I wish I could tell you…

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I wish I could tell you who I sat with last weekend. I wish I could share each of their stories so you would feel what I do about them. I wish you could fully understand where they came from and where they are going. But instead I’ll tell you this.

Last weekend I sat in a circle with ministers and their spouses on a retreat. I did not want to be there. Sharing circles are not my bag. Being an introvert, spending the weekend with people I don’t know who tearfully pour their heart out and then stare at me expectantly waiting for my reciprocal soul bearing sounds like a complete and utter nightmare. I admitted openly to the group that I ate cold turkey a few days previous in the hopes of developing food poisoning. I’m not joking. I did not want to be there with these mystery people forcing me to talk. I was judgemental from the start. I assumed most would be southern. And let’s be real, most southerners take a good five years before they are authentic with you. I went in ready to cross my arms and roll my eyes.

Enter my husband who would not stop bugging me about it for months…years even. Last weekend has been in the works for years. We had been invited three separate times over the last four years, and it was me that refused to sit in the share circle of lonely death each time. I am sorry for that, now.

I went. I, begrudgingly and heels dug-in deep, went. And I am changed.

What I heard from the mouths of ministers who serve the church:

  • I heard stories of loss. Loss that I wouldn’t make it through. Loss that would send me to my grave.
  • I heard stories of betrayal. Betrayals that angered me and lit a fire within my soul all for the sake of people that I didn’t know.
  • I heard stories of broken hearts and abandonment.
  • I heard stories of ego crushing self-doubt and spiritual confusion.
  • I heard stories of wayward children who have yet to come home.

The stories were rich and painful and beautiful. Some had happy endings. Some were still trapped in the throws of conflict. And some will find no resolution.

These people in the circle, their lives full of adventure and stories worth writing about, all could have chosen to walk away from God. They could have chosen to leave their churches many many MANY times, but they didn’t. They remain steadfast to the reason for all hope. They remain faithful and resolute to the calling by the One greater than us all.

That is the lesson.

So many in ministry walk away from the call. Some are forced out due to moral failure. Others simply are work-worn and tired. Here’s the clincher:  Most of us are work-worn and tired. But we press on faithful to one who won’t abandon, who won’t betray, who won’t die. We press on because the work needs to be done and there are so many souls out there who need to see what redemption and grace and love truly look like.

So, while there are churches out there who would raise an eyebrow at the pain and trials of ministers, and while some scoundrels who call themselves believers would wonder if God is punishing us for our poor theology and errant church branding or label, I say to you, minister, press on. Press on to the prize and hold on to your calling.

As for me, I have a few new friends and facebook connections. I have a few more stories in my pocket of transformation, grace, and triumph. I will cling to those stories on my difficult days.

 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

 

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Don’t Make Me

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Caryn Blanchard Blog

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Lord, I love you, but don’t make me say so too loudly.
Lord, I love to sing praises to you, but don’t make me sing that old one.
Lord, I love your word, but don’t make me go to bible class and learn it.
Lord, I love all your children, but don’t make talk to that one.
Lord, I want to live for you, but don’t make me uncomfortable.
Lord, I want to be a Christian, but don’t make me look different than my peers.
Lord, I want you to provide for me, but don’t make me look at that homeless man.
Lord, I want everyone to go to heaven, but don’t make me tell anyone about you.
Lord, I want to pray to you, but don’t make me do it in public or when I’m busy.
Lord, I want to be with you, but don’t make me give up…

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To my mama and all the other sinners

36361867-old-and-young-holding-hands-on-light-background-closeupI’m 400 miles from my mother. It is a seldom occurrence that I can sit with her and hold her hand. I hate that distance between us. I miss her. I miss watching her eyebrow raise when I say something sassy, and I miss hearing her equally sassy reply. The apple doesn’t fall far.

My mother is always the last one up in the house. She reads or watches a decorating show on HGTV late into the night after my dad is already tucked in and snoring. She sits in her little maroon chair and enjoys her solitude without my daddy fussing about the president or the church or the grass that’s dying in the backyard. I always steal a few moments of her time when I’m there just to sit with her and visit. We catch up on the garden and on dad and life.

She is so precious to me.

Forty years ago my mother left her traditional Texas life to follow my dad onto the stateside mission field in Idaho. I remember growing up hearing her frustrations about not finding okra or black eyed peas in the grocery store. I remember watching her heart break as she tried to relate to the personalities of the people in the great northwest which is vastly different from the Texas debutant culture of which she was raised. But she challenged herself and changed for the sake of a church minutes from the Grand Tetons and the best trout fishing in the country. I watched my mother learn to snow ski, clean a fish, tent camp, and shovel snow on top of teaching Sunday School every Sunday morning, providing countless meals for potluck dinners, and raising three daughters all while hosting a young church in her living room.

My mother shared Jesus with every coworker she had. She always worked outside the home and always made friends where she worked. This didn’t come naturally to her. She was shy and introverted, but ministry trained her to be otherwise. Jesus developed a natural evangelist out of a woman who hid behind my grandmother’s skirt as a child.

She loved my daddy. She loved her girls. She taught us scripture and demonstrated the art of being a Godly wife and mother. I can still hear her voice when I sing certain hymns. Hymns connect me to my mother’s heart and to God’s as they did her. She never missed a worship service.

As I sat next to my sweet mother that night and listened to her, the conversation quickly turned back to Jesus as it often does in my parents’ home. She looked into my eyes and hers filled with tears and she said, “I just don’t know if I’ve done enough. I just hope I’ve been enough.” My heart broke.

After seventy eight years of following a stubborn preacher around the country leaving the land she knew and parents she loved?
After years of sharing Jesus with three year olds to atheist co-workers?
After countless hours over a hot stove cooking for the sick?
After leading three rather precocious daughters to Jesus?
After a thousand greeting cards mailed to the lonely?
After decades of turning pages of scripture to the point of your bible falling apart?

You, mama? You don’t feel you’ve done enough?

I looked down at her work worn hands folded in her lap and tried to process how a woman who devoted her life to the Lord could believe this.

We are all prone to the same self-doubt disease. We all still believe that what we do can somehow change the mind of God. We all still try to earn His favor. We all still doubt that He will accept us and our mess. The best of us and the worst of us all struggle with this sickness and it does its best to break us.

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16

Life will zap any confidence you have.  I lose confidence in the church regularly. I lose confidence in my job, in my purpose, in my abilities, in family, in my friends…the list goes on. People let you down. Sickness comes. Money isn’t reliable. Children leave home. Politicians lie. Putting confidence in life here is risky at best even if you are not a believer. Because we are all on our way out the door and we will trip on our way there. We are not graceful beings, but that is the point.

His grace covers the lack of grace we offer ourselves.

Rest assured there is one thing of which we can be confident, and we can set our life on the outcome. And that is the grace provided to you by God. It’s done. The debt is paid. There is no bill collector. There’s no red tape. There’s no border to sneak across, no forms to fill out, no entry exam. Stop beating yourself up. You waste your time, friend.

Your doubt isn’t in yourself. Your doubt is in the one who already paid the debt. Don’t doubt His sacrifice and insist His death wasn’t enough for you. Thank Him for it. Trust the sacrifice was not in vain and that you reap the eternal reward of what He did. Praise indeed!

Mama, you are enough. You’ve always been enough to me, and I know you are more than enough to Jesus.

Because His grace is enough.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

The days the discourse died

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Waiting for change…

Caryn Blanchard Blog

We’ve retreated to our corners, digging our heels into our opinions.

We ready our scripts for a fight

to prove we are right.

We seek approval and justification of our side solely from those who read the very same lines.

These are the golden awards we receive; having the most people who agree with us surrounding us.

Congratulations.

We hold pep rallies and rejoice in our common mind.

We rest in the comfort of being surrounded by an army of people who won’t question.

We must be right because that guy with the YouTube channel says so. We share it and feel the ego boost because of that guy.

We dismiss any questions.

We mock any disagreement.

We label any conflict as negative or uneducated.

We ready for battle to squelch discussion.

We shrink with bitter wounds because of what someone interjected.

We slaughter the opposition by plugging our ears…

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The Bathroom

img_4259It’s moments like this that I’ll miss the most
When she comes to my bathroom just to put her makeup on while I put on mine.

Side by side.

She plays her music and sings.
And I listen.
And I watch.

The songs have changed.
Little girl now beautiful woman.
Little hands grown now steady sure.

She’s ready to go.
And I’m not ready to let go.