My plea for love like God's is that it gets broader and more transcendent and less like me, less boxy, less denominational, less logical and measured... more passionate, more graceful, more open, more extravagant and more COMPLETE. Just more.Read More
Whew. I can’t even tell you what the past few months have been like other than to say: Ouch. Work. Yawn. Sob. Repeat.
It’s a long story and it’s bittersweetly a combo of new beginnings like a renovating a building of our own for our 12 year old church plant after years of being nomadic combined with some real challenges with our business and parenting, the sudden death of a beloved family friend, other deaths of other things that are hard to explain all combined with exhaustion and feeling completely 1. Inadequate 2. Overwhelmed 3. Brokenhearted.
What I wouldn't give for a re-do on August through October, you guys.
Since as long as I can remember I’ve been in the business (or calling or vocation?) of meeting needs. I cut my teeth working in the non-profit sector straight out of college working with third world poverty and continued on in working in local non-denominational church in our very first world society. But, the amount of extreme need just shifted from huts being burned down in tribal wars to relationships being consumed by internet porn, greed or the like. We’re all broken everywhere and there’s always something we can do to bring some comfort and help, right? But 20+ years into this lifestyle I realize that my desire to help or fix has brought me to very unhealthy place. This week in church planting? An invitation to sing karaoke to celebrate the birthday of a beautiful staff member on the same night as an invitation to sing around a campfire for a college aged daughter homebound by hospice care for inoperable cancer who is part of our church community along with her amazing, courageous single mom. This was last night. Songs of joy and songs of mourning all in the same neighborhood. A soul rollercoaster that leaves you feeling pretty nauseous a lot of the time if I'm honest.
Last summer while towing our old trailer for a camping trip my husband and I listened to Anne Lamott’s recent (genius) Ted Talk (might I add that while most people have their talk memorized Queen Anne just needs to read her talk and it’s still a home run) and right around 3:30 in the talk wrecked me. She says:
HOLY FREAKING ANNE.
And so I began praying,
Dear Heavenly "Not Me", Help.
Last week I read this passage in Matthew where Jesus challenges his twelve friends and fellow travelers, aka the disciples. I’ve read it hundreds of times in my life but last week was different.
Matthew 10:7-14, NIV
7 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.
9 “Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts— 10 no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep. 11 Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. 12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.
It wasn’t just a passage I was reading that morning clenching my coffee last week…it was permission.
Like God himself saying to me:
My message and kingdom is Wholeness... and the way that wholeness comes closer to all the brokenness surrounding you is through you. You're the channel of it. You might not feel equipped because you don't even feel very whole (given you're the one who is looking for their phone in their purse while ON THEIR PHONE) and you won’t be bringing the stuff with you that you might need or want. You might not be able to pack your cute shoes and have to wear sensible ones, I know. And you're an over-packer, I know that too. Risk that I’ve got your back in this no matter how big the hill you’re climbing. Keep in mind that in your life you’ve been given so much so give that generously to others- and somewhere in that process… you’ll get what you need.
BUT if you try to do something good and you get hurt in the process, LET YOUR PEACE RETURN TO YOU.
Peacemakers gotta keep some for themselves. Keep your own peace, kid.
Sometimes you can't make the peace, you have to take it. Peacetaker. You can be that too.
Some things are just un-rectifiable or un-understandable and no amount of try will be the fix. You're not me and I don't expect you to be.
Literally and figuratively walk away… some places aren’t for you. Some relationships won’t be what you hoped they’d be and never will. Get rid of what reminds you of that place…don’t spend any more time there… SHAKE THE DUST and keep on traveling.
I’ve spent time in leper colonies and in dysfunctional relationships and people in both can be too far gone for healing. So sad but also true. We can only hope for healthier horizons elsewhere. It's ok not to stay there.
So, with the dawn of a new month starting, I’m making November my month of gratitude, personal peacekeeping and dust shaking, HARD. Dust shaking SO hard. I might even throw the shoes away and if you knew how much I love my shoes you’d see the bigness of this deal (speaking of, both pairs of shoes in the photos in this post fell apart on me this summer and I can’t even bring myself to pitch them and want to fix them- Birkenstocks and Chacos, I can't quit you, we've been through to much together-- obvs this issue runs deep).
I’ll leave you with this piece by poet/artist Anis Mojgani – I love it and him so much. Here’s a clip from an album I had on repeat two summers ago where he collaborated with Mat Kearney. Blows my mind every time.
Peace to you, my fellow Peacemakers, PeaceTakers and Dust Shakers.
Let's do this.
A few weeks ago we had gift of hearing Rob Bell speak in our hometown on his BIBLE BELT TOUR (how fantastic is that tour name and how am I, a New Englander, a resident of the Bible belt?). Although some find him polarizing or even worth protesting (at least in our city, sigh), we find him a poetic, Big Mitten-y bundle of Divine joy and disarming authenticity. He said so many SOO GOOD things about the Bible that night but one reference he made to the book of Luke brought to mind a post I had written last year and given the circumstances of the past month, it's something of which I needed to be reminded. Rob, in his talk What Is The Bible?, told the crowd that in case missed it in Luke 8, Jesus had a girl named Joanna traveling with him paying his bills. How come no one ever hears about Joanna?! Rob said...
"Do you belong to a church that says women cannot be priests or pastors?
Any church that does so betrays the example of Jesus, who treated women as equals. Women in Jesus' times couldn't even testify as witnesses in court.
Yet all the gospels have women as the first witnesses to Jesus' resurrection."
There were some cheers from the audience, in our section for sure.
I don't know if you go to church, or used to go to church, or like me, have been working for or in the church. I have now for over half my life (I won't say the number because that makes me feel older than the sight of myself up close, pre-coffee in the morning). And for so many of those years I felt like I was there to set the table but not really sit at it, you know? Like sit with the important people. The people who did the vital stuff, mostly the male people. But Rob's recalling of this passage in Luke 8 was sort of one of those "hey let me just put my arms around ALL of you and pull you in just a little bit closer because you ALL have a seat at the table and you ALL matter" was just the thing I needed to hear. Because just that very week I told my husband, who also happens to pastor our church, quite dejectedly that I'm not sure I can do this church thing a day longer. I've reached the pinnacle (although I thought I had in the past but little did I know) of feeling kicked in the gut and I just couldn't set that table once more.
But then Rob. And of course, Jesus.
It didn't hurt that the theater we were in that night was filled with so many people for our church community (where women are pastors and are in leadership, thankfully, btw). We cheered and sighed and yes'd together.
So here it is. Re-encapsulated a bit.
In the book of Luke after Jesus had shared what is referred to as the Beatitudes or The Sermon On The Mount (“blessed are the poor”, etc.) with a large crowd who had gathered to hear Him and be healed he headed to another town called Nain. After what I can only imagine was an exahusting day for Jesus he noticed, at the town gate, a Widow weeping as her dead only son was being carried out and the passage says:
When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!”. The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country. Luke 7
So what was the news? That Jesus can bring people back to life at their funerals? Or that, as the passage says, God has come to help.
Next Jesus is having dinner at a Pharisee’s house and a woman considered slutty by her fellow citizens hears that Jesus is there and shows up in the middle of the meal with a jar of her best and most expensive perfume. She proceeds to wash his feet at the dinner table with her tears mingled with a jar of her most precious perfume and kisses his feet and dries them with her hair. She’s touching him, and crying on Him and covering him in a womanly scent and when the host objects, again Jesus reminds those at the table that none of them have showed him this kind of uninhibited, beautiful, unadulterated love. You can imagine the collective gasp.
As Jesus continues on in his travels, most likely reeking like a jar full of women’s perfume, and as the good news of GOD HAS COME TO HELP spreads, his wingmen have a bit of a new look…
The Twelve (His disciples) were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means. Luke 8:1-3
Jesus had a woman posse traveling city to city with him and the news was spreading like wildfire. And not just any women: formerly possessed women, important women, formerly sick women, women named Susanna, women who knew how to pay bills and comfort the sick and God-knows-what-else everyday kind of women.
Make some room, Simon Peter... Joanna IN THE HOUSE.
The passage says a man named Jairus who knew about this good news begged Jesus to come to his house and bring that good news of healing to his daughter who was on her deathbed, but the crowds were so large they almost crushed Jesus on the way.
Yet, Jesus stops in the middle of all the commotion and notices that someone had touched Him (I’m sure lots of people had touched him in the crushing crowd). But this touch was the kind that Jesus said caused power to go out from Him. And who had done it?
Crawling on the ground because she had been sick so many years that she couldn’t walk.
Someone who had been bleeding for 12 years, yet no one had been able to help her.
TWELVE YEARS OF NOT BEING HELPED.
TWELVE, as in twelve disciples who were the men noted for helping Jesus carry the good news... but they weren’t the only ones. There were other people around that table even if the Last Supper painting cropped them out.
She couldn’t just stand and ask for Jesus’ help like the man Jairus had done so she writhed and wriggled her way to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment because SHE had heard of this good news.
God has come to help.
Help the single mom losing her only child.
Help the slutty perfumed foot washer.
Help the formerly possessed, diseased and checkbook balancing rag-tag female Jesus posse.
SHE knew if she could just get close, close enough to the good news that God has come to help and CARES ABOUT WOMEN AND HOW THEY SUFFER, then maybe healing could be hers as well.
Maybe she was important enough to be a stop on Jesus’ tour.
She needed some Good News.
And when Jesus sees that she is trembling on the ground, not only does He heal her, he calls her “DAUGHTER.”
Then, yes, he headed onto Jairus’ house and was too late, but it didn’t matter, He brought that daughter back to life as well.
SO LET ME JUST REMIND YOU...
So my friends, my lady comrades, let me tell you something that the church might have failed to let you know: God isn’t into boys’ clubs.
The GOOD NEWS is so much more than heaven and hell talk, which sadly might be what you were told.
THE GOOD NEWS isn’t a black, red, white, blue, green and yellow bead bracelet like you made in Sunday School. They forgot the pink beads (and a lot of other colors, might I add).
THE GOOD NEWS has less to do with repeat this prayer after me and steeples and much more to do with Jesus doused in perfume, lacking judgment, hitting the road with a rag tag group of lady folk and being God-coming-to-help in human form.
THE GOOD NEWS, in case you missed it or no one told you, is that the very eyes of God see you in your mourning or your singleness or loss or brokenness or situation and the very heart of God is WITH AND FOR YOU. In your awkwardness at the table where everyone sits and rolls their eyes. In your despair when you're carrying your only son in your arms. In your being ignored and barely able to crawl another inch.
Stretchmarks and cellulite, single and married, young and old. L, G, B, T and Q.
WITH AND FOR YOU.
You have a seat at that table no matter how many people gasp.
You are heard, you are known, you are valued and you are as much a part of His posse as your male counterparts.
Made equally in the image of God.
You're made to sit at the table not just set it.
That’s the GOOD NEWS.
Thanks for reminding me, Rob.
And if, like me, you find yourself a hem holder in this season, we'll heal. I know it.
A prayer I prayed over the women in our Watershed community. May it remind you, too.
Once a month, one of the staff members of our church, Watershed, writes a post for our blog for a series called POUR OVER. It's sort of a "what would we say to you face to face over a great cup of coffee if we had the chance" kind of conversation. This month, I wrote our November (and very first) POUR OVER and wanted to share it with you. It's something that's been kind of brewing in me for quite some time but something that I shared back in October on a Sunday (the video) in one of our church gatherings.
HERE IS THE POST. I hope it brings some healing your way this season.
Here's what I know for sure and is my 3rd little #40at40 bomb I want to drop on you:
Faith is complicated, God is unfathomable and I've never held the answer...I just make overtures toward having a relationship with the Almighty.
A few years ago our church was doing a series I was invited to name which we called FAREWELL ALBATROSS (you can listen here - episodes 112-120). It was a teaching series all about letting go of baggage, embracing a whole relationship with God and realizing that from the beginning of humanity we have looked at God through a contractual lens rather than a covenantal one as He has extended to us. That one point alone was the impetus for writing this song and my good friend and one of my favorite musicians, Matt Shaughnessy played it with me at our show at The Muse a few summers ago.
Watershed is celebrating it's 10th anniversary in September and I'm thinking maybe Matt and I can revive this song that day (what do you think, Watershed/Charlotte friends?). I have questioned many things the past few years.
But I if I could tell you one thing about God it's that He's an evening walks in the garden, long talks over coffee, water-wine revising just to prolong the feast kind of God.
He wants to be with you. Really. Where you are in what you're doing on all the other days but Sunday too.
Also, this video definitely spurred me on to add yoga to my exercise regimen. Arms don't seemed to get toned while running I guess (regretting the sleeveless shirt while playing keys. That's another #40at40 post, perhaps?). Thank you Courtney for your constant encouragement and for booking us at The Muse that evening and to all the friends and family who filled the room...it was magical.
INK & BLOOD | Taryn Hofert 2013
I am bottom lines.
And signatures on dotted lines.
And contracts that bind.
You’re evening walks in a Garden
Long talks over coffee
Water-Wine revising just to prolong the feast.
I am ink and You are blood
I am lines and You are love
Still You fold Yourself into this caged heart
I’m the ancient mariner
with albatross neck-bound
And even with the blade in hand
I cannot cut the rope
You’re the Noose Unloosener
Bird like lead sinks in the sea
You think grace is never wasted on a captive heart like me
I am ink and You are blood
I am lines and You are love
Still You fold Yourself into this caged heart
I am fixated on boundaries
I am no forest and all trees.
Pedestrian, and questioning and rushing through the meal
You’re an Unrequited Lover
Unencumbered by my numbness
Unrelenting despite rejection and my disbelief.
I am ink and You are blood
I am lines and You are love
Still You fold Yourself into this caged heart
I wrote this post exactly 3 years ago while at the beach with family. After just spending a week at the beach with my crew and reflecting on so much that has taken place since then I wanted to re-share it with you with a few additional thoughts. For anyone who puts themselves out there and wrestles with people-pleasing, insecurity and comparison, this is for you...even if you've never been involved in church.
I once dated a pre-seminary student when I was in college. The thought of possibly one day being a pastor’s wife was, honestly, rash inducing. Really. The pastors’ wives I knew growing up sat in the front pew, had a flair for casserole preparation and were really nice. I was never going to be any of those things. Ever.
And I'd be lying if I told you that I didn't break up with him because I had no interest in pastor wifery or following him to Grand Rapids. I had plans. Music plans. Non-potluck plans. Nashville moving plans with one of my best friends. Songs to write and places to go other than sanctuaries or narthexes. Church people, you know what I'm talking about.
So, years later when I met my husband who was not a pastor when I first met him, and was more of a church staff member than pastor when I dated him, I had no idea what I was really getting into. Nashville turned into Virginia for me after college. Then India. Then, wait for it, MICHIGAN-- where my husband and I dated and married. Isn't it ironic.
But something was shifting in my systems loving, support staff, managerial husband. He loved speaking, studying, leading people. He had fallen in love with the local church and even though his wife sat in the back row, loathes casseroles and is inappropriately and hopelessly sarcastic, he wanted to become a pastor. A lead pastor much like the lead pastor for whom we worked and who had started that church from scratch over the course of many long, tumultuous years alongside and with the immense support of a fierce, generous, kind hearted wife and mother. Tremendously huge shoes to fill.
Scott wanted to be not just any pastor….but a church-planting pastor.
Starting from scratch. Moving to a new city and building a community from the ground up. The penniless kind of pastoring.
And I...still with no desire to be a pastor's wife, with tiny feet not meant for big shoe filling, wanted to be with him in it. That's all I knew. Also, escaping Michigan winter (aka 90% of the year).
There’s no man with whom I’d rather take on such a challenge…but 8 years ago when we moved to Charlotte, NC to start Watershed we really had no idea how PERSONALLY hard it is to start a church. It’s fabulously rewarding. It’s missional. And it’s tough on your marriage because it’s tough on your heart. At least at first. Until you work on heart-maintenance in this role.
And in those early years of our move to Charlotte, I'd look across the table with a baby on my shoulder at my husband who returned home covered in dust from installing countertops with his brother all evening to "make some money on the side" after I had worked at a preschool all day changing poopy diapers to also supplement our "income" and think WHAT THE HELL ARE WE DOING?!
Have you ever seen one of these BYE BYE BUGGIES? I used to push one while working at the preschool. In the heat, stuffed with 6 of the chunkiest babies (including my son) you have ever seen. I can remember while pushing it one day around Myers Park thinking... I have a degree....I had a senior recital...I lived abroad...I was going to do things. Things with an income or at least EXCITING THINGS. I DRIVE A DODGE STRATUS (any 90's Will Ferrell fans out there?)! Well, look at me now.
I felt defeated before we even started. And I felt like God had forgotten about the desires of my heart.
You see, when we were just staff members at a church, we took ownership in the church, but at a different level. I was a worship leader, he was a small groups and leadership development pastor. People would come in droves and sometimes leave in packs, but you move on. You do your job.
But when you start a church, person by person, family by family, each exit, each beef someone has with you, each “issue” and criticism can feel as though they’re calling your baby ugly. Your Facebook feed is filled with people who "used to" be a part of your church who now have moved on or haven't moved on at all and it's a constant, stinging reminder for which I was not prepared.
When people come to our church I always hope that they either just moved to town or that they never went to church before this. Because, if they left another church to be part of ours, usually we’ll hear their criticism of their former church. Which often means that we’ll be next on their list of letdowns and failure to please. I cried when a couple whom we valued deeply left our church and took several couples with them because we weren’t doing things the way they wanted. I lost sleep over our children’s volunteer who one day decided she and her family no longer needed a church community and just stopped being part of anything to do with us.
I sighed with disappointment when people sent email or letters or voicemails stating how we’re not “meaty” enough spiritually or too deep, or too concerned with poverty and we don’t have enough programs, why don’t we own a building, we’re too gay, we’re not gay enough, we’re too loud, we’re too soft, we’re not as flashy as the church down the street…what my husband takes in stride, I take terribly personally.
After all...a lot of countertop installations, dipaer changes, moving trucks, sweat, missing of special events in friends'/family's lives (Matt & Rachael's wedding, my grandfather's funeral just to name a few), selling of our precious Harley, instruments and other things were involved to make this thing happen. That's all I could see but what most people probably couldn't.
I remember a few years after we started Watershed a young pastor moved to town to also plant a church but in the suburbs of Charlotte. They needed a place for their band to rehearse and we gladly shared our small, humble rehearsal space with them. We were happy to partner with them. A few years later, as they were exploding by the thousands and that same worship band who shared our rehearsal room was topping the iTunes charts, they decided to open what must have been their 10th campus only a block from where we meet on Sundays and never mentioned it. It’s not that we owned Uptown, it was just that it would have been nice to “partner” rather than all bark up the same tree on the same block. It hurt my heart. I understood that we were a small fish and all that,
but every time I’d see a sticker from that church on someone’s car I wanted to throw a casserole at it.
And somewhere in this process, as people come and “stick” and grow and go deep and we watch God transform people from “hey, what can I get out of this” to “hey, God, how can I be your hands and feet in this city”, we fall to our knees in gratitude that we get to have a front row seat to this taking place. One baptism in our makeshift tank ruins me and reminds me.
I began to start praying the prayer “God, give me a soft heart and thick skin.”
That’s the only prayer I can think of some days. It's an honest prayer and one of survival. It’s the prayer I’d implore any pastor’s wife to utter. Or anyone.
I’m so unfit for my role. I’m not sweet enough or southern enough or pastory enough most of the time (or ever). I make the wrong comment on Facebook. My nose gets out of joint with frequency. I talk too much when I should be listening. I am easily swallowed up by my fear of us not measuring up or meeting expectations.
But God’s soft heart overcomes my casserole aversion and rough edges and He toughens me for this people pleaser’s undoing called leading the local church.
My husband calls church planting “sexy”: I’d call it skin-thickening. But either way, I’m admitting to you and asking God to help me have a heart not only for those homeless students and their families in the school where we work down the street but also for the churchgoers who I felt belittled by or made me feel defensive of my husband and our church. Remember, this whole church is irrevocably entwined with our family and the mama bear will come out sometimes. But...
Soft hearts don’t grudge hold. And thick skinned get over it.
Soft hearts tell their spouse "I'm in" and support them in their dreams even if the pay sucks and even if it involves pushing sweaty chunky babies around nice neighborhoods you'll never live in.
Thick skinned move on from the constant comparison to local mega churches, Nashville musicians who song write instead of juggling sweaty babies and those who seem to be "making it" when you feel you're hanging on by a thread. Blessed are those who handle staff transitions and disgruntled staff spouses, continual parting of ways of congregants, and constant location moves because you don't own a building.
Soft heartedness finds contentedness with and gratitude for what I DO HAVE and where I AM RIGHT NOW..no matter who approves, stays or leaves. Blessed are those who can embrace entrances and departures. As Ingrid so beautifully wrote..... "open hands are hard to hold onto". It's true. I have to let stuff AND PEOPLE go.
The SOFT HEART/THICK SKIN combo carries the mantra of NOT MY WILL BUT YOURS BE DONE.
Dreams dashed or realized, Dodge Stratuses and all.
That's how the kingdom comes, you guys.
So, on Sundays, I have inched my way up to sitting in the second or third row (we don’t have pews) but the whole being considered “nice” thing, well, like I said, I’m in process.