Dry Times

What do you do when you don’t know what to do?  Or more difficult yet, what do you do when you don’t want to do anything but you know you need to be doing something?

That’s where I’ve lived for the past two months.

I thought that having surgery would fix everything and that I would begin to feel more energized, more like my “normal” self, more like being productive and getting things done.

But honestly, I don’t.

dry-ground18

Everyone asks me, “How are you feeling?”  And I feel like I need to report some major progress, like the expectations on me to recover and be back to normal are very high.  Even though that’s not really the case – it’s just my projection of what I think other people are thinking.

And it’s not just physical or mental.

I’ve had a hard time getting back into any kind of a routine with my spiritual life.  (I know, I know.  Bad admission for a pastor to make.) But I’ve had a hard time getting into a routine with my normal disciplines – reading, journaling, etc.  And when I am doing those things, it just feels…dry.  I kind of feel stuck.

So what do you do when you’re in a place like that?  Especially when you are a leader?

I don’t know that there are any simple answers.  I know that I’m not in a “dark night of the soul” place where I’m not seeing God work or hearing His voice.  I know that I’m grateful; I know that He is good; I know that He is with me.

I’m just tired, and tired of being tired.

So what I do is this – I just keep on keeping on.  I’ve gone back to some basics – making sure I’m spending time reading the Bible every day, especially the Psalms and the Gospels.  I’m trying to make time every day to sit in silence with God, whether I journal or not.  I look for things for which to be thankful, and I give thanks for them.  I enjoy my time with my girls, and with my friends.  I play worship music and I soak with it.  And I take a little time each evening to sit outside, get some fresh air, and look at the woods.

I’m working on getting enough sleep and exercise and on eating healthier, because I can control those things.

I keep doing my job, and I keep doing my ministry.  I keep showing up.  I keep doing what I’m supposed to do, what I’m required to do, and what I know to do.

And, I wait.  Because I know this is a season, and I know it will pass.  I know that it won’t always be this way.  I know I can’t just will myself out of this; I know I can trust my Father.  I know He is with me, and I know He will work out something good in me through this.

And, I know that somehow, this will help me to be a blessing to others in some way in the future.

So if you’re going through a dry time…keep on going.  You won’t be there forever.  Even if it feels like it at times.

“…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 (NIV) 

He will complete that good work in you.  And in me!

Reflecting on America Today

For anyone who is on social media in any way or who watches the news, the past week has been more of what we experienced last weekend.  Pictures of people in Charlottesville marching, protesting, even fighting; pictures of KKK members and Nazi-flag wavers; calls to renounce racism, calls to unity, calls to repudiate or impeach our current President, and calls to even renounce and repudiate any historical figures who were involved in slavery and to tear down monuments to them, including the Jefferson Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and Mt. Rushmore.

Meanwhile, on Saturday morning, I woke up to the news that 6 police officers, including 2 Pennsylvania State Troopers, had been shot the night before.  2 of them, in Florida, had been killed.  While there were small mentions of these shootings in the news media, there was hardly anything in my Twitter or Facebook newsfeeds about these shootings – no denouncing the shootings, no calls for rallies to support the police and their families, no outcry against yet another example of violence against the men and women who risk their lives every time they show up at work.

America-Images-4

I’ve wrestled with these issues and related thoughts all weekend.  I wasn’t sure what to write today; I didn’t know how to even approach this.  How can I call out what needs to be called out, encourage people in such problematic situations, and squeeze all of it into a blog?

There are no simple answers, and I have nowhere close to the wisdom and education that many others who are writing and commenting on all of these items may have.  All I can do is offer some thoughts…and so, I will do that, at the risk of angering and offending some people.

  • Hatred and racism are evil.  This is not debatable.  To hate anyone and claim to be doing it in the name of God is to lie.  God is love.  As followers of Jesus, we must stand up for one another, love one another, protect one another, honor one another, and publicly stand together against racism and hatred.
  • We must stop judging one another.  In the current climate in America, we are judged by how vociferously we denounce racism.  Christians are calling other Christians names because they don’t condemn racism strongly enough, or because they condemn racism but don’t agree with tearing down Confederate monuments.  Anyone who tries to point out the communist influences on and violent tendencies of Antifa is shouted down by the left as a racist.  Anyone who wants Confederate monuments torn down is shouted down by the right as a historical revisionist.  There has to be a place for calm discussion about truth in these matters.
  • We must love one another, despite our differences.  Holding a differing opinion does not make you my enemy.  I cannot control how you think or act, but I can control my actions and attitudes.  If you are a follower of Jesus, you must love people who are different from you.  You must love people who consider themselves to be your enemies.  You must love people who think differently than you and who believe differently than you.  In fact, you must love everyone.  Jesus taught this and demonstrated this.  It is not an optional part of the Christian life.
  • Life matters.  Black lives matter.  Police lives matter.  UNBORN LIVES MATTER.  Let’s get this straight.  Let’s stop selectively protesting and start protecting life.  It makes sense that we protest what connects to us.  It makes sense that African-Americans who have suffered injustice would rally around Black Lives Matter.  It makes sense to me to notice when police officers are shot and no one says anything, because I am a Pennsylvania State Police chaplain.  (And I recognize that I need to repent of not noticing other injustices, other violent acts, other suffering.)  We naturally notice what is important to us, what matters to us.  But we are called to something much higher than that.  We are called to love one another, and to love our enemies.  We serve the Word, Who was in the beginning and Who created all things – the One to whom all lives, even unborn lives, matter.  Let’s fight FOR all lives, not fight one another over which lives matter.
  • Slavery is evil.  It was evil 150+ years ago in America and in the Confederacy; it is evil today.  Let’s be honest about that.  But maybe let’s focus on doing something about the plague of human trafficking today, rather than just arguing about the aftermath of the Civil War in 1865.  Slavery was abolished in America. It was a horrific, evil institution.  It’s effects lingered, and in some ways, still linger.  We cannot in any way honor or elevate or excuse it.  But we cannot focus on the past to the extent that we ignore the present, and the present reality is that human trafficking is a huge issue in America right now.  The US Justice Department estimates that up to 17500 people per year are trafficked into the US.  That doesn’t even include the number of US citizens who are trafficked into the sex trade.  That is something that should ignite our anger and wrath as followers of Jesus.  That is something that should move us to rise up and take action.
  • People are people.  The color of your skin doesn’t matter.  The real issues are issues of the heart.  If you are a follower of Jesus, your calling is to allow Him to transform your heart to be more and more like His.  And as that happens, it is also your calling to point others, who do not know, towards Him – to cooperate with Him to build His Kingdom.  That is my calling.  That is your calling.

Above all, we are created to love and called to love.  I fail so often and so epically at that, but God is gracious and forgiving.

As we ask God to help us love in a nation that feels like it is tearing itself apart, let’s remind ourselves of what Paul tells us love is:

Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.  (1 For. 13:4-8, NIV)

May it be said of us that in the midst of a trying time for our nation, we were known for our love, and that we loved well.