Last Thursday I was in Salina, Kansas. There was a training opportunity called “Leading Out of Drama” and I was invited as the illustration of what drama looks like personified. *snort* Not really. I went for the education in a terrific instrument to reflect on who we are as leaders and how we can best use and acknowledge our weaknesses and our strengths as partners working toward the vision God has for us, both as individuals and as communities of faith. It was intriguing enough that I will be reflecting on the information for some time to come.
Bud went with me. For a short time, I considered requesting his presence with me in the day-long meeting. People tend to smile when they see a dog, studies have shown that petting an animal lowers blood pressure, and I figured if the meeting required too much vulnerability from me, I’d have a great excuse to quietly leave for a necessary “Buddy break”. The challenge is that sometimes Buddy doesn’t respond well to brightly colored clothing, boys, and tables full of human treats that are just too tempting when your head is tall enough to see them and your tongue is long enough to reach them. So I took him to a doggie daycare right outside of Salina in the country. It was the greatest thing! The people were so nice and told me when I picked him up that he’d made a best friend – Eddie the wiener dog! The smallest little brown dog and Buddy the largest black lab/bull terrier became fast friends. Hmmmm.
After a full and intense day, we headed on out to northwestern Kansas to see my folks for a few whiles before the weekend. I love being west of central Kansas in October. Fall harvest had been in full swing but the rains had come and the fields were muddy enough that the combines were silent for a few days. There’s been enough rain through the summer that everything is peculiarly still green and it made my heart extremely happy. The leaves haven’t yet started turning colors much, but there is that “feel” in the air – you know, Friday night football, local newspaper pictures of homecoming kings and queens and kindergarten attendants, volleyball matches with spikes and digs and dinks by my great-nephews’ high school babysitter, and cross country matches with kids whose lung capacity is enviable for those of us above a certain age.
Somehow how being “home” this time of year takes me back in my memories. There’s a bittersweet sense to understanding that while we are living in the fullness of the present, the reason we are who we are started waaaaay back, often in a different place and always in a different time. Some of that reflection offers happy laughs and maybe even happy tears, and some brings resigned chuckles and sad tears, and in the midst of it all, I pray, a recognition that God’s presence has been ever and always in invitation, healing, reconciliation, and possibilities for growth.
The only way recognizing where we’ve been makes a difference to who we are now is the recognition that the life experiences we are currently moving through and living fully in are both resulting in and leading toward places we probably haven’t imagined. Not all of those are happy-clappy, not all of those are morosely sad, not all of those are easy-peasy-lemon-squeazy, not all of those are running through mud struggles, but they are all about life – the fullness of, the abundance of, the insecurity of, the hope-filled-ness of – life. What does it take to embrace that? What does it take to experience peace with that? What does it take to allow our eyes to look both in that and through that to all the beyond-ness that is yet to be?
So last Thursday I sat in a church that has part of my heart in Salina (which many years ago welcomed me to preach for a “not your ordinary revival” – Trinity, you are amazing) with a facilitator inviting us to acknowledge who we are without judgment, and challenging us to grow in ways that might help our own lives and our leadership in our congregations in a most complex and difficult time as communities of faith and as a nation and as a world. And Buddy was making a new best friend with a wiener dog named Eddie who’s about as different from Buddy as you can get. And we both end up in a home filled with my parents to spend a few whiles just resting in the familiar and walking through the park and going to the Dairy Queen because yes, a chocolate cake blizzard makes everything feel utopic, at least momentarily, especially for me and my mom. And then a trip back on I-70 toward Grace, wondering how in the world I might help us all come to terms with a mass shooting in Las Vegas that invites us to look at ourselves honestly, to take action where we can, and simply to be willing to see each other and talk with each other and acknowledge each other in ways beyond the masks that we wear.
Somehow that’s all connected for me. I can’t probably really tell you exactly why or how, but it is all connected – it is connected to past, present, and future; and it is connected to each of us because we are part of the vision God has, not only Grace but for the world. You know, we didn’t get to the place we are in the world and in our nation today in the last 24-48 hours, or the last year, or even the last 15-25 years, just like you and I haven’t become who we are today from that one thing that happened some odd year ago. We’ve reached where we are through all the days of our years both in weaknesses and strengths. Maybe what this all means is that, believe it or not, the decisions and experiences and words and actions we’re taking today will have an influence in the definition of who our world and our nation and our families will be tomorrow. So how we live, what we say yes or no to, what we feed our bodies and minds, how we invest in and spend our time and energy, will have a lasting effect on the world and the people coming after us.
Take a walk on the wild side and visit someone you haven’t seen for a while. Register for new learning at the community center, the community college, the county extension, or Grace! Take a day off, a day away, a day to yourself without screens or media. Be grateful, be humble, be a friend to yourself so you can be a friend to someone else. Have a chocolate cake blizzard, make a new friend (named Eddie?) and value your place in the world, as I do believe God does.