just participated in my first L.O.G. retreat, a student led weekend focused on showing God's love by loving and serving one another in community. For three days, we did our best to manifest a new heaven and new earth, to be the beloved community, to pour out affection and care and kindness on one another. We sang and ate and danced and talked and laughed. We did not sleep very much. We cried with one another. 

That's me with the teddy bear
At that weekend I had an opportunity to speak publicly about the sexual abuse I had endured as a child. The circle of friends that sat vigil over my testimony also witnessed their own stories. I remember at Saturday dinner sitting quietly, shocked that I had spoken so publicly, drained from my tears, and longing for healing.

That Saturday night we gathered for worship, and in the midst of our brokenness we searched for joy. And we found it in one another. As the night went on we shared the broken body of Christ and drank together from the cup. We prayed with one another, and we praised God. And then late in the evening, we gathered around a beautiful table filled with food and drink and light and love, and we feasted while we sang and danced.

How could I know that 25 years later I would be reading The Ragman story to students who are now leaving us to go on to college? I had no idea how my life would be changed by encountering love in community. It was years before I could understand how profound that weekend was. All I knew, as I sat weeping next to my father, was that I couldn't bear to leave this newfound community, but I had to go.

Tonight was the 5th L.O.G. retreat in New Jersey where I am now a pastor, and we said goodbye to seven students graduating this spring. Their tears brought me back 25 years to my own grief--my dear friends, I remember so well how hard it was to leave!

And tonight, as tired as I am sitting in my quiet and empty house, I long for companionship and friendship with those who keep my stories. Most of you are so far away from me, and I haven't fully settled into this strange New Jersey, even after eight years. It's different as a pastor, so noisy and busy in my professional life and so quiet in my personal life. It is hard, sometimes, to bear the silence.

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